University of Georgia
SREL scientists pursue a wide variety of ecological research, from molecular to landscape-scale processes, field and laboratory focused, basic and applied. Such an integrated approach is essential to understanding complex ecological interactions, and to providing sound science for decision-making and environmental stewardship. Since its founding in 1951 under the Atomic Energy Commission (now Department of Energy), SREL has contributed significantly both to DOE's mission and to the greater scientific community. SREL's research program reflects its dual legacy as both an academic outpost of the University of Georgia and a partner in DOE's long-term management of the SRS.
For decades SREL has played an essential role in DOE's stewardship and management of the SRS, researching all ecological aspects of site operations. SREL's diversity of expertise has allowed DOE to understand and address site impacts on all levels, from physical and chemical contaminant transport processes to effects on biotic communities, human risk, and appropriate ecological indicators for remediation. SREL research has provided invaluable assistance to DOE in accurately assessing risks, developing effective remediation and restoration strategies, and providing sound scientific basis for cost-effective management decisions. For example, when erosion began to release low-level radioactive contamination from exposed reservoir sediments, SREL researchers showed that contaminants could be effectively isolated without excavation and reburial, saving DOE an estimated $4 billion. Recent projects have included restoring Carolina bay wetlands for credits to the SRS wetland mitigation bank, refining irrigation strategies for phytoremediation of tritiated groundwater, monitoring natural attenuation of contaminants in hyporheic sediments, and research on indirect selection for microbial antibiotic resistance in metal-contaminated streams and the implications for human health. Recent research in support of long-term ecological management of the SRS has also begun to examine effects of long-term climatic changes on plant and animal populations.
In addition to its research in support of DOE management goals, SREL has always maintained a broader academic program as well. SREL was founded by one of the pioneers of modern ecology, UGA professor Eugene Odum, and as a research unit of the University of Georgia SREL retains that strong academic focus. SREL faculty, students, research staff, and visiting scientists have authored over 3000 peer-reviewed publications, with topics ranging from ecotoxicology and remediation to microbial ecology, population processes, conservation biology, and ecological restoration, to name a few. SREL is an active collaborator with many outside organizations, and derives a substantial portion of its funding from competitively awarded grants. Recent collaborations have included the Savannah River National Laboratory, the USDA Forest Service, SERDP, Department of Defense, NIH, EPA, USGS, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, SC Department of Natural Resources, NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. Recent investigations have included rare species management on federal lands, effects of altered hydrology on floodplain forests, biodiversity and biogeochemistry of constructed wetlands, landscape genetics of amphibians on the SRS, fate and transport of metals in the vadose zone, in-situ chemical oxidation of chlorinated solvents, avifaunal mercury exposure, evolution of amphibian reproductive strategies, effects of low-dose irradiation on mutation rates in medaka, and distribution of chytrid fungus in Southeastern amphibian populations.