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Category: News

Bait, Bite, and Beware: The Complex Web of Invasive Species Management in Guam

In Guam, the battle against invasive species like the brown tree snake has led to the use of toxicant-laced bait, a method that’s proven effective but controversial. Recent studies reveal both invasive and native species scavenge on these toxicant-affected carcasses, raising concerns about unintended ecological consequences and the broader impact on the island’s ecosystem.

Can fences hold back nature?

How do fences affect wildlife movement patterns? This question has been trending in wildlife management for decades. From mountain lions in Los Angeles crossing freeways to fences in our own backyards repelling deer, wild pigs, and squirrels, how do human-made barriers affect wildlife?

James Beasley, a professor with the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, along with a team of international collaborators, investigated this topic in large carnivores in Etosha National Park in Namibia. Beasley and his lab focused on the movements of hyenas and lions within the national park. Unlike national parks in the United States, many parks in southern Africa are fenced.

The Savannah River Ecology Lab releases offspring of confiscated turtles

The University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service – Savannah River, and the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, successfully released offspring of confiscated eastern box turtles on June 29, 2023 at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. This accomplishment was the culmination of a story four years in the making following the journeys of over 200 confiscated eastern box turtles, their offspring, and owner-surrendered turtles.

Science Saturday is back!

Slither, hop, or soar into SREL’s premier event!

AIKEN, SOUTH CAROLINA, July 11, 2023 – The University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is hosting, for the first time in four years, Science Saturday (formerly Touch an Animal Day) on Saturday, July 15, 2023. This event will be held at South Aiken High School from 10 AM – 1 PM. 

Attendees will have the opportunity to hold alligators, touch a rattlesnake, watch plants breath, see vultures, owls, and hawks, and meet some adorable critters. In addition to exhibiting plants and animals, residents will be able to talk with scientists and graduate students about their research. 

“This event showcases a little bit of everything from the lab,” states Katrina Ford, assistant director for outreach and education.  Ford adds, “It’s a chance for the public to get up and close with the science being conducted at SREL.”

Olin Rhodes, the director for the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and a professor in the Odum School of Ecology, asserts, “It is critical that SREL shows the public the types of research and education efforts that we conduct at the lab so that they understand our important role in the community in helping to keep everyone informed about potential health risks as well as the progress toward keeping our natural environment healthy and sustainable for future generations.”

Science Saturday is one of several free programs offered at SREL.  The lab has a long history of community involvement and investment into the next generation. The Outreach and Education team presents programs such as Ecologist for a Day and EcoTalks throughout the year. The Ecologist for a Day program allows students to become immersed in a guided facilitated field experience. Students identify living and nonliving components that make up our local ecosystems. Students participating are inspired to consider careers in the areas of S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and math).

In addition to offering opportunities to community, SREL provides a variety of occasions for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in environmental science and related disciplines to experience field work through internships, courses, and technician positions.

Rhodes affirms, “SREL is committed to utilizing its unique set of scientific expertise and state of the art research facilities to provide educational opportunities to undergraduates and graduate students from our local communities, our region, and from across the globe.  A large part of SREL’s mission is to train future generations on how to conduct impactful and high-quality research for the benefit of our local communities, our nation, and our natural environment.”

Pollinator Palooza Celebration buzzing into Aiken!

Capstone event marks end of school program

Aiken, S.C., June 26, 2023 – The University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory lauds pollinators with the final celebration of the “Let’s Grow Together” program through a partnership with the US Forest Service – Savannah River. This big bash focused on all things pollinators will be held at the SREL Conference Center on Friday, June 30, 2023, from 10 AM – 12 PM. The SREL Conference Center is located at 3280 Williston Rd, Aiken, SC 29803.

This free event is geared for children in first through sixth grade and their families. It will feature hands-on S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) activities. Children can expect to create hummingbird feeders, design unique insects, and plant their own flowers to experience the magic of pollination at home.

The Pollinator Palooza event is part of the “Let’s Grow Together” initiative sponsored by the USDA Forest Service – Savannah River. This six-year long program has reached thousands of students over its tenure throughout the Central Savannah River Area.

Assistant Director for Outreach and Education, Katrina Ford stated, “this program has expanded SREL’s reach by reaching students through education about the plight of pollinators in ecosystems. Pollinators are critical to the growth of products we use daily from paper commodities to food. Students taking part in this program have been amazed to learn where their food comes from and the importance of pollinators.”

Ford stated that while this is the final large-scale event for the program, in late summer new resources will be available on SREL’s website for teachers and families to continue teaching students about pollinators and the role they play. The “Let’s Grow Together” program concludes September 30, 2023.

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About the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, a research unit of the University of Georgia, located near Aiken, South Carolina, pursues a plethora of research interests from atoms to ecosystems in the realm of ecology. For over seven decades, the SREL’s mission has provided an independent evaluation of the impact of Savannah River Site’s operations on the environment to the public and to the Department of Energy. This mission is accomplished through research, education, and outreach.

SREL hires Ford to lead outreach and education

The University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory has hired Katrina Ford to serve as its first director for outreach and education. Ford will oversee outreach and public relations staff at SREL and expand the lab’s educational programs.

For the past eight years, Ford worked with the public library system in Anaheim, California where she launched award-winning STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs that earned recognition from the state of California and Penguin Random House. She has extensive experience as an administrator and social media manager.

Ford earned a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies in elementary education with an emphasis in environmental science, a master of library and information science and a master’s in public administration.

Four new faculty join SREL

Floating vegetation on a lake at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL).

Four faculty have joined the staff of the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory near Aiken, South Carolina.

Avishek Dutta, Brennan O. Ferguson, Daniel Kaplan and Daniel A.H. Peach will expand the SREL’s research, graduate education program and external research partnerships.

Dutta and Ferguson are in the Department of Geology at the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Peach is faculty in the Department of Infectious Diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Kaplan is a senior research scientist at the SREL.

Dutta, an assistant professor in geomicrobiology, will investigate microbial transformation of contaminants in the environment. He earned a Ph.D. in bioscience from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India. Dutta previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Ferguson, an assistant professor in environmental geochemistry, will investigate the transport or movement of contamination in subsurface soil using lab and field experiments. She earned a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and earth sciences from Clemson University. Ferguson previously worked as a graduate research assistant at Clemson. She has extensive experience in community outreach.

A senior research scientist in biogeochemistry, Kaplan earned his Ph.D. at the UGA while working as a technician at the SREL. He is interested in terrestrial environmental carbon chemistry and the transport and fate of radioactive elements in groundwater and soil.

Drawing from his previous position as an advisory scientist, at the Savannah River National Laboratory on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, Kaplan is well equipped in his new role as an associate director for the University of Georgia Research Institute. UGARI is the administrative unit that secures research partnerships with federal mission agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

Peach is an assistant professor of mosquito ecology and infectious diseases. He earned a Ph.D. in biology from Simon Frazer University in Burnaby, British Columbia. Most recently, Peach was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia. He has extensive experience in outreach education and mentoring undergraduates. He will investigate mosquitos as hosts of vector-borne diseases.

Dutta will be located in Athens, Georgia. Ferguson, Kaplan and Peach will be located at the SREL.