SREL’s outreach efforts formally began in 1991 under the leadership of Dr. J. Whitfield Gibbons. Initially known as the Division of Environmental Outreach and Education, the program’s creation reflected SREL’s commitment to educate the public as well as the scientific community. The name also reflected Dr. Gibbon’s significant efforts in education and student programs. A graduate research participation program was a vital component of SREL’s outreach efforts during those early years, and it provided financial support to full-time graduate students from more than 50 U.S. universities while they conducted dissertation research on the SRS.
In the late 1990s, the name of the program formally changed to the SREL Outreach Program. To date, the program has reached nearly 40,000 people living in communities near the SRS. These programs enhance an individual’s understanding of environmental issues affecting the SRS, and they increase general ecological awareness by featuring programs on the local ecology and associated research.