SREL’s facilities are unique to the diverse research the lab conducts on the SRS, from evaluating the impact of chronic low-level radiation on aquatic organisms to assessing conservation genetics. The lab’s outreach facilities, the UGA Conference Center and the Animal Care Facility are instrumental resources in executing the lab’s goal of increasing ecological awareness and sound environmental stewardship through education and engagement with the general public.
A climate-controlled stand-alone facility designed to house aquatic animals for experimental research. The facility comprises six small stalls and four larger stalls equipped with independent control for water level, water flow, and supplementary lighting. The Aquatic Animal Holding Facility has been used to conduct research on a variety of taxa, including freshwater turtles, fish, crayfish, and alligators. It can also accommodate artificial living stream systems and individual aquaria-scale experiments.
The Low-dose Irradiation Facility is uniquely designed to evaluate the impact of chronic, low-level radiation exposure on aquatic organisms. The facility is an array of 40 outdoor microcosms equipped with cesium-137 irradiation sources or unexposed controls that lack irradiation. Irradiation sources provide three biologically relevant levels of exposure. Mesocosms are arranged into eight blocks, with five mesocosms per block. Three levels are irradiation, and two are controls. Because dose rates within each microcosm are greatest directly under the radiation source, mesocosms may also be partitioned to take advantage of this spatial heterogeneity, if additional dose levels are required. Thermoluminescent dosimeters placed within the exposure field allow accurate dose rate estimates to be made for all mesocosms. Each mesocosm holds approximately 956 liters of water, with a maximum depth of 41 centimeters. The mesocosms are flow-through, with water cycled from a nearby lake.
SREL has several well-equipped molecular genetic laboratories. The equipment in these labs is used for various studies including monitoring the impacts of pollution on the genetic traits of organisms, estimating the abundance of a species in an area, examining the genetic health of endangered and at-risk species, quantifying the prevalence of several wildlife diseases, and conducting wildlife forensics studies.
In addition to standard lab equipment, resources for molecular genetic studies include: a separate lab for DNA/RNA extraction with two QiaCubes, numerous dual block thermal cyclers for high-throughput PCR, two quantitative PCR machines, two 16-capillary ABI automated sequencers, a microplate reader, and a Caliper LabChip for size selection for NGS library preps.
The 3,500-square foot laboratory is SREL’s primary facility for radioecology research. It is located at Par Pond, approximately 19 miles south east of the SREL’s main building. The facility houses Medaka (Oryzias latipes), a Japanese rice fish. Various traits render this species ideal for the study of low-dose irradiation exposure.
The laboratory is equipped with four aquatic animal holding units for the Medaka. These aquatic flow through systems each contain approximately 15-20 tanks (1.5 liters and 3 liters). The lab also has 20 standard 10-gallon fish tanks with filters. The Low Dose Irradiation Facility is in close proximity to this facility.
This 8.9-hectare (21-acre) irrigation system was developed in 2000 as a collaborative effort between SREL, USDA Forest Service, and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for phytoremediation, or the use of plants, to clean up or reduce the level of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, released into Fourmile Branch. The tritium cycled here originates from the Savannah River Site’s mixed-waste burial grounds.
Tritiated groundwater surfaces as a seep above Fourmile Branch and it is impounded by a dam that irrigates natural forest vegetation uphill, absorbs, and then transpires it. Any unabsorbed irrigated water sinks below the root zone and returns to the collection pond via the seep.
Since its operation, the system has reduced tritium concentration in the waters released into Four Mile Branch by more than 50 percent.
The facility is equipped with an automated sampling system (AVMS) to monitor soil conditions at regular intervals.
The University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory Conference Center is a 5,000-square-foot multi-purpose off-site facility located on U.S. Department of Energy land near Aiken, S.C. The facility houses both large and small conference rooms, office space, a fully equipped kitchen, and restrooms. The large conference room accommodates approximately 150 people. It is audio-visually equipped.
Surrounded by diverse habitat, the facility is located adjacent to Upper Three Runs Creek—ideal for various aquatic research and outdoor education.
Individuals interested in using the facility for meetings or other occasions should go to the SREL Conference Center webpage.