Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

In 1951 Eugene Odum, a professor at the University of Georgia, contracted with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to conduct ecological research on the Savannah River Site, a 300-square-mile nuclear production facility located in Aiken, South Carolina, just over the Georgia border (approximately twenty miles from Augusta). Odum and his students studied the ecosystems of the Savannah River Site and in the process set the stage for the establishment of a permanent on-site laboratory in 1961—the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.
Because ecological research at the laboratory has been funded continuously since the 1950s, the Savannah River Site is one of the best-understood land areas in the world. Hundreds of graduate theses, thousands of scientific papers, and numerous books have been published as a result of this work. Students have come from all fifty states and abroad to study at the laboratory. About 150 people are employed at the lab, which has a total annual budget of more than $8 million.
Work at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory has focused on the ecological effects of nuclear production activities as well as the basic ecology of the site. Early studies were conducted on the effects of radiation on ecosystems and on movement of radioisotopes in these systems. A dominant research theme of the 1970s and 1980s was "thermal ecology," the study of the ecological effects of hot water effluents from nuclear reactors. Later studies have focused on biogeochemical ecology and restoration of contaminated sites. The studies that have been concerned with basic ecology have tended to focus on the field biology of individual plant and animal species and on old-field succession (the establishment of plants on abandoned cropland). Organisms from the microfauna of grassland and forest soils to bobcats and feral hogs have undergone close scrutiny. The successional studies are unusual because they have been carried out in the same area for half a century. These long-term studies have revealed that there is considerable temporal variation in ecosystems.
close

Loading

Cite This Article
Smith, Michael H. "Savannah River Ecology Laboratory." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 17 September 2014. Web. 10 February 2016.
From Our Home Page
Harriet Powers (1837-1910)

Harriet Powers is one of the best-known southern African American quilt makers, even though only two of her quilts, both of which she made after t

Read more...
Eugene Bullard (1895-1961)

Eugene Bullard was the world's first black combat aviator, flying in French squadrons during World War I (1917-18).

Read more...
Annie L. McPheeters (1908-1994)

Annie L. McPheeters was one of the first African American professional librarians in the Atlanta Public Library and an influential proponent of African American culture and history.

Read more...
Black Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement
Georgia has been home to a number of major figures who participated throughout the twentieth century in the struggle for civil rights. ...

Read more...
Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries