In 1951, UGA ecology professor Eugene Odum—known as the “father of modern ecology”— was invited by the Atomic Energy Commission to conduct biological inventories of what was then known as the Savannah River Plant before site operations began. That project grew into UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, located near Aiken, S.C., on the Savannah River Site. SRS, a Department of Energy facility and later the nation’s first national environmental research park, produced materials used in nuclear weapons, primarily tritium and plutonium-239.
Seventy years after Odum began his biological inventories, SREL has produced a body of research unparalleled in the country and perhaps even around the world, according to Director Olin “Gene” Rhodes. Scientists at SREL pursue basic and applied research at multiple levels of ecological organization, from atoms to ecosystems. Their research extends beyond the site to regional and global projects, and they have produced more than 3,600 peer-reviewed publications.