Savannah River Ecology Lab celebrates 70 years of science, stewardship

·2 min read

Jun. 23—The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory on Wednesday marked 70 years of scientific excellence with a ceremony at the Savannah River Site Museum, where guests had the chance to learn more about the lab and its extensive body of work.

The anniversary was celebrated with a new video and remarks by the director of the ecology lab, Olin "Gene" Rhodes Jr., and the Savannah River Site manager, Michael Budney.

"The bottom line is 70 years is something to really celebrate, right?" Rhodes said. "We've been here a long time, and it's amazing to think that what has evolved from a simple, one-faculty study with a few graduate students moved through time to become what the ecology lab is today."

"It's had its ups and downs through the years, and it's been an interesting journey," the director continued. "But the one thing that has steadfastly been true about the Savannah River Ecology Lab is that it has a very specific underlying belief and mission to be that independent partner for the Savannah River Site."

The ecology lab sprung from the foundational work of Eugene Odum, a zoology professor at the University of Georgia. Odum — later dubbed the father of modern ecology — and others studied the land and environment selected for what was then known as the Savannah River Plant. Odum's plans included investigating how "radioactive elements would travel through ecosystems and alter plants, animals, land and aquatic systems," according to the lab.

In his remarks, Budney said Odum "would be very proud of what" the ecology lab has become.

"The breadth of the lab's mission, and the things they do, is just amazing," Budney said. "From broad, national-impact kind of research on ecology, all the way down to very specific, individual problems they help us resolve."

The Savannah River Ecology Lab serves as an independent monitor, conducting research on the Savannah River Site landscape. It is also an education hub, producing more than 500 graduate students to date.

The ecology lab's exhibit at the Savannah River Site Museum, 224 Laurens St. S.W., will be upgraded in the coming weeks.

More information about the Savannah River Ecology Lab, a research unit of the University of Georgia, can be found online: srel.uga.edu.

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