Aiken, SC, United States
Aiken, SC, United States

The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is a research unit of the University of Georgia, located at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. SREL is supported by federal, state, industry and foundation funding.Since the laboratory's founding in 1951 by Dr. Eugene Odum of the University of Georgia, a pioneer of modern ecology, SREL scientists have conducted long-term environmental studies on the SRS nuclear facility.SREL offers short and long-term educational and research opportunities in ecology and environmental science for graduate and undergraduate students. A wide variety of natural habitat types on the SRS, along with the presence of nuclear and industrial facilities, provides students an exceptional opportunity to study natural and disturbed ecological systems in the same region. Combined with a modern laboratory and field facilities and a diverse natural flora and fauna, SREL offers opportunities for students to develop ecological expertise and for visiting investigators to conduct research. Wikipedia.


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Now scientists at the University of Georgia have identified two factors that affect the accumulation of a radioactive contaminant in waterfowl. The study, published recently in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, reveals that the wild birds' uptake of radiocesium is influenced by two main factors—the amount of time the bird inhabits a contaminated body of water and the bird's foraging habits. Robert Kennamer, lead investigator on the study, guided a team of researchers that examined American coots and ring-necked ducks at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site, a former nuclear production facility. Every year thousands of migrant waterfowl visit SRS, which is closed to waterfowl hunting. These birds forage in contaminated areas before resuming their journeys. "The breeding ranges for both coots and ring-necked ducks extend well into the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, so these birds can be making migrations in excess of 1,200 miles," said Kennamer, a research professional at UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. For the study, American coots and ring-necked ducks were relocated from a less-contaminated lake at the site to a smaller pond that received higher concentrations of the contaminant.  Radiocesium was a byproduct of nuclear production, from the 1950s to 1965. "Thirty days after we released them onto the pond, we saw increased levels of the contaminant in the coots. For coots that remained on the pond longer—up to five months—there was no additional elevation," Kennamer said. In contrast, radiocesium levels continued to rise in the ring-necked ducks up to 2 1/2 months after the team moved them onto the pond. "The differing rates and levels of radiocesium accumulation observed between coots and ring-necked ducks in this study reveal the complexity of how radioactive elements are distributed and accumulated among various plant and animal species within ecosystems," said James Beasley, co-investigator on the study and assistant professor at SREL and UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Ring-necked ducks are diving ducks, foraging at the bottom of the water body. Their food comes into direct contact with the sediments where radiocesium settles. In contrast, coots primarily feed on aquatic vegetation in shallow or surface water. Radiocesium is completely released from the waterfowl 30 days after they leave the site, so the potential risk to humans is short term, according to Kennamer. But the study results are a clear evidence that future cleanup interventions to these aquatic areas must not produce vegetation, or migratory waterfowl will be lured by the bountiful supply and linger in what appears to be a haven. "Residence time is a critical determinant in the amount of contaminant a bird accumulates," Kennamer said. "These birds are highly mobile. If you increase food resources in an area and make it more attractive for birds to be there, then they are going to stay in the area longer and their potential to become contaminated will increase." More information: Robert A. Kennamer et al. Radiocesium in migratory aquatic game birds using contaminated U.S. Department of Energy reactor-cooling reservoirs: A long-term perspective, Journal of Environmental Radioactivity (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2017.02.022


Yan M.,Peking University | Korshin G.V.,University of Washington | Chang H.-S.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
Water Research | Year: 2014

Formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in ten drinking source waters located in the United States was examined in this study. DBP generation was interpreted in the context of halogenation-induced changes of log-transformed absorbance spectra of dissolved organic matter (DOM) present in the waters. This approach allows probing the behavior of relatively minor structures that can be highly sensitive towards any process of interest, notably DOM halogenation. This concept was applied to examine effects of chlorination time on the kinetics of chlorine consumption and release of several DBP groups such as total trihalomethanes (THM4, including CHCl3, CHCl2Br, CHClBr2 and CHBr3), haloacetic acids (HAA9, including MCAA, MBAA, DCAA, TCAA, BCAA, DBAA, BDCAA, DBCAA and TBAA), haloacetonitriles (THAN4, including TCAN, DCAN, BCAN and DBAN), haloketones (HK2, including DCP and TCP), chloral hydrate (CH) and chloropicrin (CPN). Two alternative parameters, namely the differential logarithm of DOM absorbance at 350nm (DLnA350) and change of the spectral slope in the range of wavelengths 325-375nm (DSlope325-375) were introduced to quantify individual DBP species formed and Cl2 consumption. DLnA350 and DSlope325-375, especially DLnA350 were determined to be more reliable than differential absorbance at 272nm that was utilized in prior applications of differential spectroscopy to characterize DBP formation. Strong linear relationships between DLnA350 values and concentrations of major groups of and individual DBP species (e.g. THM4, HAA9, HAN4 and CPN were found to exist (mostly, R2>0.95) and the intercept of these correlations with the y-axis was near zero for the examined water sources. Correlations between DLnA350 values and concentrations of CH and HK2 were also strong but they were nonlinear. The slope of the correlations between the concentrations of major groups of DBP species vs -DLnA350 were also well correlated with SUVA254 and LnA350 for all the examined source waters. It indicates that log-transformations of the absorbance spectra of surface water and parameters based on such transformations (e.g., DLnA350 and DSlope325-375) have a potential to provide an alternative reliable approach to monitor the halogenation of DOM and attendant formation of individual DBP species. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


News Article | December 13, 2016
Site: phys.org

The team of researchers from UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island. The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species. "It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem," said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL. "We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island," said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA's Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. "And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates." What they found, said Abernethy, "indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses—synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem." The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island. A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera's view. The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged. "We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses," Abernethy said. "They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources—locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico—and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them." Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres. Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism—feasting on mongoose carcasses. The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island—the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study. Explore further: Most island vertebrate extinctions could be averted, new study concludes More information: Erin F. Abernethy et al. Carcasses of invasive species are predominantly utilized by invasive scavengers in an island ecosystem, Ecosphere (2016). DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1496


News Article | December 13, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that invasive species on Hawaii Island, or the Big Island of Hawaii, may be especially successful invaders because they are formidable scavengers of carcasses of other animals and after death, a nutrient resource for other invasive scavengers. The team of researchers from UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island. The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species. “It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem,” said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL. “We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island,” said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. “And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates.” What they found, said Abernethy, “indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses—synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem.” The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island. A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera’s view. The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged. “We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses,” Abernethy said. “They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources—locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico—and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them.” Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres. Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism—feasting on mongoose carcasses. The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island—the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study.


News Article | December 13, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Aiken, S.C. - Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that invasive species on Hawaii Island, or the Big Island of Hawaii, may be especially successful invaders because they are formidable scavengers of carcasses of other animals and after death, a nutrient resource for other invasive scavengers. The team of researchers from UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island. The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species. "It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem," said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL. "We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island," said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA's Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. "And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates." What they found, said Abernethy, "indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses--synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem." The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island. A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera's view. The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged. "We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses," Abernethy said. "They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources--locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico--and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them." Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres. Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism--feasting on mongoose carcasses. The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island--the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study. Further information about the study, including differences in scavenging activity among the three sites, can be found at http://onlinelibrary. . Additional authors on the study include James C. Beasley and Kelsey Turner, SREL, Aiken, South Carolina, and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Athens, Georgia.; Travis DeVault, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, NWRC, Sandusky, Ohio; and William Pitt, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia.


News Article | April 21, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

Wild animals are thriving in Chernobyl 30 years after the nuclear accident, a new study has revealed. A camera study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) validated previous findings that wildlife continues to flourish in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), decades after the nuclear mishap. Early observations that used animal tracks have established that the CEZ is teeming with wildlife, but the new study is the first remote-camera scent-station survey that documented prevalent species in the CEZ. The team is lead by James Beasley, an assistant professor at SREL and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Their camera study found that the levels of radiation do not have an effect on animal distribution. Beasley said their observations substantiate what previous studies have found - wildlife in the exclusion zone are adapting and benefitting from long-term radiation exposure. "For this study, we deployed cameras in a systematic way across the entire Belarus section of the CEZ and captured photographic evidence - strong evidence - because these are pictures that everyone can see," Beasley said. The team covered 94 sites where they remotely set up 30 cameras, equipped with fatty acid scent to attract the animals, on a tree or tree-like structures for seven days in each location. To prevent animals from visiting more than one station a day, the team placed the camera stations 2 miles apart. The observation lasted for five weeks. Using this remote camera scent-station method, the researchers were able to document the species and its frequency of visits. Sarah Webster, a graduate student at SREL and Warnell said that their monitoring focused on carnivores due to its hierarchy on the food chain, making them susceptible to contamination. She added that only a few studies investigated the effects of contamination levels in carnivores. "Carnivores are often in higher trophic levels of ecosystem food webs, so they are susceptible to bioaccumulation of contaminants," Webster said. The researchers were able to document that the highly contaminated areas were frequented by 14 mammalian species, which includes Eurasian boar, gray wolf, red fox, and a canid species common in Europe and East Asia. Beasley concluded that the animals prefer to visit areas that have their basic necessities such as water and food. He added that more studies should be done to assess wildlife density and the wildlife survival rates. The study was published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant located in Ukraine exploded due to a flaw in the reactor's design. The fire and steam explosion released 5 percent of the radioactive reactor core into the atmosphere. Although the area was fully contained, the accident still contributes to a number of health and environmental issues. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | April 20, 2016
Site: www.treehugger.com

Earlier research found evidence of a wildlife wonderland at the disaster site, now the first camera study confirms an abundance of wolves, boars, foxes and more. Last year we wrote about life at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – the 834-square mile area in Ukraine that has remained ominously void of human presence ever since the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident in 1986. How strange and magical it was to learn that rather than a disaster wasteland, nature has crept back in to right the wrongs. Without man present, the study found that the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident has become a nature reserve rife with elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, foxes, wolves, and others: Now a new camera study by researchers from the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory further confirm the findings that wildlife populations are abundant at the site. It is the first remote-camera scent-station survey conducted within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). The study documents species prevalent in the zone and supports the earlier conclusion that animal distribution is not influenced by radiation levels The first study relied on the counting of animal tracks; for the new study, James Beasley and his research team employed 30 cameras at 94 sites over a five-week period. "The earlier study shed light on the status of wildlife populations in the CEZ, but we still needed to back that up," says Beasley, an assistant professor with UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and lead author of the research. "For this study we deployed cameras in a systematic way across the entire Belarus section of the CEZ and captured photographic evidence – strong evidence – because these are pictures that everyone can see." The remote cameras were set up on trees or similar structures; the stations each used a fatty acid scent to attract the animals. With a minimum distance of two miles from each other, the cameras were arranged to prevent animals from being recorded at more than one station during a 24-hour period. All told, the team documented 14 species of mammals on the camera footage. The most frequently seen were the gray wolf, Eurasian boar, red fox and raccoon dog. The earlier study also noted a rare Przewalski's horse and European lynx, which were previously gone from the region but have now returned, as well as a European brown bear, an animal not seen in those parts for more than a century. And remarkably, Beasley says that the species documented on film were at stations close to or within the most highly contaminated areas. "We didn't find any evidence to support the idea that populations are suppressed in highly contaminated areas," Beasley said. "What we did find was these animals were more likely to be found in areas of preferred habitat that have the things they need – food and water." The study provides valuable verification, Beasley says, but further research is needed "to determine the density of wildlife and provide quantitative survival rates." Meanwhile, the wolves and foxes are running free, roaming the wilds and reclaiming land lost to man and consequently found once again by nature. See more images like the one above and read about the previous findings here: Wildlife is absolutely thriving at Chernobyl disaster site.


Henningsen J.P.,University of Massachusetts Amherst | Henningsen J.P.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory | Irschick D.J.,University of Massachusetts Amherst
Functional Ecology | Year: 2012

Many animals use signals to resolve disputes over resources. Some signals act as reliable indicators of other traits, such as whole-organism performance or body condition, which may also be important for resolving disputes. Because of the correlations inherent in reliable signals, it is challenging to determine which variables are directly relevant for resolving aggressive interactions. We examined the relationships among dewlap size, bite force and condition, all traits that may be important to conflict resolution in male green anole lizards (Anolis carolinensis). Using a large sample of wild-caught animals, we showed significant positive correlations between dewlap size and maximum bite force capacity, when each trait is corrected for its correlation with body size. We tested the relative importance of each trait to the outcome of interactions in a subset of our sample. We staged dominance encounters between size-matched male green anoles after surgically reducing the dewlap size of one competitor. We show that reducing the size of the dewlap does not significantly change the outcome of staged interactions. Rather, males with higher values of bite force capacity were more likely to win fights. We hypothesize that during close-proximity aggressive interactions, male green anoles use more direct means of assessing one another and that dewlap size functions as a signal of bite force primarily during long-distance territorial displays. Body condition was correlated with bite force, but did not differ significantly between winners and losers. Our results show how an experimental approach can decouple reliable signals from their correlated traits to test which factors influence male contest resolution. © 2011 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society.


I re-examine the phenomenon of delayed timing of emergence from the nest by hatchling turtles (known as overwintering in temperate climates) within the context of the original summary of the topic in an article by Gibbons and Nelson in 1978. I base the overview on cumulative data from research at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory since 1968 and reports from other locations during the past 34 yr. Investigators have reported known or suspected delayed emergence of hatchling turtles for 43 species, 22 genera, and 8 families from 11 countries and 36 U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The following perspective suggests questions to address and provides recommendations for how herpetologists should proceed in further investigating the phenomenon of hatchling emergence in turtles. The topic is one on which answers must be forthcoming to address turtle conservation on a global scale. For freshwater turtles, which include the majority of the world's turtles, natural selection has favored hatchlings that enter the aquatic habitat at the most propitious season for survival and subsequent growth. Nesting in most species spans several weeks; therefore, at the end of incubation hatchlings must use proximal environmental cues to adjust their timing of departure from the nest and entry into the aquatic habitat. Because of its widespread prevalence, delayed hatchling emergence in a turtle species should be considered the default behavior until evidence to the contrary is provided. Specifically, many turtles emerge several months after hatching, and in temperate climates emergence delayed by up to a year (overwintering) is likely the norm even though conventional wisdom predicts late summer or fall emergence. © 2013 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.


Researchers at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory warn that the extinction to two amphibian species—the southern toad and the southern leopard frog—may be hastened by the combined effects of climate change and copper-contaminated wetlands.

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