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Winter 2008





"This issue of UGA Research celebrates the new Odum School of Ecology, a strong reaffirmation of the University’s traditional focus on ecology and the environment."

David Lee
Vice President for Research


For the Record

Future at New School of Ecology
Ecology, SREL to Honor Odum’s Holistic View


This issue of UGA Research celebrates the new Odum School of Ecology, a strong reaffirmation of the University’s traditional focus on ecology and the environment. The school is also a fitting tribute to Professor Eugene P. Odum, whose holistic perspective forever changed the field—and this university. Thus the Odum School will collaborate with other UGA colleges, schools, and units committed to finding solutions to the very real environmental problems of our highly developed and overstressed world.

David LeeBut it would be disingenuous, given our coverage of this important development at UGA, not to acknowledge the concurrent downsizing and restructuring of its Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL). Whatever our individual opinions of government priorities may be, it is a reality that sponsored research is characterized by ebb and flow, and that sustained, competition-free core funding for a university laboratory—especially on the scale that SREL enjoyed—is now an anachronism. That it lasted so long is a tribute not only to its dedicated researchers, staff, and students but also to the efforts of UGA administrators and the senators and Congressional representatives who labored to preserve that funding.

Now, to honor the legacy of SREL and its original proponent—Gene Odum—it is essential that we look forward rather than backward. Thanks in no small measure to SREL, the Savannah River Site (SRS)—the nuclear facility where SREL is located—continues to provide a truly unique opportunity for research. Those who care deeply about SREL’s mission and legacy must help shape a vision that takes full advantage of this opportunity, yet is entrepreneurial, interdisciplinary, and based on a fiscally diverse and sustainable foundation.

A realistic vision shared by interim director Carl Bergmann and me is a smaller on-site presence, with the existing laboratory work, much of which is not site-dependent, largely shifted to the UGA campus. This SREL would support ecological fieldwork and the very popular animal-outreach programs, and it would serve as a core around which to build new environmental programs that are competitive with respect to sponsors’ requirements and therefore largely self-sustaining.

Ideally, this new SREL would serve as a portal for a larger “virtual” SREL that more fully engages the many UGA entities with intersecting ecological and environmental interests, including the Odum School, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences departments such as plant biology, geology, marine sciences, and the relatively new Academy of the Environment. Similar opportunities exist for partnerships with other research and educational institutions.

Broadening UGA’s engagement at the SRS will bring new approaches that honor Gene Odum’s holistic perspective, offer new solutions to emerging problems, and simultaneously place SREL on an enduring foundation. Achieving these goals will require creativity, hard work, and dedication, but the reward—like the new school—will be a living legacy to one of the field’s great visionaries.

David Lee
Vice President for Research


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