O.E. “Gene” Rhodes Jr., the assistant director of the Fort Collins, Co., facility, will assume his new duties in January at the University of Georgia lab at Savannah River Site.
The 61-year-old ecology lab was almost closed in 2006 after the U.S. Energy Department eliminated most of its funding and its 110-person staff dwindled to a low of about 45 before gradually increasing in recent years. The world-renowned lab relies heavily on grants and contract research projects.
As the new director, Rhodes will also hold an appointment as professor in the Odum School of Ecology. He succeeds interim directors Ken McLeod, a SREL research scientist, and Carl Bergmann, the assistant vice president for research and senior research scientist at the UGA Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.
“SREL is extremely pleased that Dr. Rhodes will be joining the laboratory as director after an extensive national search,” said search committee chair Rebecca Sharitz, a UGA senior research ecologist and emeritus professor of plant biology. “He is an excellent scientist and one of the top researchers in the area of wildlife conservation genetics.”
The National Wildlife Research Center is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services Program. Rhodes has provided leadership for a staff of 170 who address human-wildlife conflicts related to agriculture, health and safety, invasive species, and threatened and endangered species.
Rhodes formerly served as the director of the Center for Ecological Sustainability at Purdue University from 2004 to 2010 and was professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue from 1995 to 2004. He has a biology degree from Furman University, a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Clemson University and a doctoral degree in wildlife science from Texas Tech University. From 1993 to 1995, he worked as a research ecologist at SREL.
He has also been a frequent guest on television shows on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel and is frequently interviewed by national newspapers about human-wildlife interactions.
Savannah River Ecology Lab has pursued basic and applied research atSRS, a U.S. Department of Energy facility, since ecology pioneer Eugene Odum established it in 1951. Research projects at SREL enable DOE to understand and evaluate the environmental impacts of site operations, while also contributing to the greater scientific community. SREL also provides opportunities for graduate and undergraduate research training and service to the community through environmental outreach.