Research Activities

Biological Monitoring

Bioindicator, Bioaccumulation, and Fish Community Studies

Fish are collected and analyzed for physiological health, contaminant accumulation, and population analyses.

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Studies

Benthic macroinvertebrate communities are studied to assess ecological condition and recovery.

Toxicity Testing

The toxicity of water, sediment, and soils are evaluated


The Biological Monitoring and Abatement Program began in the mid-1980s to evaluate stream ecological conditions. The comprehensive long-term program has added significantly to the scientific understanding of ecological recovery from industrial pollution

Natural Resources Management

Wetland and Stream Mitigation

Wetland delineation and mitigation studies, including innovative out-of-kind mitigation, are implemented at multiple Department of Energy and Department of Defense sites.

Habitat Management

Plant management activities include controlling invasive plant species and native plant restoration (including prairies, forests, and ponds).

Wildlife Management

Oak Ridge Reservation wildlife management includes surveys and protection of rare wildlife species and habitat, control of nuisance species, and contaminant monitoring.

Remediation Science

Analytical Capabilities

Ultra sensitive analytical techniques are applied to evaluate remediation performance.

Mercury Remediation

New remediation technologies and approaches are developed for mitigating mercury problems in aquatic systems.

Source Investigations

Caged Asiatic clams and semi-permeable membrane devices are used successfully to identify discrete sources of PCBs.

Ecological Management and Enhancement

ORNL scientists developed an innovative remediation strategy, the first of its kind approved by EPA, to interrupt contaminant exposure pathways while enhancing habitat quality.

Fisheries Assessment

Field Studies

Fish protection and mitigation options are tested at field sites.

Laboratory Experiments

The aquatic ecology laboratory is used to simulate impacts from power plants, such as high temperature and impingement, on fish health and survival.

Power Plant Impacts

The environmental impacts of hydro- and thermoelectric power production on fish populations are evaluated in the lab and field.

Environmental Sustainability

Rare Species Status

New techniques for evaluating threatened and endangered species status have been developed by ORNL scientists, including the use of statistical sampling designs and a physiological-based framework for assessing species health.

Risk Assessment

A Military Ecological Risk Assessment Framework has been applied to evaluate the effects of tracked vehicles on desert hydrology and wash vegetation.

Decision Support for the Department of Defense

ORNL scientists support the military's environmental stewardship activities by helping develop and apply risk assessment tools, low impact development strategies, and ecological sampling designs.

Large-Scale Change Analysis


Sophisticated models are developed and applied to assess impacts on aquatic resources at a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.

Biogeochemical Research

The Walker Branch Watershed is one of few sites in the world characterized by long-term, intensive environmental studies of hydrologic processes in a forested watershed.

Mercury Cycling

ORNL scientists contribute to a better understanding of processes that regulate global atmospheric cycling and bioaccumulation of mercury in aquatic ecosystems.