Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park

The National Environmental Research Parks are outdoor laboratories that provide opportunities for environmental studies on protected lands that act as buffers around Department of Energy (DOE) facilities.

Basic operating principles of the National Environmental Research Park concept:

  • The Department of Energy has stewardship for lands representing a large array of the Nation’s ecological regions
  • A corresponding array of environmental activities (including impacts) are taking place on these lands
  • A highly competent cadre of researchers are associated with these sites
  • By proper organization of research to achieve agency-mandated environmental goals, we can simultaneously aid in resolving environmental problems on-site, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally

 

The Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park is located in eastern Tennessee on the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR). The ORR is a unique and irreplaceable resource for DOE in addressing its technology and national science missions.

The Research Park is an Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) research facility that provides over 8,000 ha (20,000 acres) of ORR protected land for research and education, especially in the environmental sciences. Lying in the heart of the eastern deciduous forest ecoregion, the Research Park contains wetlands, prairies, streams, reservoirs, and other uncommon habitats in addition to upland mixed forests. Scientists working on the Research Park enjoy its many unique advantages, including a large information base and close proximity to educational institutions. They also have access to many on-site resources, such as the services of environmental scientists and the field and laboratory facilities at ORNL.

Public nature walks in the Research Park are led each year by local experts. These activities highlight the special features of the area, including flowers, birds, streams, and natural communities. Schedules of walks are announced in the local media and posted on this web site.

The Oak Ridge park is one in a network of seven DOE National Environmental Research Parks. It was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1989 as one of the six units of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve. It is also a Tennessee Wildlife Management Area and part of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere (SAMAB) Cooperative.

Native plants are being used in landscaping at ORNL as a major focal point of the Sustainable Campus Initiative. Native plants are better adapted to local environmental conditions and using them highlights their beauty, educates staff and guests about them, provides a unique look for ORNL, and supports many native animals. The pond on ORNL’s East Campus, for example, has been converted into a more natural environment. The addition of aquatic and shore plants, native fish, and turtles has enhanced the area. A new walkway around the pond makes it an inviting place for staff to exercise while enjoying the more natural habitat.