Aiken County residents can take a walk on the wild side Saturday at the sixth annual Touch an Animal Day.


The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory offers guests the opportunity to interact with scientists and college students who conduct ecological research on the Savannah River Site and see animals that are native to the site and the CSRA.


Alligators, owls and possums have made appearances at past events, and guests can expect a variety of amphibians, reptiles, plants and other types of wildlife.


Undergraduate students from the University of Georgia will also be presenting posters on their research, according to Vicky Sutton-Jackson, a spokeswoman for the laboratory.


“All of that research gives you an idea ... of the health of the environment here at the Savannah River Site,” she said. “They’re finding out where you can expect to find certain types of snakes and reptiles.”


Guests will also learn how to react to finding such animals and protecting themselves. Some edible plants will be included in the exhibits, and guests will even be able to sample them.


Sutton-Jackson said it’s a good opportunity for children to learn about the environment, but also become better stewards for it.


“We look at it as being educated about ecology and developing a love of the science,” she said. “Understanding the importance of it and believing that, by becoming more educated, they’ll be better caretakers of their environment.”


The annual event has been a hit, with turnouts topping 700 people in recent years, Sutton-Jackson said.


The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the UGA-SREL Conference Center on U.S. 278 in New Ellenton. No security clearance is required, and the event is free to the public.


For more information, call 803-725-2472.


Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.