The Field 3-412/Ellenton Bay Set-Aside Area was one of the areas on the SRS selected for ecological studies in the early 1950's by scientists from the University of Georgia. This Area became well-known as a result of E. P. Odum's research on old-field succession and other studies of energy flow through ecosystems. Field 3-412 was one of the original ten SREL habitat reserve areas that were established on the SRS in the 1960's. This Area originally was 350 acres (141.7 ha) in size and was selected by early researchers as a site for studies of the flora and fauna of old-field communities where experimental manipulations were possible. Included in this reserve area was Ellenton Bay, a Carolina bay at which considerable research has been conducted on the wildlife that use these wetland communities. When the Set-Aside Program was expanded in 1989, this Set-Aside was enlarged to include additional Carolina bays and a bottomland hardwood connection to UTRC. This additional area enhanced this Set-Aside by providing multiple habitat types which include a continuum from floodplain forests to upland old-fields to Carolina bays. As a result of the expansion, this Set-Aside Area now includes 580 acres (234.6 ha).
This Area is one of the few Set-Asides in which manipulative studies are allowed. In the past, researchers have plowed areas of the old-field, planted various agricultural crops, and constructed numerous enclosures for studies of owl predation, small mammal population dynamics, and the movement of radioactive tracers through ecosystems.
Ellenton Bay was the site of early ecological research and this wetland remains the focus of current research by SREL scientists. Ellenton Bay is a relatively large bay and represents one of only 15 Carolina bays on the SRS that is larger than 10 acres in size.
The Field 3-412/Ellenton Bay Set-Aside is a relatively disturbed area due in part to its history of manipulative research, the construction of various experimental enclosures, and because multiple utility ROWs and roads cross both the old-fields and Ellenton Bay. Despite these disturbances, this Area contains relatively large undisturbed areas of old-fields which have been experiencing vegetative succession for the last 46 years.