A founder of the science of radiation ecology and staff leader at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Auerbach was born in Chicago in 1921. He studied at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University, earning his Ph.D. in zoology in 1949. He taught zoology, biology, and ecology at Northwestern and Roosevelt Universities until 1955, when he moved to Oak Ridge to become a health physicist and chief of radiation ecology.
Auerbach's specialty, radiation ecology or radioecology, investigated the transport of radionuclides and their concentrations in ecosystems, especially useful considerations for siting nuclear power plants and disposing of radioactive wastes. These studies encouraged the use of radioactive tracers to track the movement of animals, decomposition of forest litter, fish migrations, and other environmental relationships. Auerbach concentrated on analysis of radioactive waste cycling in terrestrial ecosystems and directed studies of the eastern deciduous forest biome during the 1970s. These pioneering studies led to his election as president of the American Society of Ecology (1971-72) and leadership of other professional organizations.
In 1972 Auerbach became Director of the Environmental Sciences Division at ORNL and managed its studies and expansion until he retired in 1986. In retirement, he has continued his ecosystem studies as consultant for many agencies, notably on the Environmental Advisory Board for construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
J. Newell Stannard, Radioactivity and Health, A History (1988)