CRU students influence future of living natural resources

By John Organ, Chief, Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units

©Mark Wipfli, Assistant Unit Leader Fish, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Each year, nearly 600 graduate students participate in natural resource education and training through the Cooperative Research Unit Program (CRU). Research directed by CRU scientists assists the next generation of professionals to emerge from the CRU Program prepared to be effective members of the natural resource workforce.

From its inception in Iowa by Ding Darling and the original 9 CRUs, the CRU Program has grown to 40 Units in 38 States with a global presence. Staffed by USGS personnel, CRUs conduct research on renewable natural resource questions, participate in the education of graduate students, provide technical assistance and consultation on natural resource issues, and provide continuing education for natural resource professionals. Each unit is a partnership among the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a State fish and wildlife agency, a host university, and the Wildlife Management Institute.

The CRU Program had a productive year in 2016. In the 2016 CRU Year in Review report, you will find details on staffing, vacancies, research funding, and other pertinent information. You will also see snapshots of CRU projects with information on how results have been or are being applied by cooperators. That is the essence of what we do: science that matters.

Despite 25 percent vacancies in our scientist, our research, training, and teaching portfolio was full and we graduated 93 students and published 398 manuscripts primarily focused on addressing the real conservation challenges of our cooperators. As I’ve stated before, our mission is our legacy: meeting the actionable science needs of our cooperators, providing them technical guidance and assistance in interpreting and applying new advances in science, and developing the future workforce through graduate education and mentoring. Our scientists and the manner in which they approach our mission continue to inspire me. The most rewarding part of my job is meeting and engaging with the students they recruit—the conservation professionals of the future. I cannot help but feel uplifted after discussions with and presentations by these young men and women. Personally, I owe my place in the profession today to the mentoring I received as a CRU student, and today’s CRU scientists have raised the bar. It gives me hope for the future of conservation, and added motivation to see our vacancies filled so that we can expand our portfolio.

The National Cooperators’ Coalition has been active and is strategically working to build support on our behalf. Sincere thanks to the American Fisheries Society, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Boone and Crockett Club, the National Association of University Fish and Wildlife Programs, the Wildlife Management Institute, and The Wildlife Society for their efforts and those of their affiliated members.

We co-sponsored a workshop at the 2016 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference along with the American Fisheries Society, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Wildlife Management Institute, and The Wildlife Society, titled “Barriers and Bridges in Reconnecting Natural Resources Science and Management.” The workshop was well received and we have been asked to continue the dialogue with a second workshop in 2017, titled “Bridging Science and Management: Maintaining Relevancy Through Organization Transformation and Professional Development.”  It was evident during the 2016 workshop that the CRU is viewed by our cooperators as an important and essential linkage between academia and practitioners. This is testament to the legacy of the CRU Program and the foundation it is built upon.

USGS is a Leading Sponsor of TWS.