What's New with the Chesapeake Watershed CESU

Up, Up, and Away! Chesapeake Watershed CESU Research Grows by Leaps and Bounds

We only expect the network to continue to grow (we have five potential new partners joining in 2024) and engage cooperators in new and exciting ways—all in the effort to help our federal land managers provide the best service and science to their constituencies.
- Danny Filer

Year one interns, Shania Brace (left), Nyeema Caldwell and Sierra Gee (on right), participated in weekly training with Dr. Ricardo Sakai (at computer) as part of the USGS National Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC) set-up through a CESU agreement. Credit: USGS

RIGHT image: Graduate student intern from the Binghamton University public archaeology program, Kristin Clyne-Lehmann (left), with NPS archeologist, Dr. Amy Roache-Fedchenko, pictured on site in June 2022 discussing plans for the upcoming Urban Archaeology Corp summer program. Credit: NPS

The Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CW CESU) Research Network just wrapped up the biggest year since its founding in 2001.

In 2023, the CW CESU worked with the NPS and many other federal partners to obligate more than $23 million—an increase of nearly $5.5 million from the previous fiscal year. A majority (56%) of this funding was from the NPS, involving seven regions. Other federal agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), US Geological Survey (USGS), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) also increased their use of our CESU this year (see pie chart below).

Together, the agencies engaged nearly 200 undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral students, the most in a given year to this point for our network.  We have now assisted every park and program in the National Capital Region with finding cooperators to conduct research, provide technical assistance, and help educate the public about the resources we protect as federal employees.

All CW CESU funding by partner federal agencies. Number of agreements is in parentheses.

Snapshot of total funding awarded by all twelve federal partners since fiscal year 2018.

CESUs Offer Agencies Expertise and Engagement

The CESU Network was created by Congress in 1999 to serve as a conduit from federal agencies to universities and non-profit universities so that access to the best-available science and expertise would be available to federal agencies.  The network offers more than cost-saving overhead rates to agencies; our work engages the next generation of scientists while contributing to the understanding of general science and the parks, programs, installations, and refuges we manage for the federal government.  The growth of our network is an example of what Congress intended: strong partnerships and science through strong collaboration and student engagement.

Why the Chesapeake Watershed CESU?

The Chesapeake Watershed CESU is one of the biggest and fastest growing of the seventeen CESUs nationwide. Why?

  • Host university, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science – Appalachian Laboratory, supports growth through faculty leadership and administrative support
  • Our information-rich website hosts databases including the Experts Database to help federal scientists and managers find experts to engage, and the Projects Database which includes records of every project (over $1,000) awarded in the network–providing examples of how to build and structure a project.
  • We regularly share research and employment opportunities with our nearly 80 partners.
  • Our membership includes more historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) than any other CESU, which is an attractive option for federal partners looking to engage diverse faculty and students.

Our Projects

Innovative and engaging projects from the last few years include:

Our network has done everything from National Natural Landmark Nominations to translations of materials for broader audiences.  We have even engaged videographers to help tell the stories of our most iconic national parks.

Going Forward

We only expect the network to continue to grow (we have five potential new partners joining in 2024) and engage cooperators in new and exciting waysall in the effort to help our federal land managers provide the best service and science to their constituencies.

If you have any questions about projects or links in this article or want to learn more about the CESU network and how we can carry out your project idea, please contact me at 301-689-7108 or by email at Danny_Filer@nps.gov.