By Dan Filer, CHWA CESU NPS Research Coordinator
We have several exciting achievements to share in this edition of the Chesapeake Watershed CESU Research Network Newsletter. These achievements would not have been possible without the effort of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science – Appalachian Laboratory’s efforts drafting our Strategic Plan, which I encourage our cooperators to revisit. The Strategic Planning process would not have been possible without the feedback that we received from many of our partners during the Strategic Planning process last year.
I’m excited to report that our network continues to grow at a healthy rate – both in the number of new cooperators who continue to inquire about and ultimately join our network, and the number of projects and dollars coming through the unit. To date, just shy of 950 projects have been awarded for nearly $101 million since the network’s inception in 2001. We look forward to continuing this growth and finding new ways to engage both our federal and nonfederal partners in science applications for land management. I’m able to report these numbers because, for the first time for this network, we have a complete database that tracks every awarded project. This tool is invaluable for not only the Coordinator, but for federal managers and nonfederal scientists looking for project ideas. I encourage you to visit this resource which can be found on our website in the Projects Tab. I’m also excited to report that we have linked the Experts and Projects Databases, so that CESU projects awarded to experts are automatically displayed on their expert profile page. You can learn more about this in Katie Kline’s update in this edition of the newsletter.
We have also initiated an effort to revamp both our network branding and our website. Our network has had the same logo since its creation in 2001 and there has been a push from the national level to bring each CESU network’s logo in line with the national logo. In a nod to this effort, we will be releasing a logo that depicts the work that we do, yet also aligns with the national program. This logo will be released in conjunction with our new website design; the website is about a decade old, and the program has grown exponentially since its design. As we developed new programs, content, and databases, we would simply add it to the website. Over time the web content and resources appear to be less organized and more cobbled together and, admittedly, are not always easy to find! The new website will maintain current functionality, and it will be more user-friendly and will also better highlight our resources and programs. We have established a goal of August 15th for a demonstration version of the new website and plan to go live with the new site no later than the end of this year.
I’m also excited to announce that we will be launching our Diversity Committee in July! This is an effort that was identified in our Strategic Plan that we had planned to kick-off after funding a National Park Service (NPS) Fellowship Program – that was funded in June! I’ll share more about this program in our next edition. We already have several volunteers for the Diversity Committee, but if you would like to be involved please contact me. Immediate goals of the group will be to develop a diversity statement for the program, identify ways diversity can be improved throughout the program, and to work with federal partners to create longer lead times for RSOI responses.
This month’s newsletter includes an article about the first CESU Student Awards recipients. The CESU Student Award program was developed by Matt Fitzpatrick and Rhonda Schwinabart here at the host institution, and the award is an effort to recognize outstanding student achievement and contributions to CESU projects. Any project from any federal partner can be considered, and we plan to announce the opportunity again in 2024. I encourage you to read this article included in the newsletter and help us congratulate these hard-working and dedicated students!
Finally, I want to highlight the NOAA story we have included in this edition. NOAA was one of our earliest members in the Chesapeake Watershed CESU Research Network, but for over a decade didn’t utilize us for a project. In the last few years this has changed, and we have assisted with several awards that have now made NOAA one of our most active members! Please read about their exciting harmful algal bloom project and their work with Dr. Al Place at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology.