USGS North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Gather for Coordinating Meeting, Collazo and Cooperative Research Unit Recognized

Assistant Professor Corey Dunn (right) presents Professor Jaime Collazo (left) with the Excellence in Research Award.

The coordinating body of the North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (CRU) met in-person for the first time in five years at North Carolina State University, the CRU’s host university. The unit had much to celebrate, as Professor of Applied Ecology Jaime Collazo was awarded the Excellence in Research award. Additionally, the NC Unit was awarded the Excellence in Safety award and recently celebrated its 60th anniversary at NC State.

The North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is one of 43 CRUs across the United States. Each unit is administered by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and consists of a partnership among a host university (NC State University), a state fish and wildlife agency (North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission), the Wildlife Management Institute, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These and other partners provide direction to CRU scientists on the research questions they need answered to effectively conserve and manage fish and wildlife species. NC Unit USGS scientists are Jaime Collazo, Nathan Hostetter, and Corey Dunn, applied ecology professors. These unit scientists carry out the three-fold mission of the program: 

  • Conduct research to deliver actionable science to natural resource agencies and organizations.
  • Fulfill the training and technical assistance needs of partners.
  • Develop the natural resource conservation workforce of the future through graduate education.

At the meeting, members from all five cooperative organizations shared updates and provided feedback that contributes to the future direction of the NC Unit. Unit scientists and NC State students gave research presentations, and students had the opportunity to network with leaders of cooperator organizations. Many NC State graduates that work alongside unit researchers as students go on to become employees at federal and state agencies. For example, when Dunn was a PhD student at the University of Missouri, he met Barry Grand, the previous Supervisor of the Southeastern CRUs and his future boss, at the Missouri Unit’s annual meeting . “A lot of students are trained to go work at universities, but at the CRU we also train our students to be working ecologists for agencies and environmental organizations,” explains Dunn. Several of the administrators representing cooperator organizations in attendance were once graduate students within the NC Unit.

A timeline of the North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is displayed while unit members socialize during lunch. The North Carolina Unit was created in 1962 and staffed in 1963.

The last in-person meeting for the NC Unit was held in 2019. Social distancing requirements in 2020 – 2021 and the passing of unit leader, Professor Thomas Kwak, the following year forced unit members to meet virtually. Simply being together in one room to learn and share last year’s progress was cause for celebration, in addition to the two awards that were presented at the meeting.

Jaime Collazo, professor in applied ecology at NC State was awarded the Excellence in Research award. Collazo is an internationally recognized ornithologist, landscape ecologist, and conservation biologist. One of his many achievements has been advising over 50 graduate students.  This honor is presented to one of the approximately 100 USGS scientists in the CRU program whose exceptional work the year prior has “furthered the mission of the Cooperative Research Units Program”. 

Collazo’s nominators detailed his  “exceptional ‘extra’ year”, as he delayed his retirement for the betterment of the unit. Collazo led two research projects funded by the Southeast Climate Adaptation Center that are of regional and national importance. One project created a prototype early warning system for prescribed fire managers. The other project created downscaled climate models with climatologists that assist on-the-ground management of sensitive amphibians in Puerto Rico.

Professor Jaime Collazo (right) with Applied Ecology Department Head David Andow (center) and Southerneastern Regional Supervisor of the USGS Cooperative Research Units program Lisa Webb (left).

Collazo significantly contributed to the training of the next generation of scientists and provided technical service by co-developing and facilitating a $2.75M award through the Department of Interior for building workforce capacity, adding climate expertise, and increasing climate-related resiliency in Puerto Rico. This project will “enhance the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources workforce by furthering training of employees, as well as the placement and funding of projects for master and PhD students from local universities in Puerto Rico that will develop projects in the management and mitigation of climate change,” says Magaly Rodriguez, Director of Coastal Zone Management Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

“The award is meaningful because it represents collaborative work with my colleagues and postdocs in the Department [of Applied Ecology] and elsewhere, but especially the good work of my 50 graduate students since I joined the Department,” reflects Collazo. “It is a recognition of collective effort and contributions we made to ecology and conservation.” 

Lisa Webb (right), the Southerneastern Regional Supervisor for the USGS Cooperative Research Units program, presents the Excellence in Safety award to Assistant Professor Corey Dunn (left) on behalf of the North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

The entire North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit was presented with the Excellence in Safety award, which recognizes the collective effort by the unit to prioritize and implement safety measures. This past year, the NC Unit prioritized funding to restore storage and research space which was described as “one of the largest clean-up operations of any of the units that the safety staff has witnessed” by Johnathan Mawdsley, Cooperative Research Units Chief. The unit continued to excel in safety by providing numerous in-house safety training programs including how to use non-motorized watercrafts, bear spray, and ATV/UTVs. 

The scientific outcomes and professional development of unit members are invaluable. From 2022 to 2024 the NC Unit had 24 projects led or co-led by unit scientists, 39 peer-reviewed published papers, and 25 students and 90 lab and field technicians trained. “We have the coolest job,” Dunn shares regarding his appointment as a USGS scientist at NC State. “We have the opportunity to work with students on the ground, in the field, working alongside state and federal management agencies and based in a university so we have access to technology and innovative thinkers on campus. In many ways we get the best of all worlds.” 

2 responses on “USGS North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Gather for Coordinating Meeting, Collazo and Cooperative Research Unit Recognized

  1. Luis Faura says:

    I Am extremely proud with the accomplishments that Dr. Jaime Collazo has had, for the benefit of all north Americans and puertoricans as well.

  2. Leticia Collazo Berrios says:

    I am very proud of you, of all your accomplishments and successes throughout your career. Our parents would be so proud as well! Congratulations on a well deserved award!🥇

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