Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Celebrates Anniversary

AMES, Iowa — Natural resource leaders from around the country praised the Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Oct. 6 on the partnership created at Iowa State University that has succeeded for 75 years. The research unit, also known as the co-op unit, celebrated its 75th anniversary with a banquet in Ames that included former and current leaders, staff and graduate students; faculty cooperators; and representatives of its sponsors: Iowa State, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), U.S. Geological Survey and the Wildlife Management Institute. The unit was founded in 1932 largely through the perseverance of Des Moines Register political cartoonist Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling. Darling convinced Iowa State's president to team with the precursor of the Iowa DNR to bring scientific training to the field of natural resources and even donated $9,000 to fund the organization's first three years. The co-op unit concept caught on and Darling's brainchild became the first of 43 fish and wildlife units in 40 states. The three unit scientists conduct research in support of its cooperators, mentor graduate students and contribute to graduate teaching. The staff also provides administrative support and guidance for cooperative programs of research and education relating to fisheries and wildlife biology and management, and to natural resource conservation. It is housed in and administratively associated with the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Unit scientists are members of Iowa State's graduate faculty and participate in NREM, ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental science graduate programs. David Otis, the unit's leader and Iowa State natural resource ecology and management department professor, said it was great fun and very rewarding to have former students, unit staff and representatives of the cooperators travel to Ames from across the nation to join in a celebration of the accomplishments of the Iowa unit and its 75-year legacy. At the anniversary's banquet Ken Williams, the chief of the National Unit Program, called the Iowa unit a model for the cooperative effort and research productivity and said its initial success was the foundation for future expansion and success of the national program. Likewise, Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, referred to the Midwest as a "cradle of wildlife conservation," with historical notables such as Darling, Paul Errington, the first unit scientist, and Iowa-born Aldo Leopold. He cited the unit program as "a great success story in the development of fish and wildlife conservation as a profession." Joe Colletti, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and former unit leader and Iowa State emeritus professor Erv Klaas stressed the co-op unit's contributions to graduate student teaching, research and mentoring. Jack Payne, ISU Extension vice president, recalled his positive experience as a unit graduate student, and its legacy in training generations of fish and wildlife scientists and managers in natural resources agencies and academia. Rich Leopold, Iowa DNR director, emphasized how the unit plays a critical role in providing sound science in support of the department's fish and wildlife management programs and emphasized the healthy long-term relationship between his agency and the Iowa State faculty. Unit scientists and their students are conducting a variety of research projects in Iowa on wetland and prairie restoration, Clear Lake ecosystem dynamics, amphibian health in agricultural landscapes and mourning dove population biology. The unit's web site has more information on these projects and the 75th anniversary celebration, at: