In 1932, J. N. 'Ding' Darling proposed a 3-year tripartite arrangement between the Iowa Fish and Game Commission, Iowa State University, and himself to establish the first Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit. Three years later, the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit Program was broadened to include 9 land-grant colleges representing recognized ecoregions in the United States. In 1960, the Units were given statutory recognition by Public Law 86-686 that also included provision for establishing Cooperative Fishery Units. The Cooperative Research Unit idea has evolved to 39 Units in 2000. Today, the main cooperators of the Unit program are the land-grant university, the state fish and game or conservation agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Wildlife Management Institute. The Cooperative Units mission, as stated in Public Law 86-686, remains: 'To facilitate cooperation between the Federal Government, colleges and universities, and private organizations for cooperative unit programs of research and education relating to fish and wildlife and for other purposes.' Graduate research and education continue to be the program's primary missions. In any given year >600 graduate and post-graduate students are involved. Post-graduate employment of Unit-afffiliated students is >90%. Perhaps the primary benefit to the education process is the Units' formal connection to the state cooperator and to their federal agency that might not otherwise be available to university faculty and students. Units are conduits to state and federal funding for research projects conducted by university faculty and students. The CRU program is well positioned to educate a multitalented, ethnically diverse cadre of graduate students who will be prepared not only for their first professional job but also for their career by having been instilled with a desire for life-long professional accomplishment.
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The cooperative research unit program and wildlife education: Historic development, future challenges