Science Excellence

Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units

The Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU) Network is a national, collaborative consortium of federal agencies, tribes, universities, state and local governments, and other partners. The CESU Network’s mission is to provide scientific research, technical assistance, and education on natural and cultural resource issues to federal land management, environmental organizations and research institutions.
The 17 CESUs encompass all 50 states and U.S. territories. Each CESU is comprised of a host university, multiple federal agencies, and additional university and non-federal partners. Each CESU is structured as a working collaborative with participation from numerous federal and non-federal institutional partners.

Link to non-FWS site.

Participation in the CESU Network provides benefits to the public, non-federal partners, and agencies like the Service, including:

Fish and Wildlife Service Involvement

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) joined the CESU Network in 2000, and has been a partner to all 17 CESUs since 2011. The CESU Network empowers the Service to be involved in interdisciplinary and multi-agency research projects with the host university and other CESU partners. In addition, while the CESU Network does not provide a new source of funding, all CESU partner universities and institutional partners have agreed to an indirect cost rate (currently of 17.5%), negotiated by the CESU National Council.

NEW: In late 2014, DOI issued a new memorandum on indirect costs to clarify that the CESU program is specifically “approved for deviation” from OMB’s 2014 Uniform Guidance, and thus approved to use an indirect cost rate that deviates from the federally negotiated indirect cost rate.

Overall, CESUs provide a number of key benefits to the Service:

CESU Project Awards and Agreements

In the Service, each individual CESU project is administered as a distinct and standalone financial assistance award in the form of a cooperative agreement. CESU projects can involve research, technical assistance, or education, and must meet the following three criteria:

  1. Project participants must be approved partners of the CESU Network (see partner application and approval process);
  2. The project should be to support or stimulate a public purpose (financial assistance) rather than for the exclusive direct benefit of the Government (procurement); and
  3. Substantial involvement is expected between the funding agency and the award recipient.

In the Service, some CESU project awards are competed and some are determined as single source awards. Any CESU project awards that will be issued without competition (single source awards) must be documented and justified according to Service policy and the Department policy. Consistent with federal regulations for discretionary financial assistance funding, CESU projects must be transparent to the public through an announcement posted to

The latest details and steps for issuing a CESU project award can be found on the Service’s InsideFWS Financial Assistance website.

Getting Started

Service employees interested in learning more about the CESU Network or setting up a project award should:

Last updated: February 19, 2020

Please send comments, suggestions and questions for this Web site to: Megan Cook at

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