Cal Poly’s admittance to a natural and cultural resources management network that partners with federal agencies will provide students with more senior projects, senior theses and hands-on opportunities.

Cal Poly was one of three California State Universities (CSU) to join the California Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CCESU), which already includes all nine University of California campuses and three other CSU campuses. The CESU’s goal is to promote education and research in the management of natural and cultural resources.

The head of Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management Department, Doug Piirto, anticipates cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. For example, if the National Park Service had a research project, Piirto said, they would call Cal Poly looking for faculty to collaborate with because of its strong forest science and natural resources management department. The faculty would then open involvement to students, who often are wondering what they will do for their senior projects, Piirto said.

“How many times has a Cal Poly student asked another student ‘I wonder what I’m going to do for my senior project’?” Piirto said.

Membership in the CESU will open more doors to work with other UC and CSU campuses and will benefit programs all across Cal Poly.

“It increases visibility of the university. It enhances our reputation if we come through on we promise to do,” Piirto said.

Other federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service and NASA partner with the CESU consortium. They provide funding for the projects and programs.

One of the current opportunities at the CESU is the “Experimental Manipulation of Artificial Water Developments in Mojave National Preserve.” Another project is the “Communication strategy for the San Francisco Bay Area Networking Inventory and Monitoring Program of the National Park Service.”

The California CESU base is at UC Berkeley. The CESU academic coordinator David Diaz, of the Berekely College of Natural Resources, said the California CESU needs to continue to offer the federal agencies knowledge.

“What Cal Poly brings is additional faculty and expertise that is unique to Cal Poly,” Diaz said. “Each of the California schools has unique expertise that could be useful to federal agencies.”

He added that California CESU membership growth would be beneficial.

“Hopefully the program is exciting enough that federal agencies will promote it,” he said.

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