A collaborative organizational network analysis of the Cooperative Research Units program
November 2020 - August 2024
- Cooperative Research Units
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program (CRU) establishes a relationship among the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), a host university, and state resource agencies. The program’s mission is to provide education and technical assistance through graduate research in order to address the information needs of its members. Originating in 1935, it currently consists of 41 units in 39 states. Staff within the CRU have conducted decades’ worth of research while mentoring graduate students and providing technical assistance to cooperators on wildlife management issues. While the program’s mission has remained largely unchanged, the issues challenging fish and wildlife conservation have changed. Landscapes are increasingly fragmented, individuals are generally less attracted to outdoor activities, and wildlife use has shifted towards non-consumptive uses. This raises questions about the CRU’s support and sustainability into the future. Our study examines the CRU model that integrates graduate education in research and technical assistance to address Cooperator information needs, to explore the relevancy of the model in the current context of natural resources conservation. We are evaluating the program’s structure and socio-technical connectivity to identify motivations, relationships, and layered networks among members and their relationships to outcomes through an Organizational Network Analysis and Dynamic Network Analysis. Our investigation will include simulations informed by statistical analysis of the social networks and their evolutions and adaptations, to predict conditions under which outcomes may change. The goal is to elucidate how organizational factors may contribute to each cooperator network, how the networks have evolved, and how factors may influence future conditions of individual units and the CRU Program in general.