How To

    1. SUMMARY
      • The SFC-CESU Management Committee herein delineates the policies pertaining to the application process for admission of additional organizations into membership in the SFC-CESU. The fundamental feature of these policies is that candidate organizations will be evaluated using steps similar to those used when the founding membership was defined. The SFC-CESU Management Committee will base its decisions on application materials and an interview. The addition of a new Federal Agency or a new Partner Institution must be approved by all SFCCESU Management Committee members. Consistent with Article II.C of the Cooperative Agreement, new members will be added through an amendment to the agreement. And, “Amendment shall be in writing, signed, and agreed to by all signatories of this agreement”.
      • Prospective member organizations, whether solicited or unsolicited, are required to provide the appropriate application materials described below. Based on review of these materials, the Management Committee will determines whether or not to proceed with the interview stage of the admission process. The prospective member organization must have a sponsor that is currently a member of the SFCCESU Management Committee.
          1. A federal agency seeking membership must submit to the Host University a letter of interest stating that their agency is a current member of the CESU Council, and that they are prepared to fulfill their responsibilities as a Federal Agency Member of the SFC-CESU, including the payment of the one-time assessment of $10,000 to the host University.
          2. An organization seeking membership as a Partner Institution must submit to the Host University a letter of interest confirming that they have reviewed the general CESU descriptive materials and the SFC-CESU Cooperative and Joint Venture Agreement, and that they agree to abide by all of the responsibilities and expectations of partner institution.
            1. In addition, a prospective new academic Partner Institution must submit a written response to the ten (10) elements listed in the original “Program Announcement and Request for Proposals for Establishing a Second Round of Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units” (15 September 1999). The ten elements are:
              1. A contact person, along with their title, address, phone number, fax, and email address,
              2. A list of programs relevant to the Federal landmanagement, environmental and research agencies, including degrees offered and number if graduate students in each program,
              3. A list of and brief description of faculty with expertise in disciplines and interdisciplinary work relevant to Federal land management, environmental and research agencies (do not submit vitae),
              4. A list and brief description of relevant facilities and equipment,
              5. A list and brief description of relevant experience in research, technical assistance, and education linked to CESU Network objectives (such as previous grants, special project awards and so forth),
              6. A list and description of current formal and informal relationships with Federal land management, environmental and research agencies,
              7. A description of services to be provided to the participating Federal agencies and Federal employee(s) by the university
              8. A description of the actual, assessed overhead rate (not to exceed 17.5.%) to be charged and cost items to which the
                rate is applicable for activities conducted through the CESU, including research, technical assistance, and educational services,
              9. A description of administrative support, including the ability (and administrative charges, if any) to transfer, subcontract, and receive funds between CESU partners, and through the national CESU Network, and
              10. Staff, faculty time, educational services and other commitments the university wishes to offer the CESU, including amount, kind, dollar value and duration of assistantships, work-study funds, clerical support, and so forth.
            1. The application must be accompanied by a least one letter of support from a Federal Partner which states what expertise the candidate organization brings to the CESU.
            2. The application must state how the candidate organization adds to the existing CESU partners and does not duplicate expertise within the existing network.
          1. After receipt of these materials, the Management Committee will consider the nomination.
        1. INTERVIEW
          • If a majority of the Management Committee present agrees that the nomination appears to have merit, and invitation will be extended to the appropriate official to attend the next Management Committee meeting. This meeting is required. It provides an opportunity for the proposed new member to make a presentation to the committee addressing the components of the Application Materials in Section II. A. above. The committee is free to ask additional relevant questions as well as answer any questions that the proposed new partner may have. The meeting must be attended by a majority of the Management Committee. A majority is defined as 50% of the committee plus one.
      • The Management Committee will discuss the merits of the proposal and put the nomination to a vote, Federal Agency nominees and Partner Institution nominees are elected to membership by consensus of the Management Committee. For successful applicants, the Host Institution, working with the national CESU staff will prepare an appropriate amendment to the list of members in the SFC-CESU Agreement. The amendment will be signed and agreed to by all signatories to the Cooperative Agreement. The amendment and documentation of the application process will be forwarded to the CESU Council for concurrence. Following the Council’s approval of the amendment, the Host University will issue a formal letter of acceptance welcoming the new partner, and distribute the amended agreement to all SFC-CESU member organizations.
    Updates to the Funding Mechanisms are Coming Soon.

Interim CESU Host Transition Process





Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Geological Survey- Biological Resources Division
National Park Service


Barry University
Florida A&M University
Nova Southeastern University
University of Florida
University of North Carolina – Wilmington
University of Puerto Rico
University of the Virgin Islands
Audubon of Florida


    1. This Cooperative Agreement (hereinafter called agreement) between the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division, and National Park Service, (hereinafter called Federal Agencies), and the University of Miami and its partner institutions is to establish and maintain the South Florida/Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit. The South Florida/Caribbean CESU is associated with a national network of CESUs.
    2. The objectives of the South Florida/Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) are to:
      • Provide research, technical assistance and education to federal land management, environmental and research agencies and their potential partners;
      • Develop a program of research, technical assistance and education that involves the biological, physical, social, and cultural sciences needed to address resources issues and interdisciplinary problem-solving at multiple scales and in an ecosystem context at the local, regional, and national level; and
      • Place special emphasis on the working collaboration among federal agencies and universities and their related partner institutions.
  1. The Bureau of Land Management (hereinafter called BLM) administers public lands within a framework of numerous laws. The most comprehensive of these is the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). All Bureau policies, procedures and management actions must be consistent with FLPMA and the other laws that govern use of the public lands. It is the mission of the Bureau of Land Management to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.). In accordance with 43 U.S.C. 1737(b), the BLM is authorized to enter into a cooperative agreement to establish the South Florida/Caribbean CESU to assist in providing research, technical assistance and education.
  2. The U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division (hereinafter called BRD) works with others to provide scientific understanding and technologies needed to support the sound management and conservation of our Nation’s biological resources (Secretarial Order No. 3202). In accordance with 16 U.S.C.1a-2j, 16 U.S.C. 5933 and Secretarial Order No. 3202, the BRD is authorized to enter into a cooperative agreement to establish the South Florida/Caribbean CESU to assist in providing research, technical assistance and education.
  3. The National Park Service (hereinafter called NPS) is responsible for the management of areas in the National Park System to conserve the scenery, the natural and historic objects, and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.). In accordance with 16 U.S.C.1a-2j and 16 U.S.C. 5933, the NPS is authorized to enter into a cooperative agreement to establish the South Florida/Caribbean CESU to assist in providing research, technical assistance and education.
  4. The University of Miami (hereinafter called Host University) is the largest private research university in the Southeast. The University comprises 14 schools and colleges located on four campuses, including the Coral Gables Campus, the School of Medicine Complex, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Campus, and research facilities on South Campus. The University of Miami currently enrolls over 13,600 students in approximately 100 undergraduate, 85 master’s, and 55 doctoral and professional areas of study. The Rosenstiel School is the campus with the mission to conduct high quality and policy relevant basic and applied research in the marine, atmospheric, and environmental sciences and disseminate the results of this research; provide graduate education and research training, and undergraduate education in the marine atmospheric and environmental sciences; and inform the public via pre-college, continuing education, and other outreach programs.
  5. The partner institutions to the Host University include Barry University, Florida A&M University, Nova Southeastern University, University of Florida, University of North Carolina -Wilmington, University of Puerto Rico, University of the Virgin Islands, and Audubon of Florida (hereinafter called Partner Institutions).


    1. Each Federal Agency agrees to:
      1. Provide administrative assistance, as appropriate, necessary to execute this agreement and subsequent modifications;
      2. Conduct, with the Host University and Partner Institutions, a program of research, technical assistance and education related to the South Florida/Caribbean CESU objectives and to the extent allowed by each Federal Agencies’ authorizing legislation;
      3. Provide opportunities for research on federal lands or using federal facilities in cooperation with Federal Agencies, as appropriate, and according to all applicable laws, regulations and Federal Agencies’ policies;
      4. Provide funds for basic support and salary for release time of Host University and Partner Institution faculty, as appropriate;
      5. Provide project funds and/or collaboration to support specific research, technical assistance and education projects, as appropriate;
      6. Make available managers to serve on the South Florida/Caribbean CESU Manager’s Committee;
      7. Comply with the Host University’s and Partner Institutions’ rules, regulations, and policies regarding professional conduct, health, safety, use of services and facilities, use of animals, recombinant DNA, infectious agents or radioactive substances, as well as other policies generally applied to Host University and Partner Institution personnel;
      8. Ensure its employees follow the Code of Ethics for Government Employees;
      9. Allow Federal Agency employees to participate in the activities of the Host University and Partner Institutions, including serving on graduate committees and teaching courses, as appropriate, and as specifically determined in modifications to the agreement; and
      10. Be individually responsible for their agency’s role in administering the agreement, transferring funds, and supervision of agency employees, as appropriate.
    1. The Host University agrees to:
      1. Establish, in consultation with the Federal Agencies and Partner Institutions, the South Florida/Caribbean CESU;
      2. Conduct, with participating Federal Agencies and Partner Institutions, a program of research, technical assistance and education related to the South Florida/Caribbean CESU objectives;
      3. Provide release time for faculty to engage in participating Federal Agencies research, technical assistance and education activities related to the South Florida/Caribbean CESU objectives, as appropriate;
      4. Provide basic administrative and clerical support as appropriate;
      5. Provide to CESU Federal Agency employees duty-stationed at the Host University normal access to university facilities at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, including but not limited to the library, mail room, physical plant, electronics, machine shop and computer facilities on the same basis as other faculty members of the Host University to the extent allowable under state laws and regulations. Access to additional facilities can be provided by mutual consent of the Federal Agencies and the Host University;
      6. Provide to CESU Federal Agency employees duty-stationed at the Host University suitable office space, furniture, laboratory space, utilities, computer network access and basic telephone service at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, as appropriate and available;
      7. Offer educational and training opportunities to participating Federal Agency employees, as appropriate;
      8. Encourage its students to participate in the activities of the South Florida/Caribbean CESU;
      9. Coordinate activities, as appropriate, with the Partner Institutions and develop administrative policies for such coordination; and
      10. Establish a South Florida/Caribbean CESU Manager’s Committee and convene a meeting of this committee, at least annually, to provide advice and guidance, review of the annual work and multi-year strategic plans, and assist in evaluating the South Florida/Caribbean CESU.
    1. Each Partner Institution agrees to:
      1. Conduct, with participating Federal Agencies and the Host University, a program of research, technical assistance, and education related to the South Florida/Caribbean CESU objectives and provide release time for faculty to participate in this program as appropriate;
      2. Offer educational and training opportunities to participating Federal Agency employees, as appropriate; and
      3. Encourage students and employees to participate in the activities of the CESU.
    1. All Federal Agencies, the Host University and Partner Institutions agree to:
      1. Establish and maintain the South Florida/Caribbean CESU closely following the CESU Introduction (June 1999), adapting key elements to local and regional needs, as appropriate;
      2. Develop and adopt a South Florida/Caribbean CESU role and mission statement;
      3. Develop a multi-year strategic plan;
      4. Make modifications, as appropriate, to this agreement that individually include a specific “scope of work” statement and a brief explanation of the following:
        1. the proposed work and what is being modified in the agreement;
        2. the project contribution to the objectives of the CESU;
        3. the methodology of the project;
        4. the substantial involvement of each party;
        5. the project budget and schedule;
        6. the specific deliverables;
      1. Coordinate in obtaining all necessary state, federal, and tribal permits and/or permissions from private landowners in order to conduct projects occurring under this agreement;
      2. Follow OMB Circulars A-21, A-87, A-102, A-110, and A-133, as appropriate, and specifically 43 CFR Part 12 (Department of the Interior).


  1. This agreement shall continue for a period of five (5) years from the effective date of execution. The effective date of this agreement shall be determined from the date of the last signature.
  2. By mutual consent and at the end of this agreement, a new agreement, for a separate and distinct five (5) year period, can be entered into to continue the activities of the South Florida/Caribbean CESU.
  3. For the purposes of this agreement, amendments are changes (edits, deletions, or additions) to the agreement that do not involve the transfer of funds. Amendments may be proposed by any of the Federal Agencies, the Host University or by the Host University on behalf of any of the Partner Institutions. Amendments shall be in writing, signed and agreed to by all signatories to this agreement.
  4. For the purposes of this agreement, modifications are specific two-party agreements between one of the Federal Agencies and the Host University and/or a Partner Institution in support of the goals of this broad agreement. Modifications will be issued by a Federal Agency, will transfer funds to support the statement of work, and will conform to each Federal Agency’s respective procedures.
  5. A separate interagency agreement is required to facilitate transfer of funds from one federal agency to another federal agency.


    1. The technical representatives for the Federal Agencies are as follows:
      1. Bureau of Land Management
        Geoff Walsh
        Bureau of Land Management – Eastern States
        State Director’s Office
        7450 Boston Boulevard; Mail Stop ES-910
        Springfield, VA 22153-3121
        (703) 440-1668
      2. U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division
        G Ronnie Best, Ph.D.
        Restoration Ecology Branch
        USGS – Florida Caribbean Science Center
        7920 NW 71 Street
        Gainesville, FL 32653-3071
        (352) 378-8181 (phone)
      3. National Park Service
        John Yancy
        Associate Regional Director for Natural Resource Stewardship and Science
        National Park Service
        Southeast Region
        1000 Alabama Street SW
        1924 Building
        Atlanta, GA 30303
        (404) 562-3279 (phone)
        (404) 562-3263
    1. The technical representative for the Host University is:
      • Dr. Peter K. Swart
        Division of Marine Geology and Geophysics
        Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
        University of Miami
        4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
        Miami, FL 33149
        (305) 361-4000
    1. The technical representatives for the Partner Institutions are:
      1. Barry University
        Dr. Jeremy Montague
        School of Natural and Health Science
      2. Florida A&M University
        Dr. Dreamal Worthen
        Asst. Professor,
        College of Engineering Sciences,
        Technology and Agriculture
        Dr. Richard D. Gragg
        Asst. Professor & Assoc. Director
        Environmental Sciences Institute
      3. Nova Southeastern University
        Dr. Richard E. Dodge
        Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center
      4. University of Florida
        Dr. Frank J. Mazzotti
        Center for Natural Resources – South Florida
      5. University of North Carolina Wilmington
        Dr. Alina M. Szmant
        Professor of Biological Sciences and Associate Director,
        National Undersea Research Center
        Center for Marine Science
      6. University of Puerto Rico
        Dr. Ernesto Weil
        Department of Marine Sciences
      7. University of the Virgin Islands
        Dr. Richard S. Nemeth
        Center for Marine and Environmental Studies
      8. Audubon of Florida
        Dr. Jerry Lorenz
        Audubon Society’s Tavernier Science Center


  1. Award under this agreement is as specified in the incorporated proposal and budget (Article XI 1. and 2.).
  2. Upon signature of all parties and upon satisfactory submission of a budget from the Host University, the Federal Agencies will obligate funds as follows:
    Bureau of Land Management
    $10,000 is awarded to the Host University to carry out this agreement.
    U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division
    $10,000 is awarded to the Host University to carry out this agreement.
    National Park Service 

    $10,000 is awarded to the Host University to carry out this agreement.
  3. Payments will be made by the Federal Agencies for work in accordance with OMB Circulars A-21, A-110, A-102, A-133 and specifically, 43 CFR Part 12 (Department of the Interior).
  4. A 15% indirect cost rate will be paid on work covered by the agreement and all its modifications. No indirect cost will be charged by the Host University for funds transferred directly from a participating Federal Agency to a Partner Institution via a modification to the agreement.
  5. Award of additional funds or in-kind resources will be made through modifications to the agreement subject to the rules, regulations, and policies of the individual Federal Agency proposing the modification. Copies of all modifications to the agreement shall be kept on file with the Host University.
  6. Nothing herein shall be construed as obligating the Federal Agencies to expend, or as involving the Federal Agencies in any contract or other obligation for the future payment of money, in excess of appropriations authorized by law and administratively allocated for specific work.


Prior approvals are in accordance with OMB Circulars A-110 or A-102, specifically 43 CFR Part 12 (Department of the Interior).


  1. OMB Circulars A-110 or A-102, specifically 43 CFR Part 12 (Department of the Interior) establish uniform reporting procedures for financial and technical reporting.
  2. As appropriate, the Host University will convene periodic meetings of South Florida/Caribbean CESU Federal Agencies and Partner Institutions (hereinafter called cooperators) for the purpose of collaboration and coordination of CESU activities. The first meeting will be convened within 90 days from the date this agreement is executed. Five (5) copies of the meeting minutes will be delivered to each Federal Agency.
  3. A role and mission statement will be prepared, adopted and agreed to by all South Florida/Caribbean CESU cooperators within 120 days from the date this agreement is executed. Five (5) copies of the adopted mission statement will be delivered to each Federal Agency.
  4. Annual work plans will be developed to guide the specific activities of the South Florida/Caribbean CESU and will:
      1. Describe the South Florida/Caribbean CESU’s ongoing and proposed research, technical assistance and education activities;
      2. Describe anticipated projects and products; and
      3. Identify faculty, staff and students involved in the South Florida/Caribbean CESU during the year.

    The first annual work plan (for FY2001) will be delivered 120 days from the date this agreement is executed. Five (5) copies of the annual work plan will be delivered to each Federal Agency.

  5. A multi-year strategic plan will be developed to generally guide the South Florida/Caribbean CESU and will be delivered within 12 months from the date this agreement is executed. Five (5) copies of the multi-year strategic plan will be delivered to each Federal Agency.


Property utilization and disposition is in accordance with OMB Circulars A-110 or A-102, specifically 43 CFR Part 12 (Department of the Interior).


Termination of this agreement is in accordance with OMB Circulars A-110 or A-102, specifically 43 CFR Part 12 (Department of the Interior), and requires approval of each of the Federal Agencies and the Host University.


        1. NON-DISCRIMINATION: All activities pursuant this agreement and the provisions of Executive Order 11246; shall be in compliance with requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (78 Stat. 252 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.); Title V, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (87 Stat. 394; 29 U.S.C. § 794); the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (89 Stat. 728; 42 U.S.C. § 6101 et seq.); and with all other Federal laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race, color, national origin, handicap, religious or sex in providing of facilities and service to the public.
        2. CONSISTENCY WITH PUBLIC LAWS: Nothing herein contained shall be deemed to be inconsistent with or contrary to the purpose of or intent of any Act of Congress or the laws of the District establishing, affecting, or relating to the agreement.
        3. APPROPRIATIONS (Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. 1341): Nothing herein contained in this agreement shall be construed as binding the Federal Agencies to expend in any one fiscal year any sum in excess of appropriations made by Congress, for the purposes of this agreement for that fiscal year, or other obligation for the further expenditure of money in excess of such appropriations.
        4. OFFICIALS NOT TO BENEFIT: No Member of, Delegate to, Resident Commissioner in, Congress shall be admitted to any share or part of this agreement or to any benefit to arise therefrom, unless the share or part benefit is for the general benefit of a corporation or company.
        5. LOBBYING PROHIBITION: The parties will abide by the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 1913 (Lobbying with Appropriated Moneys), which states: No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, to favor or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation or appropriation by Congress, whether before or after the introduction of any bill or resolution proposing such legislation or appropriation: but this shall not prevent officers or employees of the United States or of its departments or agencies from communicating to Members of Congress on the request of any Member or to Congress, through the proper official channels, requests for legislation or appropriations which they deem necessary for the efficient conduct of the public business.
          Governmental Parties
          The Federal Agencies, Host University and Partner Institutions which are governmental parties, accept responsibility for any property damage, injury, or death caused by the acts or omissions of their respective employees, acting within the scope of their employment, to the fullest extent permitted by law, including laws concerning self-insurance.
          To the extent work by governmental parties is to be performed through sub-contract by non-governmental entities or persons, the governmental party sub-contracting work will require that subcontracted entity or person to meet provisions (a),(b), and (c) for non-governmental parties stated below.
          Non-governmental Parties
          Work provided by non-governmental entities or persons, will require that entity or person to:
          (a) Have public and employee liability insurance from a responsible company or companies with a minimum limitation of one million dollars ($1,000,000) per person for any one claim, and an aggregate limitation of three million dollars ($3,000,000) for any number of claims arising from anyone incident. In subsequent modifications, the parties may negotiate different levels of liability coverage, as appropriate. The policies shall name the United States as an additional insured, shall specify that the insured shall have no right of subrogation against the United States for payments of any premiums or deductibles due thereunder, and shall specify that the insurance shall be assumed by, be for the account of, and be at the insured’s sole risk; and
          (b) Pay the United States the full value for all damages to the lands or other property of the United States caused by such person or organization, its representatives, or employees; and
          (c) Indemnify, save and hold harmless, and defend the United States against all fines, claims, damages, losses, judgments, and expenses arising out of, or from, any omission or activity of such person organization, its representatives, or employees in connection with this agreement. Non-governmental Partner Institutions shall provide the Federal Agencies confirmation of such insurance coverage, prior to beginning specific work authorized herein and specified in subsequent modifications.

      Non-governmental Partner Institutions shall provide the Federal Agencies confirmation of such insurance coverage, prior to beginning specific work authorized herein and specified in subsequent modifications.

      1. Joint publication of results is encouraged; however, no party will publish any results of joint effort without consulting the other. This is not to be construed as applying to popular publication of previously published technical matter. Publication may be joint or independent as may be agreed upon, always giving due credit to the cooperation and recognizing within proper limits the rights of individuals doing the work. In the case of failure to agree as to the manner of publication or interpretation of results, either party may publish data after due notice (not to exceed 60 days) and submission of the proposed manuscripts to the other. In such instances, the party publishing the data will give due credit to the cooperation but assume full responsibility of any statements on which there is a difference of opinion.
      2. That the results of any cooperative studies may be used for development of theses in partial fulfillment of requirements for advanced degrees and nothing herein shall delay theses publication.
      3. Individual modifications shall include specific plans for data management, sharing, and archiving, as appropriate.


    1. The following are to be incorporated into this agreement:
      1. Budget for funds awarded in this agreement
      2. DI-2010, Certifications for the Host University and Partner Institutions regarding debarment, suspension and other responsibility matter, drug-free workplace requirements and lobbying.


    1. The following are attached:
      1. ATTACHMENT 1 – Financial Status Report, SF 269A
      2. ATTACHMENT 2 – Request for Advance or Reimbursement, SF 270
      3. ATTACHMENT 3 – ACH Payment, SF3881
      4. ATTACHMENT 4 – Example Modification Template


The following authorizing signatures are attached:

A. Bureau of Land Management
B. U.S. Geological Survey
C. National Park Service
E. Barry University
F. Florida A&M University
G. Nova Southeastern University
H. University of Florida
I. University of North Carolina- Wilmington
J. University of Puerto Rico
K. University of the Virgin Islands
L. Audubon of Florida


A. Bureau of Land Management
_______________ _____
Signature Date
_______________ _____
Signature Date

B. U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division
_______________ _____
Signature Date

C. National Park Service
_______________ _____
Signature Date
_______________ _____
Signature Date
_______________ _____
Signature Date

D. University of Miami
_______________ _____
E. Barry University
_______________ _____
Signature Date

F. Florida A&M University
_______________ _____
Signature Date

G. Nova Southeastern University
_______________ _____
Signature Date

F. University of Florida
_______________ _____
Signature Date

I. University of North Carolina -Wilmington
_______________ _____
Signature Date

J. University of Puerto Rico
_______________ _____
Signature Date

K. University of the Virgin Islands
_______________ _____
Signature Date

L. Audubon of Florida
_______________ _____
Signature Date

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The South Florida and Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystem Unit A Strategic Vision for the Future

Updated August 4th, 2003, May 6th, 2006, January 7th, 2008, December 29th, 2009, January 17th, 2010, January 1st, 2015, and October 12th, 2016.

1. Introduction

The South Florida and Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystem Unit (SFC-CESU) is part of a nationwide network of biogeographically focused programs which were established to provide research, technical assistance, and education to federal land management, environmental, and research agencies. The SFC-CESU is one of the 17 CESUs nationally with a focus area that encompasses Florida south of Lake Okeechobee, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands (Figure 1). Although each CESU has its specific focus area, membership and projects sponsored through each CESU can extend beyond the geographic boundaries. In addition to the general geographic boundaries, topical areas addressed by the CESU include applied scientific and socio-economic issues relevant to the geographic study region. Specifically, the SFC-CESU focuses on the marine, coastal, and terrestrial ecosystems of the South Florida and the Caribbean (Fig. 1). The SFC-CESU activities will encompass all ecosystems of terrestrial and coastal environments, including estuaries and near-shore oceanic environments, salt and freshwater wetlands and mangroves, terrestrial wetlands (Everglades), and coral reefs.

The SFC-CESU is a unique collaboration, which assembles a wealth of technical knowledge and expertise from 19 partner universities and organizations. The technical abilities from these organizations and institutions are made available to federal managers from the 9 cooperating federal organizations which will allow for the development of innovative and creative solutions to the many of social and environmental issues that confront the unique environment of South Florida and the Caribbean.

Figure 1: Location of Existing CESUs (Figure from )

2. Timeline and Membership

The SFC-CESU was established in October 2000 by agreement between the Department of Interior (National Park Service, US Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division, and the Bureau of Land Management) and the host institution, University of Miami, with its partner institutions, Nova Southeastern University, Barry University, Florida A&M University, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, University of Florida, University of Puerto Rico, University of the Virgin Islands, and the Audubon Society of Florida. In 2002 Florida Atlantic University was added as an academic partner. In 2003, 2004, and 2008 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were added as federal partners. In 2005 the SFC-CESU was renewed for a further five years. In addition to the existing academic partners, Florida International University was added as an academic partner during the renewal.

In 2007, Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) were added as academic partners. In 2009, the Everglades Foundation and the University of South Florida were added as academic partners. In 2010 the SFC CESU was renewed for a further five years.

In 2012 Florida Gulf Coast University, Cetacean Logic, Ocean Research and Conservation Association, and Fairchild Tropical Gardens joined. In 2013 NOAA and DoD joined as federal partners.

Note that FAMU was originally a member but failed to complete the required paper work when the SFC CESU was renewed in 2015. We are still in communication with FAMU for their re-instatement. However, as of October 2016, FAMU has not yet been re-instated. During the 2015 renewal, Flagler College was added as an academic partner. In 2016, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was added as a federal partner.

Currently the SFC CESU has nine federal partners and 19 non-federal partners (13 academic and 6 non-governmental conservation organizations). A consolidated list of the SFC CESU partners is included on the home page of the SFC CESU web-site (

3. Research Directions

A discussion of research directions and needs for the SFC-CESU came about through a workshop held in April 2001 at the Rosenstiel School of the University of Miami. Present at the workshop were representatives from the National Park Service and USGS Biological Resources Division as well as representative of the host and partner institutions.

Discussions from the workshop were used to develop a strategic vision for South Florida and Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystem Unit. This document identifies the components of a CESU research project or activity, identifies priority directions for research and technical assistance activities, and discusses specific activities and programs to be sponsored by the CESU.

Research Project or Activity

The philosophy of the SFC-CESU is to provide both services and research capabilities to the federal research partners both on a long term and opportunistic basis. These services will be made available through the coordination efforts of the on-site coordinator funded by the National Park service as well as a comprehensive and interactive web site which will allow the federal research partners to easily access and locate the necessary expertise in order to solve problems relevant to the SFC-CESU.

In particular, the SFC-CESU should provide:

  • Necessary abilities and technical assistance in a range of expertise, to provide research and management solutions for environmental and scientific problems within the geographic region of South Florida and the Caribbean.
  • Take full advantage of the research and educational expertise of the host institution (University of Miami) and its partner institutions, and include the participation of federal research partners.
  • Provide abilities to develop long-term research programs as well as to react to short term requests for assistance from federal partners.
  • Be interdisciplinary in nature.
  • Provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Provide educational opportunities for the Federal partners.

Research Foci of the SFC-CESU

The South Florida and Caribbean Region (Fig. 1) is an ecologically and geographically diverse area encompassing a range of different environments that are of interest to the federal partners. These environments ranges from deep marine environments, off shore corals reefs, near-shore shallow water hyper-saline to hypo-saline bays, coastal marshes and mangroves, freshwater marshes, and sub-tropical forests. The connection between these environments is expressed in the flow of water from the land to the sea and it is this interconnection and its geological, hydrological, biological, and ecological manifestations, which serves as the principal focus for the SFC-CESU. In addition the natural environment coexists with an ever increasing human population which places demands. In the following section we include a brief outline of outstanding issues in each of our environments and outline how the SFC-CESU can contribute to a greater understanding of these issues.

As a result of the geographically diverse nature of the SFC-CESU region certain problems are unique to the individual components of the CESU. In particular issues dealing with the terrestrial ecology of peninsular Florida are different to those of the islands of the Caribbean. In contrast the majority of issues concerned with the marine resources are common to all areas of the CESU. The following narrative attempts to deal with all portions of the SFC-CESU in a equitable manner. The order in which these areas are discussed does not imply a priority within the SFC-CESU.

3.1 Everglades

Southern Peninsular Florida is dominated by a low topographic relief, high rainfall, and a sub-tropical vegetation which has given rise to an extensive ecosystem that is defined by its unique hydrology, vegetation, and wildlife. Within this areally extensive region there is a complex interaction between land managed by State, Federal, and private interests, the conflicting demands of which need to be managed in a manner which reflects the best interests of the ecosystem and its human populations. Regardless of its unique nature, the Everglades is much more than a refuge of biological complexity and intense beauty. The maintenance of the Everglades is vital for the control of water resources supplied to the ever-increasing coastal populations. In the past there was a tendency to destroy the terrestrial wetlands to increase areas under urban and agricultural control. At the present time it is widely recognized that the maintenance of the wetlands is vital to supply clean water for urban, agricultural, and industrial purposes as well as the prevention of salt-water intrusion. Over the past 100 years, the extent of the naturally occurring wetlands has been drastically reduced and the hydrology significantly altered (Figure 2). The changes in management of water flow planned by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) will affect hydroperiods and water depths in many areas, leading to changes in the pattern of plant communities.

Figure 2: The historical and man-modified flow of water in the Everglades (Diagram from “Integrating and Applying Science” (pg. 144) – )

Understanding of allogenic succession, due to changing hydroperiods and fire regimes, is essential. Changes in the seasonal patterns of water depths in space and time across the Everglades landscape will have effects the life cycles of many key and endangered species, particularly nesting and foraging during their reproductive periods. These species include the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, the snail kite, the American alligator, the American crocodile, and many species of wading birds. Because of urbanization and agriculture there has been large scale loss and fragmentation of some habitat types, including essential habitat of the Florida panther. It is important to know how these landscape processes are affecting species viability. Population viability analyses need to be done on keystone species. A large number of non-native plants and animals have invaded or have been deliberately introduced to southern Florida over the past century. These include plants such as Melaleuca and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), and aquatic animals such as the Mayan cichlid and the swamp eel. Methods of forecasting the spread of invaders and their effects on the ecosystem are needed. It is not possible to return the system to the condition that existed before anthropogenic influences. The present effort must be to manage the resources in a manner which fulfills the following criteria (i) maintain the existing diversity of flora and fauna, (ii) maintain and increase the availability of freshwater for natural and urban activities, (iii) increase the quality of water available, (iv) supply water in a manner

Some of the specific research areas related to the Terrestrial Ecosystems are:

  • The effects of landscape hydrology on the plant community.
  • The effects of landscape hydrology on the life cycles of key animal species.
  • The effects of landscape loss and fragmentation.
  • The effects of invasion of non-native animals and plants.

3.2 Coastal Bays and Estuaries

The large terrestrial ecosystem known as the Everglades interfaces with the marine environment through a broad coastal environment (Figure 3). The major bays and estuaries along this interface include the Indian River Lagoon, Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, the Ten Thousand Islands, the Caloosahatchee River estuary, Charlotte Harbor, Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay. These bays typically exhibit spatial and temporal fluctuations in salinity, however, the degree of fluctuation varies greatly among the various estuaries. Within a given estuary, salinity fluctuations are governed by a complex combination of influx of freshwater water (both from rainfall and terrestrial runoff), degree of circulation with marine waters, and evaporation (which can be considerable during dry periods). Most of the estuaries are dominated by seagrasses and fringed on the upland by mangrove forests; plants well adapted to the fluctuating conditions. In some cases the coastal marine environment is very distinct from the terrestrial environment but in many instances the terrestrial hydroscape grades into the marine environment. Consequently, the health of these ecosystems is inextricably linked to terrestrial water quality and hydrology. That estuarine ecosystems make up a significant spatial percentage of southern Florida’s two major National Parks (Biscayne Bay and Everglades) is a testament to the intrinsic and esthetic value of these habitats.

Figure 3: Situation of coastal estuaries and bays surrounding South Florida (from:

Over the past several decades there has been increasing concern that changes in the water management practices in southern Florida may have had a significant adverse impact on the quantity and quality of the water supply to the adjacent coastal regions. State and Federal agencies developed a system of canals and levies that was primarily designed to meet the flood protection and water supply needs of urban and agricultural areas. However, in most instances, changes were effected without an adequate understanding of the processes involved, thereby resulting in adverse effects on the natural adjacent estuarine systems.

Changes in the distribution of freshwater deliveries and overall reductions in water quantity and quality dramatically changed the hydrology and hydrography of the estuaries. A consequence was that benthic and wetland plant communities were altered and, in some drastic cases, entirely lost. The advent of large agribusiness and the exponential increase in the human population caused further problems for the estuaries. Runoff from farms and urban areas was channeled into the canal system where contaminants were swept downstream into the estuaries thereby changing the nutrient balance and raising the incidence of environmental toxicants such methyl-mercury. Construction of causeways across the shallow areas (e.g. the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, Rickenbacker Causeway in Biscayne Bay, Sanibel Causeway in the Caloosahatchee) and the dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway through all of the estuaries had a dramatic impact on circulation patterns within the bays. Dredge and fill operations converted vast acres of bay bottom and adjacent wetlands into urban centers. With the increase in population also came direct effects such as increased fishing and boating impacts (e.g. overfishing and groundings). Finally, these estuaries are also subjected to global-scale perturbations such as hurricanes and sea-level rise. The SFC-CESU provides the expertise to its federal partners to assist in making scientifically informed decisions regarding sound management for the sustainability of these treasured resources.

Some of the specific research areas related to the Coastal Ecosystems are:

  • Conduct functional assessments and develop predictive models for coastal ecosystems and habitats.
  • Develop and test best management practices to minimize adverse effects of water management on the estuarine ecosystems.
  • Identify and develop biotic indicators of ecosystem stress related to changes in water delivery patterns including hydrology, hydrography and water quality.
  • Evaluate the response of estuaries to changes in the magnitudes of nutrient enrichment and/or contaminant inputs.
  • Assess and monitor the condition of critical habitats (e.g. seagrass beds and mangrove forests) and animal population (e.g. fishery species, water birds, protected species).
  • Develop paleoecological techniques in order to best understand historic conditions in an effort to recreate those conditions.
  • Evaluate the loss of adjacent wetlands to the coastal environments.
  • Examine the impact of changes in circulation patterns within the coastal areas caused by establishment of roads and waterways.
  • Monitor and evaluate direct impacts caused by human utilization of the estuaries (i.e., fishing and boating impacts) such that the best management strategies can be developed.
  • Assess societal values such that the resources can be managed for high quality recreational and commercial activities.

3.3 Caribbean Forested Ecosystems

Subtropical forests of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands reflect the full spectrum of a moisture gradient. Semi-arid life zones occur in southwestern Puerto Rico and exposed headlands among the Virgin Islands. Subtropical dry forests once dominated the Virgin Islands (remaining plentiful only on St. John), and were found abundantly in parts of Puerto Rico. Subtropical moist, wet and cloud forests are well represented in El Yunque National Forest (Formerly known as the Luquillo National Forest), and in several Territorial Forest Reserves in Puerto Rico.

The major anthropogenic threats to forest integrity in the region are: (a) fragmentation and/or conversion to residential and commercial uses, and (b) exotic invasion. Dry forest status in the Virgin Islands varies among the three main islands. St. Croix is an agricultural landscape. Land development on St. Thomas is presently claiming the last of the significant dry forest stands. St. John forests, much of it within the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP), has suffered acute effects of expanding populations of feral farm animals (pigs, goats, donkeys), introduced key deer, mongoose and rats. Alien weeds are less problematic, although a serious threat in certain habitats. The forests of Puerto Rico outside its system of forest reserves and parks, are severely fragmented or extirpated. A key challenge in both territories is aggressive management of the protected forests.

3.4 Coral Reefs

Coral reefs, which fringe much of the coastline of South Florida and the Florida Keys, as well as the of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, provide a unifying theme and opportunities for partnership among the institutions of the SFC-CESU (Figure 4). Coral Reefs are facing a mounting number of threats on local, regional, and global scales, and there is little doubt that they are experiencing a period of decline manifested by loss of coral cover and diversity, in particular in the Caribbean and southern Florida. A major question is how much of this decline is due to natural causes and how much is due to local or regional problems that can be addressed by management action. Coral reefs are sensitive to terrestrial inputs (freshwater, sediments, nutrients and other pollutants) and thus greatly affected by human activity on land, but they also have their own unique problems, including severe responses to climate change and overfishing. Of serious concern is that these multiple factors are interacting synergistically to accelerate the rates of reef decline and make it more difficult to restore and conserve coral reef resources within the region.

Figure 4: Location of Coral Reefs in South Florida, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands (from:

Some of the specific research areas related to coral reefs are:


  • Increased intensity and frequency of bleaching events (global warming, El Niño)
  • Increased problems of disease epidemics and new emerging diseases (physiological stress from global warming, water quality degradation and new pathogens)
  • Reduced calcification and growth (potential reduction in the calcium carbonate saturation of seawater due to increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere).


  • Over-fishing (removal of key predators, grazing species, etc.)
  • Sedimentation stress (result of poor land use patterns, forest clearing, uncontrolled coastal and inland development)
  • Chemical pollution (industrial, agricultural and other human activities)
  • Nutrification (sewage, fertilizers and runoff)
  • Uncontrolled tourism (coastal development)
  • Physical impact (ship groundings, anchor damage, dredging, building of docks, coral extraction, destructive fishing methods, etc.)

In addition, numerous studies are reporting limited coral recruitment and reef recovery years after specific impacts leading to concern about permanent loss of coral reef resources where the above factors are occurring.

Many of these factors (or combinations of them) result in significant reduction of live coral coverage, increased algal cover, increased susceptibility to diseases, and loss of biodiversity. All of these issues urgently need more attention with regard to their impact on coral reef resources within the National Parks and other managed coastal areas. In order to address some of these issues two research institutions have been recently formed in South Florida: the National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) at Nova Southeastern University (funded by NOAA), and the National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research (NCORE) at the University of Miami (funded by EPA). Each of the centers has their particular missions and research mandates, and can provide additional expertise to the SFC-CESU.

Potential Cooperative Research Initiatives

Assessment of the State of Coral Reefs in the South Florida and Caribbean Region:

  • Inventories (scleractinian corals, algae, fish, other invertebrates)
  • Live cover and abundance
  • Recruitment levels (Adult/juvenile ratios)

Studies to examine the impacts of disease in coral reefs:

  • Determine current status of incidence of diseases
  • Determine spatial and temporal variability in the incidence of diseases B syndromes at the population-species and community levels.
  • Determine mortality rates for each disease in each species B spatial and temporal variability.
  • Identify disease-causing pathogens (fulfill Koch’s principles)
  • Identify mechanisms of tissue mortality
  • Develop specific diagnostic methods for epidemiological studies

Studies into the processes of coral reef recovery

  • Factors affecting or limiting coral recruitment success
  • Development of methods to enhance coral recruitment
  • Studies to understand factors limiting the recovery of Diadema antillarum
  • Mariculture of Diadema for re-introduction to areas where it is still not returning on it’s own
  • Examination of the benefits of marine protected areas (no-take zones) to ecological interactions that affect coral reef recovery (abundance of corallivores; algal cover and coral recruitment; coral growth and fecundity)

3.5 Human-Environment Interactions

A central theme of the SFC-CESU is the interaction of humans with the terrestrial, marine and coastal environments of South Florida and the Caribbean. An organizing framework for assessing these issues is the integration of socioeconomic and ecological risk assessment frameworks, largely developed by the Rosenstiel School and promulgated by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a way to systematically assess the human environment interactions and effects. The major components of the socioeconomic/ecological risk assessment framework are: a) societal drivers (i.e., what society does, such as land use changes, or energy production); b) anthropogenic environmental stressors that result from those drivers as well as natural stressors, where stressors are defined as physical, chemical, or biological changes that affect people and the environment; and c) socioeconomic and ecological effects manifested on socioeconomic and ecological endpoints, which are defined as those specific attributes across organizational hierarchy (individuals, populations, communities, to landscapes) that can be used to evaluate the health of ecosystems and their human habitants. The risk assessment approach focuses on parallel characterization of the stressor regime, including the spatial and temporal distribution of stressors, and the effects regime, assessed as changes in the ecological and socioeconomic endpoints. The risk assessment process calls first for a problem formulation phase, to define the problem, identify stressors, identify existing and needed databases and analytical tools, and develop an overall conceptual model of the ecosystem and its human interactions. Then the analytical phase is done, in which the data are collected, modeled, analyzed, etc. to perform the stressor-effects assessments. And, finally, the risk characterization is done, integrating the exposure regime and effects regime analyses. This framework has been successfully applied to a number of ecological risk assessments, ranging from scoping exercises on ecotoxicity of chemicals to major assessments, such as for citing power plants or assessing beach renourishment projects.

For the South Florida environment, the history of human-environment interactions is intense and concentrated in a short period of time, in which now more than 6 million people live perched along the coastal ridge of the region, immediately next to some of the most invaluable natural terrestrial and coastal marine ecosystems of the world in the Everglades and the Florida coral reef tract. There are many anthropogenic stressors affecting South Florida coastal ecological and societal systems, most importantly caused by changes in the hydrological system associated with the massive water management system of the region. The region’s hydrological changes and habitat alterations have fundamentally altered the distribution and condition of a diversity of ecosystems. The concerns about the quantity and quality of water are increasingly becoming both ecological and societal issues. Thus, the public wants to know what is in drinking water, what it will do to humans, and how safe and available it is for consumption, recreation, agriculture and industry. Other stressors include major habitat alterations, spread of invasive exotic species, elevated nutrients into a historically oligotrophic system, extensive over-fishing of fish and invertebrate populations, sea-level change, climate change, and xenobiotic chemicals. With the population in the region increasing at a rate of almost 1 million per decade, the stressors can only increase especially competition for the water supply and the over-exploitation of the natural resources. Both the need and the opportunity for significant scientific research in support of environmental decision making about the South Florida environment are extreme, and the CESU offers the tremendous potential for focusing that scientific support to the decision-making process for South Florida.

One element of the ecological risk assessment framework for focusing this research is the identification of ecological endpoints, as discussed above, and the associated societal and ecological indicators or specific measures to monitor in the environment and society.

One aspect of ecosystem management of the region is using an adaptive management approach, making adjustments to societal policies and water management structures as needed to achieve the ecological goals for the region. South Florida is unique in having had an extremely successful process for identifying environmental goals on a spatially explicit basis, as a major accomplishment of the Florida Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida. The challenge in the ecosystem restoration process is to design systems and policies to meet those goals.

To understand and predict natural resource use decisions, we must also track spatial and temporal patterns for socioeconomic variables such as income, land values, and employment. To appreciate the socioeconomic opportunities and hardships created by natural resource usage, we must track the economic performance and social impacts of important economic sectors such as tourism, agriculture and construction. Without a sense of hierarchy of natural resource uses, policy officials have no idea what to do when conflicts arise. Managing the alternative uses of natural resources would be easier if we had a better idea of the socioeconomic values we hold for all potential uses. Socioeconomics enables us to think more clearly about the values that are being taken into account and others that are not. Historically, values that are difficult to measure have often been ignored in the natural resources policy process. Previously, even when decision- makers were aware of the physical harm or benefit that a policy might have on natural resources, available economic tools did not enable quantification of the effects. Socioeconomic theory can now address natural resource valuation, and federal laws and regulations in some cases stipulate that such valuations be made.

The members of this study unit are interested in the socioeconomic impacts of human environment interactions on the regional human population with a particular interest in low-income and minority populations. Consequently, the FAMU Environmental Sciences Institute’s Center for Environmental Equity and Justice will facilitate the integration of environmental justice issues and concerns, specifically the disproportionate impact of environmental stressors on minority and low-income populations. Specific issues of concern include potential exposures and effects of contaminant stressors from subsistence fishing, migrant farm working, and proximity to pollutant sources. The need for appropriate ecological and socioeconomic indicators is to allow the evaluation of the success or failure as time develops of the restoration process, so that we can make those adaptive management adjustments in order to more closely or more quickly achieve the environmental goals for the region. Again, the CESU offers an exceptional opportunity to develop and test-out in a very applied context such ecological indicators. Finally, we have developed a framework for assessing those indicators and evaluating the progress towards achieving the goals, specifically a socioeconomic/ecosystem health report card framework. Again, through the CESU, this framework can be made specific to the South Florida situation and implemented as an important tool to bring science to bear on decision-making through informing policymakers and other stakeholders of the state of our terrestrial, marine, and coastal environments.

Examples of the specific research areas related to human-environment interactions are:

  • Identify use and non-use values for various socioeconomic uses within terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems;
  • Identify the major anthropogenic influences on the natural and human systems and assess and analyze the types of ecological and socioeconomic impacts generated;
  • Identify the structure of the various human communities, focusing on social and economic factors;
  • Develop and apply an integrated system modeling for ecological, social, economic and cultural resource system components;
  • Characterization of the temporal and spatial distributions of environmental stressors affecting terrestrial, marine, and coastal environments;
  • Development of an ecological health report card to characterize the state of the regional environment and assess progress towards achieving environmental goals.

Some important research needs in these forests may be grouped under broad headings:

  • Reproductive biology and interspecific competition of invasive exotics
  • Forest succession and community dynamics
  • Systematics of arthropods
  • Population biology and ecology of endangered & threatened species
  • Effects of erosional processes on terrestrial, wetland, and marine ecosystems
  • Effects of global warming (frequency/intensity of hurricanes to sea level rise)

3.6 Hydrological Issues and Sea Level Rise

Hydrological issues are central to all aspects of the ecosystems in the SFC-CESU. The most obvious need for hydrological studies is present in the South Florida Everglades system where the immense Kissimmee-Lake Okeechobee watershed is under severe pressures from a burgeoning population and rising sea-level. Increases in population not only mean a loss of wetlands, but also increases in water demand and pollution. These needs must be balanced by the need to maintain a water system, which is consistent with the natural life cycles of organisms living in the Everglades. Another local research need involves the management of storm water and extreme precipitation events in urban areas of South Florida and Puerto Rico, where rainfall-triggered flooding causes significant life and infrastructure losses year after year.

The quantity and quality of water also is suggested to impact the marine resources. A suggestion has been made that increased nutrients from the agricultural areas and from sewage adversely impacts the reefs by promoting algal growth. Alternatively high salinity waters have been proposed to be detrimental to coral growth.

Many important questions regarding the hydrologic balance in South Florida and Puerto Rico remain undetermined. In many regards these questions are inseparable from other issues which influence the Everglades, the Coral Reefs, and the Estuaries. They are also linked to issues such as sea-level rise and global warming and have consequence on human-environmental interactions. Sea-level has been increasing steadily over the past 100 years and is likely to continue to do so as a result of the long term natural and anthropogenic induced changes in the climate of the Earth. The impact of sea-level changes in SFC-CESU region is likely to be great as a result of the marine dominated nature of the region. Low lying areas, such as the South Florida peninsula and coastal areas of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, are particularly susceptible to sea-level change. Concerns associated with sea-level rise include the quality and availability of freshwater, the distribution of plant and animal species, and the nature of the coastline. Global warming models predict an increase in the number and intensity of storms for the tropic and subtropical areas. Coincident with an increase in storm intensity comes a concern of flooding of both inland and coastal regions of the SFC-CESU. The problems of sea level rise and global warming are inseparable from issues facing the ecology, hydrology, and human-environment interactions of the SFC-CESU.

The main objectives of the CERP plan are to increase surface water flow to the Everglades, while maintaining an adequate water supply for agricultural, commercial and residential uses, at the same time providing flood protection for developed areas. There is an additional issue of diverting freshwater runoff from coastal areas to long-term storage areas for future retrieval (aquifer storage and recovery). Under the CERP plan, ecosystems are competing with human issues for a limited supply of fresh water-the availability of which is dominantly climate controlled. It is important to thoroughly understand the consequences of any proposed changes in the water flow in South Florida. Inappropriate actions taken to remedy perceived problems may eventually produce other consequences which may have been foreseen given adequate opportunity for research.

Some of the important issues regarding hydrology in South Florida and Puerto Rico are:

  • What is the role of groundwater, surface flow, and precipitation in controlling the salinity of the coastal estuaries.
  • What is the impact of horizontal surface flow in controlling water budgets in the Everglades.
  • What will be the impact of the CERP plan on the delivery of water to estuarine systems.
  • What will be the impact of the CERP plan on present-day wetlands and their ecosystems?
  • What are the consequences on regional and coastal hydrology of projected sea-level rise.
  • What have been the impacts on habitat loss and coastal hydrology as a result of sea level which has occurred over the past 100 years.
  • What is the impact of quantity and quality of freshwater on marine resources such as coral reefs.
  • It is important to thoroughly understand the consequences of any proposed changes in the hydrologic balance in South Florida and Puerto Rico.
  • What are the interactions between surface and groundwater system that lead to
  • flooding, particularly in densely populated areas of South Florida and Puerto Rico?
  • What are the major hydrologic pathways for pollutant transport in these hydrologic systems ? What are the pollutant mass balances and the biotic and abiotic transformations these pollutants undergo in surface and groundwater systems?

4. Data and Information Exchange

A web site, which serves as a data repository and information system, provides a central location where information can be efficiently and rapidly disseminated. The data and information system would facilitate communication among experts from partner institutions and federal scientists and managers. The present system is available at the SFC-CESU web site (, which enables members from the partner institutions to search a database of request for proposals and prior funded projects. This system should be designed so that information is available via the internet and is easy to access.

5. Program Activities of the South Florida and Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit

To complement the research and technical assistance activities of the CESU, programs will be established to encourage education of students and federal managers and scientists, and to facilitate information exchange.


SFC-CESU will develop student fellowships and faculty mentors for undergraduate and graduate students associated with CESU projects. The goals are four-fold:

  • Establish a talented and diverse pool of undergraduate and graduate student candidates from within each partner institution for CESU research.
  • Obtain stipend support for students involved in CESU lab and field research.
  • Obtain stipend support for faculty research mentors at the partner institutions.
  • Conversion of research experience into academic credits to be used toward graduation.

The development of this talent pool will require attention paid to:

  • Recruitment. SCF-CESU will establish methods for on-campus advertisement of research opportunities, including traditional communication networks (flyers, mailers, brochures), web-site information, and faculty contact with students in the classroom. Biology, chemistry, and physics classes in upper-level undergraduate programs, as well as classes in graduate programs are generally low enough in enrollment that effective faculty-student contact can be established. In addition, students enrolled within interdisciplinary coursework (e.g., environmental law, microeconomics) may be easily identified and contacted.
  • Selection. Partner Institutions will develop selection criteria, including course grades (GPA), class rankings, knowledge of (and interest in) environmental research, previous research experience, subjective faculty evaluation, and financial need.
  • Monitoring. Students placed in SFC-CSEU research projects will require close monitoring by faculty mentors. Undergraduate researchers, in particular, will generally participate in SFC-CESU projects during summer months. This is a time when faculty and advisors at many partner institutions tend to be off their academic- year contracts.
  • Academic Credits. The number of academic credit hours earned will be based upon number of field and lab hours completed on a project. For example, a conversion might be made of roughly one credit hour for every 100 hours of lab field effort over an eight-week summer experience (roughly 300 hours converted to three undergraduate credit-hours toward graduation. Graduate credit hours will follow traditional accounting methods already in place within graduate programs at the partner institutions.
  • Assessment. The outcome for each student’s experience in the SFC-CESU research will be assessed in several ways. At the conclusion of the research period, the research supervisor will write a letter of evaluation to the academic advisor at the partner institution, and the supervisor will assign a letter grade. In turn, each student will complete a written evaluation of the particular research experience, research supervisor, and faculty mentor.

Federal Resource Managers and Scientists

SFC-CESU will establish an educational exchange program that allows faculty mentors at partner institutions to learn about procedure, management, budget planning, and decision- making policies within appropriate federal agencies. In reciprocity, the partner institutions will establish part-time (adjunct) teaching opportunities for federal managers within selected academic courses. This reciprocity will allow federal agencies to train academic researchers in the ways of government policy and bureaucracy, while the federal employees will learn the traditional methods of college teaching.

  • Distance Learning: Opportunities for distance learning will be available.
  • Workshops: Workshops will be held to address immediate management issues, to frame research projects and to provide educational opportunities.
  • White Papers: White papers on CESU programs and activities will be published.
  • Web Presence: An internet website has been established to facilitate communication between CESU partners.
  • Funding opportunities, proceedings, workshops, white papers and project proposals will be available on this site.

Download the Strategic Plan here.

Action Plan October 2003

Updated July 2004, December 2009, October 2016

Formation of SFC CESU: November 2000
Renewal of the SFC-CESU: January 2005, January 2010, January 2015

Web Site

The SFC CESU web site was established in February 2001. It is continually updated and at the present time can be updated from any internet access site. Announcements, meetings, job opportunities, and RFPs are listed on this site. During 2016, the old web site was transitioned from a customized platform to a WordPress platform. Much of the efforts during 2016 have focused on facilitating the transition between these websites.

The Web site has functionality for abstract submissions (for annual meetings), for posting RFPs, and for posting information about funded projects. In addition to these functionalities the web site includes a home page, a “news” page, and an operations page. The operations page includes instructions for adding new SFC-CESU members, for posting agreements, and for posting minutes of SFC-CESU Board meetings. The Web site includes the Action Plant (this document) plus an updated version of the strategic plan.

The action plan is a living document and continually updated to reflect recent developments.

Formulation of Strategic Plan: March 2001

The strategic plan was formulated at a meeting of all the academic partners of the SFC CESU in March 2001.

The strategic plan has been updated to reflect the joining of FAU, USFWS, FIU, IRC, USF, Army Corps, and NRCS. Updates to the plan were discussed at the October 2003 meeting of the management committee and the updates were discussed at the management committee meeting on July 8th, 2004.

Additional updates of the strategic plan were posted on May 6th, 2006, January 7th, 2008, December 29th, 2009, January 17th, 2010, January 1st, 2015, and October 12th, 2016.

CESU National Meeting: June 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2016

Peter Swart and Carol Daniels attended the 2003, 2005, and 2007 National Meetings. Helena Solo-Gabriele and Carol Daniels attended the 2016 National Meeting held in Sheperdstown, WV.

Establishment of NPS Employee at RSMAS: September 2001 through 2016

Dr. Carol Daniels, a NPS employee was stationed at the University of Miami for the purposes of increasing interaction between NPS and the SFC CESU.

Addition of Additional Partners

Additional partners are being continually being considered. Dr. Swart and Dr. Daniels were primarily responsible for the joining of the Army Corps of Engineers at the National and local level. The following table (Table 1) documents the addition of additional federal and academic partners.

Date Federal Academic Non-Governmental
Conservation Organization
2001 NPS, USGS, BLM UM, NU, BU, FAMU,UNC-W, UF, UPR, UVI Audobon Society
2002 FAU
2003 USFWS
2004 NRCS
2005* FIU
2007 FIT IRC
2008 US Army Corps
2009 USF Everglades Foundation
2012 FGCU Cetacean Logic, ORCA, Fairchild
2013 NOAA, DoD
2015* Flagler College
2016 BIA

Table 1: Time History of Partner Additions to the SFC-CESU. “*” denote 5-year renewal of the SFC-CESU

Formation of an Executive Committee

The executive committee of the SFC CESU was formed during the initial stages of the SFC CESU. It consists of the principal contact from all federal agencies. The minutes from these meetings are published on the SFC CESU web site.

Formation of a Management Committee

A management committee was formed in August 2003 and the first meeting was held on October 27th, 2003. The members of the committee are listed on the SFC CESU web site. Meetings will be held quarterly and the minutes are published on the web site.


In 2016, regular meetings of the representatives of the federal and non-federal partners were held. Ad hoc committees were formed on an as need basis. For example, a program committee was established based upon volunteers representing both federal and non-federal partners.

Science Meetings

Early on semi-annual science meetings have been held at various locations. The last one of these was a joint meeting with the Gulf Coast and Piedmont CESUs in Orlando. The SFC-CESU provided financial support for this meeting. A science meeting sponsored by the SFC-CESU ‘Predicting the Climate of the Coming Decades’ will be held in Miami, January 11-14th, 2010. A meeting was held at Biscayne National Park located in Homestead, Florida on Friday, October 21, 2016.  For details click here.Our most recent meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 15, 2018.  This meeting will be entirely virtual.  For more information click here.


To be announced.
Prior conference calls:
September 19, 2019
July 25, 2019
April 24, 2019  Link to 2019 SFC CESU GEER Session here
February 21, 2019
June 14, 2018
March 15, 2018 Southeast Regional CESU Rally link
March 1st, 2018
November 16, 2017
October 26, 2017( Special meeting with representatives from Peru through international leadership program). Click Here for meeting presentation materials.
June 29, 2017
April 18, 2017
January 19, 2017
November 3, 2016

October 21, 2016, SFC-CESU Annual Meeting

September 15, 2016
June 14, 2016
April 7, 2016