About the Unit

What We Do Best

This Unit partners with world-class experts in the disciplines most needed by federal agencies, and our partners provide expertise in five main areas.

  • Inventorying, monitoring, and indicators of ecological and habitat health            
  • Cave, karst, and cliff ecosystems      
  • Invasive species  
  • Restoration of ecosystems, habitat, and species          
  • Urban-wildland interaction

Our Projects

We develop interdisciplinary projects that address the cultural, social, and natural resource issues of the Southern Appalachian region. Some example project areas include:

  • Archeological surveys
  • Vegetative inventories
  • Visitor use and impact studies
  • Wildlife and wildlife habitat studies
  • Development of ecological models
  • Oral history interviews

See past project examples from this Unit.

A collage of images related to the work of this Unit, including research, outdoor recreation, cave ecosystems, and inventorying.

Our Location

The Southern Appalachian Unit is housed at the University of Tennessee within the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries. The Unit is represented by a geographic area where universities, institutes, NGOs, state agencies, and federal units commonly associate with each other.

The Southern Appalachian Unit’s work and partners extend into many states: Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

University of Tennessee Contacts

Unit Director:
Don Hodges, Department Head and Professor

Unit Manager:
Ray Albright, Adjunct Assistant Professor

Unit Administration:
Alyssa Merka, Communications Specialist


CESU cooperative agreements are good for five years, and a process for renewing CESU cooperative agreements exists.

The overhead cost cannot exceed 17.5%. This is a stipulation in the cooperative agreement to which all private sector partners have agreed.

A federal unit (e.g. a wildlife refuge) can utilize any of the 17 CESUs in the network that the agency has joined. Some federal agencies have joined all 17 CESUs, which allows these agencies to call on the expertise and skills within any CESU for any project. However, a federal agency must commit a representative and a one-time entrance fee of $10,000 to each CESU that it joins. Many federal units utilize the CESU in which they are located because they are familiar with and confident in the expertise and skills that exist at a nearby university.

No. The federal representative is a federal employee who receives no outside salary funding. Representatives from all federal agencies within the CESU are grouped at the host university, which promotes the collaboration and synergism needed for the CESU. The responsibilities of the federal representative extend to all their agency units that utilize the CESU.

Yes. A private sector partner joining a CESU is conditional upon the unanimous approval of all current partners within the CESU. There are no fees or dues for a private sector partner upon becoming a member of a CESU.

The establishment of a CESU cooperative agreement does not alter existing arrangements or cooperative agreements. By augmenting those programs and relationships, CESUs create additional opportunities for interdisciplinary and multi-agency research and technical assistance.

We do not recommend that you switch if your existing cooperative agreement has 17.5% or less overhead cost; allows you to use expertise from any of the university departments, institutes, and branch campuses; is broad enough in scope to fit any changes that might occur in project; and/or does not expire soon.

Reach out directly to the appropriate federal partner. Please refer to our partner directory.