Call of the Wild


The South Dakota State University Department of Natural Resource Management serves as the academic research arm for state and federal natural resource management agencies and private groups in the region.

“Our department is management heavy, directed at solving problems,” said Nels Troelstrup, interim head of the department. “Our faculty, undergraduate and graduate researchers address questions about factors influencing resources. Our research ranges from fish and water quality and game and nongame animals to prairie plant communities and range conditions.

“South Dakota’s natural resources are a key factor in maintaining a high-quality workforce and quality of life in the state,” he said.

The department emphasizes student and faculty research and has close ties with state, federal and private agencies and landowners.

“Right now, there’s a big push for our faculty to engage in what we call private/public partnerships. Nongovernmental organizations, private businesses and landowners work with SDSU researchers to develop management strategies and techniques to enhance the quality of species habitats.”

Faculty members are also involved in larger-scale research projects. The fisheries and wildlife researchers engage in basic biology and ecological research and help state and federal fish and wildlife agencies manage wild populations.

Mike Brown, distinguished professor of fishery sciences, and Bill Gibbons, professor of biology and microbiology, established Prairie AquaTech, an off-campus business currently researching development of processes that upgrade the nutrient content of byproduct and coproduct meals for use in fish and other animal feeds.

“Jon Jenks [distinguished professor of wildlife ecology] is working on pneumonia transmission and how different strains impact bighorn sheep,” Troelstrup said. (See page 14). “Troy Grovenburg [assistant professor of wildlife ecology] is researching how the expansion of wind farms affects raptor mortality, territory size and distribution. He’s also researching how pesticides affect pheasant mortality as insects are an important food for chicks.”

Katie Bertrand, associate professor of fish ecology, is writing a book on the fishes of South Dakota and North Dakota. “She is collecting data on species distributions and associated landscapes across the state,” Troelstrup said. “Alongside the book and a specimen museum, she’s building a database that will be available for people to access and learn about the fishes of the Dakotas. Over time, the data will provide baseline information on certain fish species that will allow research on environmental or climactic changes and how these alterations are influencing species residing in particular drainages throughout the state.”

The collection uses a similar approach to the aquatic invertebrate natural history collection and digital database already functioning within the department.

Fisheries research produces critical information used by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks for management of stream, lake and river fisheries.

Karissa Kuhle

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