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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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NPWRC Facilities

The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center is composed of the Headquarters at Jamestown, North Dakota, and four Field Stations: the Woodworth Field Station, the Minnesota Field Station, and the South Dakota Field Station.

Jamestown Headquarters

The Jamestown Headquarters was built in 1965 on a 600-acre site in the James River Valley, approximately four miles southeast of Jamestown, ND. The Headquarters consists of two office buildings (Main and Riverside), a modern aquatics laboratory, a laboratory-freezer building, a combination dormitory-laboratory building, two shop buildings, several equipment storage buildings, carnivore holding pens, two residences, and 20 experimental ponds.

The Main Building contains a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) laboratory and a research library. The Riverside Building contains a research herbarium. The buildings occupy only a small portion of the site. Much of the site remains in degraded native prairie or has been planted to native grasses. The James River runs through the property, and several oxbow ponds of varying size are present.

Woodworth Field Station

The Woodworth Field Station is located about 40 miles NW of Jamestown, just east of Woodworth, ND, in the heart of the Missouri Coteau, on a 2,651-acre Waterfowl Production Area dedicated to research by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Station has a dormitory-laboratory, a storage building, and a gas building. The land is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; while these buildings are owned by the U.S. Geological Survey. The Station is maintained throughout the year but only used from spring to fall. The Station has a 10-acre enclosure with an observation tower which has been used for research of carnivore behavior.

Other Field Stations

The Minnesota and South Dakota Field Stations are housed in facilities owned and maintained by partner agencies. Individuals associated with the Minnesota Field Station are located at the Raptor Center and Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul and at the Kawishiwi Laboratory in Ely, Minnesota. The Kawishiwi Laboratory is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, Superior National Forest. The single individual at the South Dakota Field Station is housed at the Mount Rushmore National Monument. The Mount Rushmore site is owned and maintained by the National Park Service.

Other Facilities at or Near the Jamestown Headquarters


The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Library is one of nine biological libraries in USGS. The NPWRC Library supports the research and information needs of Center personnel, and participates in national cataloging and collection sharing services. In 1999, a 1,584-ft² annex to the library was completed to house growing collections of materials necessary to support expanded research emphases as well as workstations for document and slide scanning. The library is fully automated with many Web-based services ( The library online system contains records for over 11,000 titles in the collection with links to 1,500 web resources. The library maintains over 100 serials subscriptions and offers access to many electronic journal services. The collection includes complete runs for many key journals related to ecological and avian research. Over 7,000 articles and publications are housed in the library's reprint collection. The library maintains databases for the 16,000 references found on the NPWRC Web site, as well as a database of over 120,000 references that is available through the staff Intranet. Additionally, a collection of 9,500 digital images of slides available in the library is available for staff through the Library Intranet. Distributional reprints as well as archival copies of over 1,300 publications authored by Center scientists are stored in the library. Center publications can be searched and ordered through the Library home page. Automated reporting of new and forthcoming publications, as well as access to all electronic publications produced by staff is available through the library web site. The library also manages 40 file cabinets associated with the Center's research data archive.

Laboratory Facilities

Northern Prairie is predominantly a field research center, and therefore has only limited laboratory facilities. One such laboratory is a modern 4,000-ft² wet laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment to support the Center's wetland research program. The laboratory features exhaust hoods for work with aquatic invertebrates and water chemistry, work space to accommodate up to 14 laboratory technicians, and invertebrate keying stations with high-quality dissection scopes. In addition, there is a data-entry room equipped with a fire-proof data safe, a weighing room that houses drying ovens, desiccators, and analytical balances, an experimental room equipped with 100 aquaria and day-length and temperature control, and wash and sample prep rooms. Another facility is the Center's freezer building, which features a walk-in freezer and other cold storage, a necropsy room, a plant and soils processing room, an all weather wash room, and an isolated contaminants room. A new building, completed in 1998, houses both a dormitory for volunteers and visiting scientists and a 660-ft² laboratory for processing vegetation and similar “clean” samples.

Remote Sensing and GIS Lab

The Jamestown Headquarters has a well equipped lab for working with digital geospatial data from remote sensing, geographic information systems, and global positioning systems. The lab consists of five Windows XP workstations interconnected by a local area network. Center researchers have access to several geospatial technology software packages including ARC GIS and ARC View, MicroImages Map and Image Processing System, PCI Geomatica, eCognition, IDRISI Kilimanjaro, and Trimble Pathfinder Office. An HP DesignJet 5500ps large format printer is available for creating high-quality posters and other hard copy products.  The lab has a large amount and variety of geospatial data available to Center researchers including digital orthophotographs from the National Agricultural Imagery Program, Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery, SURGO and STATSGO soil databases, National Wetland Inventory data, and others.

Photo and Digital Image Lab

The Center has darkroom facilities with capabilities for processing 35mm color slides. Lab personnel assist staff in creating digital files in PowerPoint to be presented from a computer format. A Kodak Professional DCS 620 digital camera on a Nikon F5 camera body with a variety of lens is available for use. This camera can be connected with a Global Positioning System to capture georeferenced images for use in a Geographic Information System. The images captured with this camera can easily be used to generate slides, prints or inserted into PowerPoint files. The facility produces print enlargements of black and white or color films and color slides by converting to a digital medium and printing to a Kodak Professional 8670 photo quality thermal printer or HP DesignJet 5500ps 42 inch color plotter/printer.


Northern Prairie maintains the third largest herbarium in North Dakota, with an estimated 6,000 sheets. With an emphasis on flora of the Great Plains, the collection is especially strong on grassland and wetland species and is frequently used by Center staff, collaborating scientists, and outside agencies. Due to frequent requests, the herbarium holdings at Northern Prairie have been computerized and are available on this Web site:

Experimental Ponds

The Center has an outdoor experimental wetland facility, consisting of 20 constructed earthen wetlands arranged in a 4 × 5 array and covering an area of 2.66 ha. Individual wetlands are approximately 22 × 22 m in surface area, 1.2 m in maximum depth, and contoured to a 1:4 basin slope. When flooded, water surface area in each wetland averages 0.09 ha, and adjacent upland cover averages 0.04 ha. Each wetland with adjacent upland is enclosed by a steel fence (mesh diameter 2.54 cm) and covered with nylon netting (mesh diameter 5.1 cm) to confine waterfowl and exclude predators during experiments. Electric fences around the periphery of the complex provide additional protection against mammalian predators. Experiments during 1993-1995 indicate that communities of wetland plant species are well established and currently these wetlands are functioning much like natural semipermanent prairie wetlands.

Cottonwood Lake Study Area

The Cottonwood Lake Study Area, located in the Missouri Coteau 35 miles northwest of Jamestown, consists of 17 wetlands on a 200-acre Waterfowl Production Area. This intensively instrumented wetland complex has been the site of cooperative studies involving Northern Prairie, the USGS Water Resources Discipline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and several universities. The project goal is an ecosystem-level understanding of the dynamics and interrelationships among water chemistry, hydrology, climate, soils, and the biota of a prairie wetland complex.

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