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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

Introduction | Mission | Guiding Principles | History | Contact Information


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is composed of four Disciplines (Biological Resources [BRD], Geologic [GD], Water Resources [WRD], and National Mapping [NMD]) and is organized into three Administrative Regions (Eastern, Central, and Western) with a national headquarters located in Reston, Virginia.

The mission of the U.S. Geological Survey is to provide reliable scientific information to: describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; assist others in managing water, biological, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect quality of life.

The USGS provides a broad range of national expertise in geography, geology, hydrology, and biology. The USGS places a special emphasis on providing science to the land and resource management bureaus of the Department of the Interior (DOI). The USGS BRD studies assist in maintaining healthy ecosystems and natural resources so that these habitats can continue to provide food, energy, medicine, transportation, and recreation.

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) is one of 18 science and technology centers in the BRD, administratively positioned in the Central Region, and geographically located in the northern Great Plains. The main campus is located in Jamestown, North Dakota. In addition, field stations are found at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota, and an unmanned station at Woodworth, North Dakota.


The mission of Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center is to provide the scientific information needed to conserve and manage the nation's biological resources, with an emphasis on the species and ecosystems of the nation's interior. Specifically, the Center's goals include the following:

Guiding Principles

The management of the Center is based on the following general principles to guide the implementation of our mission and science planning:


The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center was officially opened on September 18, 1965. The Center was established by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife to conduct research on waterfowl production with emphasis on wetland ecology and species biology. A broad, basic approach was to be taken to study environmental relationships of the entire biotic community. Additional research was to seek solutions that reduced conflicts between wildlife and agriculture. The initial research program had Sections of Wetland Ecology, Wildlife-Land Use Relationships, Techniques Development, and Laboratory Services. Field stations were added in Woodworth, North Dakota, Dixon, California, and La Crosse, Wisconsin to address waterfowl research needs for the region that was to the west of the Mississippi River, but also including the Great Lakes. The Center was also to be the liaison for waterfowl research in Canada except for black ducks.

The Center was transferred to the newly created, National Biological Survey (later Service), in November 1993. Under the NBS, the mission was thematically broadened to include research on all biological topics of the Department of the Interior land-management bureaus, but geographically restricted to an area bounded by the Mississippi River and the Continental Divide. Consequentially, the Dixon and La Crosse Field Stations were transferred to other research centers. A field station located at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, originally aligned with the National Park Service, was transferred to Northern Prairie. Consequently, the research focus was on topics located in the northern Great Plains and the Missouri - Ozark Plateau.

The National Biological Service was merged into the U.S. Geological Survey in October 1996 and became the Biological Resources Discipline. The merger consolidated biological and physical science research in the Department of the Interior into one bureau. Under the Biological Resources Discipline, the Center's research mission was broadened to include all biological topics within the region bounded by the Mississippi River and Continental Divide (defined as the Central Region) with emphasis on biological topics located in the northern Great Plains and the Missouri - Ozark Plateau.

The Center established the Minnesota Field Station in 1997 when Dr. Diane L. Larson transferred from Jamestown to be housed within the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul. Dr. L. David Mech and his staff were transferred to the Minnesota Field Station from the Fort Collins Center in 1998. Dr. Mech's offices are within the Gabbert Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, and at the USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest, Kawishiwi Field Lab in Ely, Minnesota.

The Center established a Duty Station at Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota in 2002 to conduct research on plant ecology, restoration ecology, and invasive species for the Prairie Cluster of National Parks in the Black Hills region. Dr. Amy J. Symstad is the Station Leader and the Station is co-located with the National Park, Inventory and Monitoring Team for the Prairie Cluster of Parks.

The Missouri Field Station will be transferred to the Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) on October 1, 2004. Consequentially, responsibility for research on biological topics in the Missouri - Ozark Plateau will move to CERC and the geographic emphasis of the Center will be the northern Great Plains.

During its almost 40 year history, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center scientists earned an international reputation for leadership and expertise on the biology of waterfowl and grassland birds, wetland ecology and classification, mammal behavior and ecology, and grassland management. Through time, new tools such as computer modeling, remote sensing, and use of geographic information systems have become an integral part of the Center's research program. Center scientists have been responsible for many important advances in the conservation of the nation's biological resources and for providing the technical assistance in implementing research findings to improve biological resource management. Research techniques and management strategies developed at the Center are now used by researchers and managers throughout the world.

Today, Center scientists continue to conduct integrated research to fulfill the Department of the Interior's responsibilities to the Nation's natural resources. To meet these critical science challenges, Northern Prairie scientists collaborate with researchers from each of the four U.S. Geological Survey disciplines (biology, geography, geology and water), other Department of the Interior bureaus (e.g., FWS, NPS), other federal agencies (e.g., USDA: Forest Service, Wildlife Services), as well as many state agencies, universities located throughout the Nation, and private natural resource organizations.

The research program at the Center is unique in that scientific projects are typically long-term and geographically extensive efforts to address large problems through a series of conceptually linked studies. Center scientists address research questions relevant to natural resource management through (1) characterization, description and understanding of biological systems, their functions, and the factors affecting them; (2) understanding of cause-and-effect relationships; (3) modeling and prediction of ecosystem responses to management under various scenarios; and (4) transfer of information to natural resource managers, the scientific community, and the public.

The Center's ultimate objective is to develop the knowledge and strategies, including public education, required to ensure survival of native biota in the face of anthropogenic change. To this end, future research will be directed toward understanding land management (sedimentation, fire ecology, invasive exotic species, altered hydrology, restoration of grasslands and wetlands), changes in land-use (habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change), and the impacts of human activities on native wildlife and their habitats (intensive grazing, agrochemicals, modified predator communities, and altering river flows within the Missouri River Drainage). Other focal areas will include quantification of carbon sequestration in prairie wetlands, use of the Farm Bill to promote natural resource conservation, assessing the status of native communities and populations, developing quantitative monitoring protocols, and addressing issues affecting conservation of endangered or threatened species.

The scientific program at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center is in a strong position to address emerging issues and research challenges facing management and conservation of our Nation's resources. The strengths of the Center include a sound foundation established by past research findings, the excellence and diversity of scientific expertise, strong relationships with other research and management agencies, the ability to respond to changing national and regional priorities for research, and a dedicated and experienced staff.

See also: A New Center for Waterfowl Research -- A 1966 journal article about the opening of Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (Published in the Naturalist, 1966).

For further information about NPWRC please contact:

USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
8711 37th Street Southeast
Jamestown, North Dakota 58401

Phone: (701) 253-5500
Fax: (701) 253-5553

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