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Amy J. Symstad, Ph.D.

Research Ecologist
USGS Black Hills Field Station
26611 U.S. Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747

Phone: 605-745-1191
Fax: 605-745-1162
Email NPWRC Staff
Research (Principal Investigator),
Black Hills Field Station

Photo of Amy Symstad.


  • plant community ecology
  • invasive plants
  • fire effects
  • vegetation monitoring
  • northern Great Plains grasslands

Current Projects:

  • Interactions of climate change and management actions on future northern Great Plains vegetation
  • Climate change vulnerability of species dependent on Black Hills karst hydrology
  • Determine strategies for efficient early detection of invasive plants after prescribed fire in Black Hills ponderosa pine forest
  • Plant community and ecosystem responses to nitrogen deposition in two northern Great Plains national parks
  • Native species richness and diversity ranges of variability in central US grassland plant communities


  • Ph.D., Ecology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN (1998)
  • B.S., Environmental Engineering Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (1992)

Professional Experience:

  • 2002-present:  Research Ecologist, Black Hills Field Station, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, USGS, Jamestown, ND
  • 2000-2002:  Associate Research Scientist, Lost Mound Field Station, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL
  • 1998-2000:  Assistant Research Scientist, Lost Mound Field Station, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL

Professional Services:

Selected Publications:

Symstad, A. J. and J. L. Jonas. In press. Using natural range of variation to set decision thresholds: A case study for Great Plains grasslands. in G. Guntenspergen, editor. Application of Threshold Concepts in Natural Resource Decision Making. Springer Publishing, New York New York.

King, D. A., D. M. Bachelet, and A. J. Symstad. 2013. Vegetation projections for Wind Cave National Park with three future climate scenarios: Final report in completion of task agreement J8W07100052. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/WICA/NRTRó2013/681, National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Symstad, A. J. 2012. A vegetation management plan for Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site: Final report for interagency agreement number F154910005. Natural Resource Report NPS/FOUS/NRR--2012/502, National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Symstad, A. J. and J. L. Jonas. 2011. Incorporating biodiversity into rangeland health: Plant species richness and diversity in Great Plains grasslands. Rangeland Ecology & Management 64:555-572.

Symstad, A. J., R. A. Gitzen, C. L. Wienk, M. R. Bynum, D. J. Swanson, A. D. Thorstenson, and K. J. Paintner. 2011. Plant community composition and structure monitoring protocol for the Northern Great Plains I&M Network: Version 1.00. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/NRR--2011/291, National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO.

Baer, S. G., D. M. Engle, J. M. H. Knops, K. A. Langeland, B. D. Maxwell, F. D. Menalled, and A. J. Symstad. 2009. Vulnerability of rehabilitated agricultural production systems to invasion by nontarget plant species. Environmental Management 43:189-196.

Guo, Q., and A. J. Symstad. 2008. A two-part measure of degree of invasion for cross-community comparisons. Conservation Biology 22:666-672.

Brown, P. M., C. L. Wienk, and A. J. Symstad. 2008. Fire and forest history at Mount Rushmore. Ecological Applications 18:1984-1999.

Symstad, A. J. 2008. Does biodiversity-ecosystem functioning science apply to prairie restoration? Ecological Restoration 26:100-102.

Symstad, A. J., C. L. Wienk, and A. D. Thorstenson. 2008. Precision, repeatability, and efficiency of two canopy-cover estimate methods in northern Great Plains vegetation. Rangeland Ecology & Management 61:419-429.

Symstad, A. J., and M. Bynum. 2007. Conservation value of Mount Rushmore National Memorial's forest. Natural Areas Journal 27:293-301.

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