The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) was officially opened on September 18, 1965. The Center was established by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, which later bacame the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 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.
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 to the east and the Continental Divide to the west. Consequentially, the Dixon and La Crosse Field Stations were transferred to other research centers. The National Biological Service was merged into the U.S. Geological Survey in October 1996. The merger consolidated biological and physical science research in the Department of the Interior into one bureau. The Center's research mission was broadened to include all biological topics within the region with emphasis on biological topics in the northern Great Plains. The Center expanded to include a field station in Minnesota in 1997 and a Duty Station at Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota in 2002.
During its 50 year history, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center scientists have 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 diverse 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 across the U.S. Geological Survey, other Department of the Interior bureaus, other federal agencies, state agenciesand universities, and private natural resource organizations located throughout the Nation.