Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Staff Member

Dr. Ellen Aikens

Ellen Aikens, Assistant Unit Leader of the South Dakota Coop Unit, backpacking

Assistant Unit Leader
Phone: (605) 688 - 6717
Faculty Email:
Faculty Website


  • Ph D University of Wyoming 2019
  • BS Ursinus College 2011


In April 2022, Dr. Aikens joined the South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit as the Assistant Unit Leader. Before coming to South Dakota, she received postdoctoral training at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz Germany and graduate training at the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming where she completed her PhD. Ellen is a quantitative ecologist who leads research on wildlife management issues related to animal movement, habitat change and spatial ecology. A primary goal of Ellen’s research is to produce knowledge that advances both ecological understanding and wildlife management. Her research merges animal tracking, remote sensing, and field research to gain insights into the resource and habitat requirements of wildlife. This approach helps to define critical habitat for wildlife, understand wildlife responses to environmental change, and plan large landscape conservation efforts. Ellen’s research focuses on ungulates and other highly mobile taxa. Ellen has taught courses in R for Wildlife Ecology, Data Visualization, and Spatial Ecology. She will develop graduate-level coursework at SDSU depending upon departmental needs.

Areas of Expertise

Anthropogenic Impacts, Behavioral Ecology, Climate Change, Energy: Development/Alternative, GIS/Spatial Analysis, Habitat Management, Landscape Ecology, Movement Ecology, Nutritional Ecology, Remote Sensing, Species Management, Wildlife Management

Taxon Groups Studied


Research Publications Publication Date
Straub, C. S., Simasek, N. P., Gapinski, M. R., Dohm, R., Aikens, E. O., & Muscella, S. (2013). Influence of nonhost plant diversity and natural enemies on the potato leafhopper, Empoasca fabae, and pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, in alfalfa. Journal of Pest Science, 86(2), 235-244. | Abstract June 2013
Straub, C. S., Simasek, N. P., Dohm, R., Gapinski, M. R., Aikens, E. O., and Nagy, C. (2014). Plant diversity increases herbivore movement and vulnerability to predation. Basic and Applied Ecology, 15(1), 50-58. | Abstract January 2014
Ortega, A.C., Dwinnell, S.P.H., LaSharr, T.N., Jakopak, R.P., Denryter, K., Huggler, K., Hayes, M., Aikens, E.O., Verzuh, T., May, A., Kauffman, M.J., and Monteith, K.L. (2020). Effectiveness of Partial Sedation to Reduce Stress in Captured Mule Deer. Journal of Wildlife Management, 84: 14451456. | Abstract July 2020
Morrison, T. A., Merkle, J. A., Hopcraft, J. G. C., Aikens, E. O., Beck, J. L., Boone, R. B., Courtemanch, A. B., Dwinnell, S. P., Fairbanks, W. S., Griffith, B., Middleton, A.D., Monteith, K.L., Oates, B., Riotte‐Lambert, L., Sawyer, H., Smith, K. T., Stabach, J. A., Taylor, K. T., and Kauffman, M. J. (2021). Drivers of site fidelity in ungulates. Journal of animal ecology, 90(4), 955-966. | Abstract April 2021
Merkle, J.A., Monteith, K.L., Aikens, E.O., Hayes, M.M., Hersey, K.R., Middleton, A.D., Oates, B.A., Sawyer, H., Scurlock, B.M. and Kauffman, M.J. (2016). Large herbivores surf waves of green-up in spring. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 283:20160456. | Abstract December 2016
LaCava, M. E., Aikens, E. O., Megna, L. C., Randolph, G., Hubbard, C., & Buerkle, C. A. (2020). Accuracy of de novo assembly of DNA sequences from double‐digest libraries varies substantially among software. Molecular ecology resources, 20(2), 360-370. | Abstract March 2020
Kauffman, M. J., Cagnacci, F., Chamaillé-Jammes, S., Hebblewhite, M., Hopcraft, J. G. C., Merkle, J. A., et. al. (2021). Mapping out a future for ungulate migrations. Science, 372(6542), 566-569. May 2021
Kauffman, M. J., Aikens, E. O., Esmaeili, S., Kaczensky, P., Middleton, A., Monteith, K. L., Morrison, T., Mueller, T., Sawyer, H., and Goheen, J. R. (2021). Causes, consequences, and conservation of ungulate migration. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 52, 453-78. | Abstract October 2021
Jesmer, B. R., Merkle, J. A., Goheen, J. R., Aikens, E. O., Beck, J. L., Courtemanch, A. B., Hurley, M.A., McWhirter, D.E., Miyasaki, H.M., Monteith, K.L., and Kauffman, M. J. (2018). Is ungulate migration culturally transmitted? Evidence of social learning from translocated animals. Science, 361(6406), 1023-1025. | Abstract October 2018
Flack, A., Aikens, E. O., Kölzsch, A., Nourani, E., Snell, K. R. S., Fiedler, W., Linek, N., Bauer, H., Thorup, K., Partecke, K., Wikelski, M., and Williams, H. J. (2022). New frontiers in bird migration research. Current Biology, 32(20): R11787-R1199. ​​​​ | Abstract October 2022
Esmaeili, S., Jesmer, B.R., Albeke, S.E., Aikens, E.O., Schoenecker, K.A., King, S.R.B., et. al. (2021) Body size and digestive system shape resource selection by ungulates: A cross-taxa test of the forage maturation hypothesis. Ecology Letters, 24, 2178– 2191. | Abstract October 2021
Aikens, E.O., Wyckoff, T.B., Sawyer, H., and Kauffman, M.J. (2022). Industrial energy development decouples ungulate migration from the green wave. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 6(11):1733-1741. | Abstract November 2022
Aikens, E.O., Mysterud, A., Merkle, J.A., Cagnacci, F., Rivrud, I.M., Hebblewhite, M., et. al. (2020). Wave-like patterns of plant phenology determine ungulate movement tactics. Current Biology, 30(17): 34443449.e4. | Abstract September 2020
Aikens, E.O., Monteith, K.L., Merkle, J.A., Dwinnell, S.P., Fralick, G.L., and Kauffman, M. J. (2020). Drought reshuffles plant phenology and reduces the foraging benefit of green‐wave surfing for a migratory ungulate. Global Change Biology, 26(8), 4215-4225. | Abstract June 2020
Aikens, E.O., Bontekoe, I., Blumenstiel, L., Schlicksupp, A., and Flack, A. (2022) Viewing animal migration through a social lens. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 37(11):985-996. | Abstract August 2022
Aikens, E. O., Dwinnell, S. P., LaSharr, T. N., Jakopak, R. P., Fralick, G. L., Randall, J., Kaiser, R., Thonhoff, M., Kauffman, M.J. and Monteith, K. L. (2021). Migration distance and maternal resource allocation determine timing of birth in a large herbivore. Ecology, 102(6), e03334. | Abstract June 2021
Aikens E.O., Kauffman M.J., Merkle J.A., Dwinnell S.P.H., Fralick G.L., and Monteith K.L. (2017). The greenscape shapes surfing of resource waves in a large migratory herbivore. Ecology Letters, 20(6): 741-750. | Abstract June 2017
Abrahms, B., Hazen, E.L., Aikens, E.O., Savoca, M.S., Goldbogen, J.A., Bograd, S.J., Jacox, M.G., Irvine, L.M., Palacios, D.M. and Mate, B.R. (2019). Memory and resource tracking drive blue whale migrations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(12), pp.5582-5587. | Abstract March 2019
Abrahms, B., Aikens, E. O., Armstrong, J. B., Deacy, W. W., Kauffman, M. J., and Merkle, J. A. (2021). Emerging perspectives on resource tracking and animal movement ecology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 36(4), 308-320. | Abstract November 2020
Presentations Presentation Date
Aikens EO, Kauffman MJ, Merkle JA, Dwinnell SP, Fralick GL, and Monteith KL. 2017. The greenscape shapes surfing of resource waves in a large migratory herbivore. Gordon Research Conference on the Movement Ecology of Animals, Ventura, CA, March 20th, 2017. March 2017