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

South Dakota History

Collage of photos including a mountain lion, a telemetry study, mallard ducks ad a sturgeon.

The South Dakota Unit of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cooperative Research Unit program has served an important role in graduate education and technical assistance in fish and wildlife management at South Dakota State University since 1963. Research at the South Dakota Unit, guided by our Coordinating Committee, is conducted primarily by graduate students (M.S. and Ph.D.) studying a wide range of natural resource problems. The Unit is housed in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at South Dakota State University, where we share a large supply of field equipment and on/off-campus laboratory facilities. The USGS EROS Data Center, and the recently established GIS Center of Excellence (GISCE) at SDSU, provide unique resources and collaborative opportunities for the South Dakota Coop Unit.

Since the early 1960s about 235 theses and dissertations have been completed by students working through the South Dakota Coop Unit. Unit students have conducted research on a variety of topics that include endangered species, wetland ecology, fisheries management, upland game, big game management, and non-game species. A list of theses and dissertations from the Department are available at In 2010 Professor Emeritus and Assistant Unit Leader (retired) Dr. Kenneth F. Higgins established an endowment to support graduate student research at SDSU. The Kenneth F. Higgins Waterfowl Legacy Research Endowment is directed toward supporting graduate student research activities that benefit wetland-dependent avian species.

South Dakota contains a diverse array of natural resources that include glacial lakes, grasslands, wetlands, rivers, and Black Hills forests. As the South Dakota Unit begins our 50th year of service, we will continue to address applied research needs of our state and federal cooperators to help manage fish and wildlife resources in the Northern Great Plains.

Name Position Start Year End Year
Aikens, Ellen Assistant Unit Leader 2022 2023
Berry, Charles Unit Leader 1985 2010
Chipps, Steven Unit Leader 2010 Current
Chipps, Steven Assistant Unit Leader 1999 2010
Gigliotti, Larry Assistant Unit Leader 2011 2020
Higgins, Kenneth Assistant Unit Leader 1985 2006
Stafford, Joshua Assistant Unit Leader 2011 Current