the bushes in support of graduate student research
It was an interesting, if rather sleepless, summer of fieldwork
for three University of North Dakota graduate students in biology.
Jessica Gregory, a master’s degree student from Grand Forks,
began her day at 4 a.m. by driving to one of a half-dozen wetland
areas she is observing near Jamestown. With hip-waders on, bug
repellant applied, and binoculars in hand, she counted every living
creature in sight. Later, she conducted water quality tests and
Cory Floden, another master’s student from Perham, Minn.,
was up and around about the same time to travel to the Lone Tree
Wildlife Management Area near Harvey, where he is examining non-game
birds in relation to burn strategies used in the past. Among other
tasks, he charted the location of birds and personally noted their
songs for 12 minutes each.
Anne “Margi” Coyle, a doctoral student from Huntington,
Ind., operating from a base near Killdeer, was up early, too.
She is halfway through a four-year study of the impact of energy
development on golden eagles in the Badlands and Little Missouri
grasslands. Many of her observations are made from an aircraft
flying over 450 previously located nests.
What these three researchers have in common is a mentoring relationship
with a UND faculty member, in this case Richard Crawford, an expert
in wildlife ecology and conservation and one of the most productive
scholars in one of UND’s most research-oriented departments.
A native of Missouri, Crawford joined the faculty in 1975 after
completing his Ph.D. and teaching at Iowa State University. He
moved rapidly through the faculty ranks and took on additional
responsibilities outside the classroom and lab, including service
as department chair and manager of the Institute for Ecological
Studies. His spouse Glinda – who shares his intense interest
in the environment – is a professor in the Department of
But, his colleagues say, it has been in directing student research
that Crawford has made his biggest mark at UND. They have often
successfully nominated him for UND’s top honors, including
the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship and Thomas J. Clifford
Faculty Achievement Award. Often mentioned is his remarkable ability
to find dollars to make the research of graduate students interesting
His major funding partners have been the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and the State Game and Fish Department. Others include
the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the North
Dakota Natural Resources Trust.
The University generally provides laboratory and office space
for students, while agencies provide funding for equipment, supplies,
stipends, and travel expenses.
In fact, being accepted for supervision by Crawford is an early
mark of distinction for a graduate student, says colleague and
former department chair Al Fivizzani. It means Crawford believes
he can find the money to cover the cost of the student’s
After Crawford receives funding for a project, it is up to the
students to take the idea and run with it. “Most often we
just paint the white lines and allow the student to take it from
there,” he said.
Despite the personal time he invests in guiding student research
projects, Fivizzani says, Crawford seldom adds to his own long
publications record by listing himself as co-author of articles
resulting from the work of his students, although he could appropriately
While many of Crawford’s students have moved on to responsible
positions around the world, others who carried out research projects
at UND have stayed in the North Dakota/Minnesota area.
“I traveled around the country,” said Gregory, “but
came to appreciate the prairie ecosystem because it is so unique
and special. I wanted to spend more time here and with my family.”
Coyle agrees: “North Dakota is a great place to study biology,
especially out here in the Little Missouri National Grasslands.”
The Department of Biology offers graduate studies leading to
the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Students
may specialize in ecology, behavior, genetics, physiology, fisheries
and wildlife, or systematics.
Bald eagles make a comeback – perhaps
with a little help from man?
During the homesteading era in what is now North Dakota, bald
eagles were found along the Missouri and Red Rivers, around Devils
Lake, and in the Turtle Mountains. With the coming of white settlement,
their numbers diminished. Now, migrating from Minnesota, they’re
found virtually everywhere in the state, and in numbers that could
eventually surpass those of pre-settlement days.
The probable reason: Man-made shelter belts, reservoirs, and
wildlife areas. It also appears the birds have begun to change
their habits and lifestyles in fundamental ways. It’s a
research question begging to be investigated. If he can find the
funding, Crawford hopes to turn the investigation over to a graduate
student in January.