Dudash named natural resource management department head

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Barry Dunn, the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at South Dakota State University and director of SDSU Extension, announced the hiring of Michele Dudash as the department head for State’s Department of Natural Resource Management.

Dudash, who has worked at the University of Maryland and served as a program director in the division of environmental biology with the National Science Foundation, started in mid July. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Millersville University, a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago and completed a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Toronto.

“We are thrilled to have someone as talented, enthusiastic and with such a recognized national reputation for teaching science as Dr. Dudash to lead the SDSU Natural Resource Management Department,” Dunn said.

The department has development numerous students who work in state and federal agencies and continues to evolve, adding a program in natural resources law enforcement this fall.

“I thought that I would be a natural fit to the NRM department given my fondness for the Midwest and my interests in the implementation of sustainable practices that incorporates biodiversity and food production. I was also very interested in the challenges South Dakota is facing and how rich it is in terms of its resources to address these challenges. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to make a difference,” said Dudash, adding she is active in outreach events, reaching underrepresented populations and mentoring of faculty.

As a population biologist, Dudash’s research interests are motivated by her curiosity of what factors contribute to population’s persistence or demise over time.

“I’m interested in both the ecological and genetic factors that are responsible for a population’s ability to persist over time,” she said. “I started graduate school working with animals but switched to plants because I thought they were more of an ideal system to answer the questions that I was interested in addressing. The fundamental questions are similar for most organisms owing to habitat fragmentation; but what differs is their ecology and life history. I have always been question-driven and not wedded to a particular organism. Thus my research systems include temperate plants and their pollinators, Neotropical migrant bird species, and Old World bat species.”

She does want to work on various aspects of the department.

“The NRM department is the product of a merger and this is an ongoing process,” she said. “Their former department head, David Willis, who unfortunately we lost so unexpectedly, really helped bring them together and I want to build on that. I see tremendous overlap and complementarity in my department’s research interests and expertise. Multi- and interdisciplinary research is going to be needed to address our future challenges in South Dakota and beyond.”

About South Dakota State University

Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from six different colleges representing more than 175 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 33 master’s degree programs, 15 Ph.D. and two professional programs.

The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.