Rolf R. Koford


Natural Resource Ecology and Management Faculty Member  

  Assistant Leader (Wildlife) of the Iowa Coop Unit

Research Interests | Links | Contact Information

Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management

I am a faculty member in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State. I advise graduate students, conduct research, and contribute in a variety of ways to the Department, the interdisciplinary major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), the College of Agriculture, and Iowa State University. In the fall, I teach a graduate course in Restoration Ecology or assist with a core EEB course.  I occasionally participate in courses such as Avian Ecology and the EEB field trip (pictures available).  Former students have positions with the University of Florida, Milliken University, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Teton Science Schools.

My publications include pdf files of recent work and some older ones that are web-accessible: a glossary of terms for conservation biology, a popular account of birds and the Conservation Reserve Program, an account of Henslow's Sparrows in Iowa, a review of effects of agriculture on Neotropical migrants in the Midwest, and an investigation of density and fledging success of grassland birds in Conservation Reserve Program fields.  A report on prioritizing habitats for bird conservation in the Mississippi Headwaters/Tallgrass prairie Ecosystem is also available. My experience and education include roots in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and working in a federal research lab in North Dakota as a wildlife biologist.

Iowa Coop Unit

I am the Assistant Unit Leader (Wildlife) of the Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, which promotes graduate education in fish and wildlife conservation. The Iowa Coop Unit is one of over forty such units in the U.S., most of which are associated with land-grant universities. The Iowa Coop Unit is proud to have been among the eight original units created over sixty years ago. Even before then, a precursor Unit existed at Iowa State and had an association with luminaries such as Paul Errington and "Ding" Darling.

The Iowa Unit is a cooperative venture among the Biology Discipline of the U.S. Geological Survey, Iowa State University, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The Iowa Unit, like other Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units, was associated with the Fish and Wildlife Service before 1993 and maintains strong ties with this agency.

Research Interests

My research has focused on developing information needed by managers seeking to provide high-quality habitat for diverse bird communities in Iowa and nearby midwestern states. Birds that breed in grasslands are of particular interest because some are harvested and others are in trouble. My research program builds on my earlier examination of the effects of the Conservation Reserve Program on bird densities and nest success. In many parts of the Midwest, this program has doubled the amount of grass/forb cover in landscapes dominated by agriculture. As this cover ages, its plant-species composition can be expected to change. Compositional and structural changes will vary with the kinds of grasses planted (cool-season vs. warm-season), soils, topography, and other factors. Additional cover in agricultural landscapes is provided by tracts of public and private land managed to benefit wildlife. Some of these tracts are reclaimed cropland and some are remnants of prairie. The variety of grassland habitats available, together with a variety of management regimes, provides a basis for designed observational studies examining the effects of this variation on bird communities.

I have worked with distribution of Henslow's Sparrows in Iowa and Missouri, habitat fragmentation of grasslands in North Dakota, and avian response to reconstructed grasslands in Iowa.  I am co-advising a student who is evaluating how well mitigation wetlands function as habitat for various reptiles and amphibian species in the Missouri River floodplain. 

Links of Potential Interest

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, a repository for biological databases and information on the northern plains

Literature Reviews on Grassland Birds

Other Coop Units

Illinois Natural History Survey

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, an experiment in reconstructing a bit of Iowa prairie and savanna


Photo credits:

American Avocets by USFWS/Wyman Meinzer

Canvasback by USFWS/William Vinje

Dusky Seaside Sparrow by USFWS/P.W. Sykes

Passenger Pigeon by USFWS/Luther C. Goldman

Short-eared Owl by USFWS/Dave Menke

Wood Duck by USFWS/Tim McCabe


Contact information: 

Rolf R. Koford
Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Science Hall II
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa 50011

Telephone: (515) 294-3057

This file:

Updated 20 September, 2010