Nicolai is a renowned biologist with more than 30 years of waterfowl research experience, serving since 2010 as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 8 (California and Nevada) migratory bird biologist and arriving to Delta Waterfowl in November 2019. As waterfowl scientist, Nicolai will accelerate the expansion of Delta’s research program across all four flyways, and advise the waterfowl management leaders of tomorrow — Delta Waterfowl’s student research technicians.

“As the world leader in waterfowl research, Delta Waterfowl is thrilled to welcome Dr. Nicolai,” said Dr. Scott Petrie, CEO and chief scientific officer of Delta Waterfowl. “He is truly an elite-level waterfowl biologist, and his talent and expertise make him the perfect fit to substantially increase the capacity of Delta’s research program.”

A lifelong waterfowl hunter raised in Minnesota, Nicolai enrolled in Vermilion Community College in 1991 as an aviation major. However, three weeks into his first semester, the discovery of a classroom full of duck wings put him on a new path.

“I was fascinated by ducks and even knew all their scientific names, yet somehow I didn’t realize you could make a career out of waterfowl biology,” Nicolai said. “I changed my degree the next day and never looked back.”

Nicolai honed his newfound passion as a Delta Waterfowl student research assistant during the summer of 1996, studying nesting redheads under the tutelage of Dr. Frank Rohwer, now president and chief scientist of Delta Waterfowl. In 2010, Nicolai earned a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Nevada, Reno. He went on to study waterfowl across the continent, publish dozens of peer-reviewed works, and establish himself as a foremost expert on waterfowl banding/tracking, hunter-harvest modeling and other critical science. He’s also considered the only biologist to have captured or banded every species of ducks, geese and swans native to North America.

“I’ve had numerous roles in my career, but waterfowl scientist of Delta Waterfowl is my dream job,” Nicolai said. “I look forward to furthering Delta’s legacy of groundbreaking science, and working on high-level research that benefits ducks and duck hunters.”

Nicolai works from Delta’s Bismarck, North Dakota, headquarters. He lives with his wife Amy, daughters Grace and Emily, and Labrador retriever Hutch (registered as Nicolai’s Branta hutchinsii, a reference to the scientific name of cackling geese).

Nicolai can be reached at (701) 989-4888 or