Delta Waterfowl Hires Nicolai to Lead Acclaimed Research Program

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Delta Waterfowl has hired Dr. Chris Nicolai as waterfowl scientist, a strategic move in response to the rapid growth of the organization’s research program. Nicolai will oversee innovative studies that support Delta’s mission to produce ducks and secure the future of waterfowl hunting.

Nicolai is a renowned biologist with more than 20 years of waterfowl research experience, serving since 2010 as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 8 (California and Nevada) migratory bird biologist. 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 the nest success of 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 will work from Delta’s Bismarck, North Dakota, headquarters. He lives with his wife Amy, daughters Grace and Emily, and Labrador retriever Molli (registered as Nicolai’s Somateria mollissima, a reference to the scientific name of common eiders).

Nicolai can be reached at (775) 830-1632 or cnicolai@deltawaterfowl.org.

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America.