New endowed chair researches ducks, other waterfowl birds

Julia Trowbridge

Headshot of Dr David Koons
Dr. David Koons, the James C Kennedy Endowed Chair of Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation, is bringing more wetland and waterfowl research to the Central Flyway area. The endowment made by Kennedy ensures the research of wetland and waterfowl life, which is especially needed currently because of dynamic water changes. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Colorado State University will conduct premier research on ducks and other waterfowl birds. 

The Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Department at Colorado State University received a new position called the James C Kennedy Endowed Chair of Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation. 


David Koons, who holds a doctorate in wildlife science, began the position in July. In this role, Koons will conduct wetland and waterfowl research in the Central Flyway area, a region of the Americas that contains bird migration paths. This is the first endowed chair for this purpose in this Central Flyway region.

James C Kennedy established the chair with a $3.1 million donation. Kennedy is one of the 50 richest people in the world with strong ties to CSU; one of his sons graduated from the University. 

Koons was hired to fill the chair position by a group of faculty members including Kenneth Wilson, professor and department head for the College of Natural Resources, who has high hopes for what the chair will accomplish. 

“Koons has done some outstanding research,” Wilson said. “His name was recognized, and other people were saying good things. I’m excited to see the different things he’ll be doing throughout the year.”


duck swimming in small creek
Dr David Koons, the new endowed chair, has been hired to teach and research waterfowl and wetland conservation, which includes animals like ducks (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Before coming to CSU, Koons was a population ecologist, studying the changes in the abundances of various animal populations and how environmental factors affected them.

At CSU, he works with students to focus on specific species in danger of extinction, like the duck species Lesser scaup, as well as other large scale population changes in waterfowl species. He currently has one postdoctoral student, two doctoral students and one master’s student starting on these projects.

“I have really focused on developing my statistical background during my MS and PhD; therefore, I wanted to work with someone who was good at seeing the big picture in terms of behavioral ecology and life-history traits,” said Frances Buderman, Koons’ postdoctoral student. “And I think his ecological insights will help elevate the work that comes out of this project to another level.”

In addition to his research, Koons organizes outreach opportunities to educate the general public about wetland and waterfowl conservation, and he will be teaching a class on the topic in the future. Koons sees the importance in creating awareness of his research.

“Right now, given the large scale transformation of lands to feed the growing human society, (wetlands and waterfowl) research is important,” Koons said. “The land is getting drier due to climate change, and that’s a strong constrictor on the waterfowl population. The study of waterfowl as a response to the change in environment is even more dire now.”


With the establishment of this chair, CSU has the only established chair for researching this topic. 

“The fact that this is the second endowed chair in the Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Department is impressive,” said Wilson.

Reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at or on twitter @chapin_jules.