South Dakota


The Nature Conservancy of South Dakota’s volunteer program provides concerned citizens with opportunities to work towards our shared goal of ecological health. The majority of active volunteers participate in research or stewardship workdays at our preserves. Please read on for volunteer opportunities at our preserves in South Dakota.

Volunteer at Samuel H. Ordway, Jr. Memorial Preserve                                               

The Nature Conservancy and partners are looking for highly motivated and hard-working individuals to assist our team at the Samuel H. Ordway, Jr. Memorial Preserve in Leola, South Dakota, on various management and research projects. This is an excellent opportunity to gain skills related to grassland management and conservation or to utilize your expertise by donating time to a project. Past volunteers have obtained a wide range of experiences from operating equipment and conducting field research to plant identification, all while enjoying life on a bison/cattle ranch in the beautiful Missouri Coteau region of South Dakota.  

Volunteers are needed to assist our team with any one or a combination of the projects detailed below. To qualify for these opportunities, a volunteer must be able to work long hours in the field, often independently once trained, in remote locations, and safely operate equipment and ATVs. Additional details regarding skills and time commitments are listed under each volunteer position below. 

Monitoring Volunteers will help complete sharp-tailed grouse surveys (April 15 – May 15), grassland bird surveys (May 25- June 30), butterfly surveys (June 29 - July 31) and/or vegetation surveys (June 29 - October 30) as part of an ongoing adaptive management project. Ability to identify species, use GPS and maps to navigate to remote locations, follow established protocol and accurately record data is needed. A two-week (minimum) commitment is requested. 

Invasive Species Volunteers are needed to assist with invasive species control and monitoring (June 1 – Sept 25). This will primarily involve applying herbicides but may also involve working with biocontrol insects, hand pulling or mowing. Monitoring involves mapping and collecting data on plant numbers, size of infestation and pasture conditions. Must be able to obtain a South Dakota pesticide applicators license (test available online), safely work with herbicides and spraying equipment, use a GPS unit and identify invasive species. A three-week (minimum) commitment is requested.  

Bison Research Volunteers are needed to assist with a cooperative project, led by Gustavus Adolphus College, investigating behavior of bison bulls during the breeding season (approximately July 8-August 14). A week of intense training will be provided, after which volunteers and other staff members will work cooperatively to collect data. Must have ability to work long hours observing bison behavior, identifying individual bison bulls, operating electronic equipment (video/audio/GPS), accurately recording data, following research protocol, working as part of a team and making independent decisions. A three-week (minimum) commitment is requested. Volunteers must be available during the first week when training will be provided. The end date is flexible.  

Construction/Maintenance Volunteers are needed anytime to assist with ongoing maintenance projects targeting improvements to corral, fences, livestock watering stations, office and out-buildings. Must have ability to operate various types of equipment in a safe and effective manner, such as mowers, tractor, welder, power tools and hand tools. 

Data Management Volunteers are needed to help set up databases. Must be proficient in Microsoft Office software (Access, Excel) and/or GIS.


Volunteers will be provided housing on the preserve. Housing is shared with other volunteers and staff. Basic furniture, appliances and utilities, including wireless internet are provided (except personal use of phone and TV service).


For more information or to apply, please contact Matt Lewis at (605) 439-3475 or email:

Submit a letter of interest including project(s) of interest, dates available, applicable qualifications and experience. Note: Some of the above projects may be highly competitive, applications will be considered as they are received, please apply early to be considered.  

Find more information about The Nature Conservancy’s work in South Dakota.

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