GEORGETOWN — A renowned researcher with more than 30 years’ experience studying waterfowl habitats and populations has been named the inaugural director of Clemson University’s James C. Kennedy Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation Center.

Rick Kaminski headshot

Rick Kaminski
Image Credit: Karen Brasher, Mississippi State University 

Rick Kaminski will coordinate teaching, research and outreach in waterfowl and wetlands ecology from the Kennedy Center’s location at Clemson’s Belle W. Baruch Institute for Coastal Ecology and Forest Science in Georgetown.

James C. Kennedy, chairman of the communications, media and automotive services conglomerate Cox Enterprises, donated $3.3 million in December 2014 to endow the center. It is the first endowed waterfowl conservation center along the 3,000-mile Atlantic Flyway, which stretches from the Canadian Maritimes to Atlantic Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

Kaminski comes to Clemson after retiring from Mississippi State University, where he led a vigorous research program and was professor of wildlife ecology and held Mississippi State’s James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation. Kaminski and graduate students conducted research guiding habitat conservation and management in the Mississippi and Central Flyways.

“Between Clemson’s demonstrated dedication to the stewardship of South Carolina’s natural resources and the Baruch Institute’s location in one of the most ecologically vital wetland ecosystem along the Atlantic Flyway, I can’t imagine a better opportunity to perform research that will benefit waterfowl and wetlands conservation today and for generations to come,” Kaminski said.

Kaminski has received numerous awards for his conservation work, including The Wildlife Society’s Caesar Kleberg Award of Excellence for applied wildlife research; Ducks Unlimited’s lifetime conservation achievement award; and the Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conservationist of the Year award. In 2008, Outdoor Life magazine named Kaminski to a group of 25 North Americans who have made significant contributions to hunting and wildlife conservation.

Kaminski has taught courses on waterfowl ecology and management, wetlands ecology and management, wildlife techniques, wildlife management field practices, and professional communications, and has published widely on waterfowl and wetlands ecology and conservation. He recently co-edited “Ecology and Conservation of Waterfowl in the Northern Hemisphere,” a special issue of the international journal Wildfowl.

He will teach classes in waterfowl and wetlands ecology and management at Clemson and oversee a student research and outreach team focused on waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.

“As excited as we are about Rick’s research experience, we are equally excited about his demonstrated teaching and leadership ability,” said Greg Yarrow, chair of Clemson’s forestry and environmental conservation department. “The true power of Mr. Kennedy’s generous gift is in its focus on helping Clemson shape the next generation of wildlife professionals with a passion for waterfowl and wetlands conservation. There is no one better than Rick to fulfill that promise.”

Baruch Institute researchers have studied coastal environments for nearly 40 years on the facility’s 31 square miles of salt marsh, managed wetlands and maritime forest, and Clemson is currently involved in research and conservation efforts on 190,000 acres, including the 128,000-acre Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto River Basins, and the Winyah Bay coastal estuary.

Other partners in the effort include Clemson Extension, the Yawkey Foundation, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Nemours Wildlife Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Carolina U.S. Geological Survey Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.