Skip to main content

Center of Excellence for Bison Studies Board

Portrait of Dr. Kristi Cammack

Dr. Kristi Cammack, South Dakota State University               

Kristi Cammack serves as the director for West River Research and Extension at South Dakota State University (SDSU) and the director of the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies. She received a B.S. in animal science from SDSU in 1999, an M.S. (2001) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Ph.D. (2006) from the University of Missouri in animal breeding and genetics. Kristi served as a faculty member in the Animal Science Department at the University of Wyoming (UW) for 10 years before coming to SDSU.  During her tenure at UW, Kristi led a research program focusing on genetic and microbiome influences on ruminant livestock performance. She also taught undergraduate and graduate courses at UW and advised numerous M.S. and Ph.D. students. In her role at SDSU, Kristi serves to facilitate research and outreach activities in West River, and oversees facilities and personnel to support those activities. She recently expanded her role at SDSU to include serving as the director for the newly developed Center of Excellence for Bison Studies.

headshot Bill Gibbons

Dr. William Gibbons, South Dakota State University

William Gibbons is currently serving as the associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at South Dakota State University and associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. Gibbons received his Ph.D. from South Dakota State University in 1987 in the fields of agronomy and microbiology. Upon receiving his Ph.D., he joined the Biology and Microbiology Department as an industrial microbiologist and achieved the rank of professor in 1997. In addition to teaching several courses and advising students, he developed a highly productive research career focuses on using microorganisms to develop value-added products from agricultural materials as replacements for petroleum-based products. Gibbons has published over 130 referred publications, 320 presentations, three patents and several patent applications. Gibbons served as the associate director of the Center for Bioprocessing Research and Development from 2006-2013 and director of the South Dakota Oilseeds Initiative since 2012. Gibbons has received various awards including: 2007 Distinguished Researcher of the Year for the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, the 2011 Gamma Sigma Delta Researcher of the Year, the Pat and Jo Cannon Intellectual Property Commercialization Award in 2011 and 2012 and the 2014 FO Butler Award for Excellence in Research. Gibbons was named a Distinguished Professor at SDSU in 2018.

Dr. Lora Perkins, South Dakota State University

Lora Perkins is an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resource Management and an affiliate associate professor in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science at South Dakota State University. She is the creator of the Native Plant Initiative at South Dakota State University.  Her expertise is in the control of invasive plants and restoration of native plants. She has research published on Bison diet and has mentored graduate students involved in Bison research. Perkins serves on the editorial boards at Rangeland Ecology and Management, Restoration Ecology and Biological Invasions. 

Phil Baird, Sinte Gleska University

An enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota), Phil Baird has professional experiences working in education, agriculture, economic development and Tribal gaming. He earned his degrees from South Dakota State University and Iowa State University. Phil is recognized as an SDSU Distinguished Alumni (Service to Education). As an SDSU graduate, he was employed as the Natural Resources Extension program director before serving as a vice president at Sinte Gleska University. Phil worked in a variety of positions including as the 1994 land program director and as academic vice president at United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) in North Dakota. He navigated UTTC through a succession transition as interim president in 2014 before stepping down after 30 years at UTTC. In 2016, Phil returned to the Rosebud Sioux reservation to serve as SGU Provost/COO. His national leadership experience comes from being involved with different Tribal and non-Tribal organizations. He is a former board member of the Farmers Legal Action Group, Inc. of Minneapolis. He is a past policy director representing 1994 land grant institutions on the Board of Agricultural Assembly for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Dr. Murray Woodbury, Consultant

In 2020, Murray Woodbury retired as an associate professor and Agri-Food Innovation Fund Specialized Livestock Research Chair at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), University of Saskatchewan. His duties as chair were to coordinate and perform basic and applied research into the determinants of health in specialized livestock, mainly bison, deer, and elk. Murray remains active in the North American bison industry as a consultant to the U.S. National Bison Association, the Canadian Bison Association and their members. He is enthusiastic about conveying existing and new information to producers, veterinarians and other researchers

headshot John Flocchini

John Flocchini, Durham Ranch

John Flocchini grew up in California and has been taking care of his family’s bison ranch in northeast Wyoming since graduating with his bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1980 from Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, California. His father and grandfather purchased the Durham Ranch in northeast Wyoming in 1965 with the vision of selling bison meat through their California meat operation known as Durham Meat Company.  The Durham Ranch is one of the oldest and largest bison operations in existence today. As well as managing the bison ranch, John also serves as the current president of the Powder River Energy Corporation Foundation, whose mission is to lend a helping hand to those in need in northeast Wyoming. John is also a founding board member of the National Buffalo Foundation where he currently serves as secretary and is active on several bison industry committees.

Dr. Angela Pillatzki, South Dakota State University

Angela Pillatzki is an associate professor in the Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department at South Dakota State University and a board-certified veterinary pathologist at the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at SDSU. She has over 15 years’ experience in veterinary diagnostics, which includes disease investigations in both public and private bison herds. Pillatzki’s expertise is in infectious diseases of food-producing animals, and her research has focused on the study of disease pathogenesis and prevention. Through the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies, her goals are to facilitate greater understanding of the normal biology of bison, the unique biological responses of bison to disease conditions and the impact of disease on bison herd health and management.

headshot Hector Menendez

Dr. Hector M. Menendez III, South Dakota State University

Hector Menendez III is an interdisciplinary agriculturist and mathematical modeler from Pearland, Texas. Currently, Hector is an assistant professor and livestock grazing specialist with South Dakota State University's Department of Animal Science. His research focus is applying systems thinking and system dynamics theory to resolve complex problems associated with human-animal-plant-soil-water systems. Hector received his bachelor’s degree in animal science and Master of Agriculture at Sam Houston State University. His research included small-plot agronomic design and forage quality analysis of cool season annual grasses. In 2018, he received his Doctorate of Biological Sciences at South Dakota State University, researching the environmental impacts of grassland conversion to cropland. Hector’s post-doctoral work includes projects with the Texas A&M College Station Department of Animal Science-Beef Cattle Nutrition and the United States Department of Agriculture-ARS/U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in partnership with Cornell University as a modeler.

Melissa Berns-Svoboda

Melissa Berns-Svoboda, InterTribal Buffalo Council

Melissa Berns-Svoboda is a member of the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor and serves on the InterTribal Buffalo Council Board of Directors representing member tribes in Region 3 (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Washington).  Melissa manages the Sitkalidak Island Bison Herd on behalf of the Old Harbor Alliance Inc. on Kodiak Island in Alaska.  She leads research, development, harvest, and educational initiatives for the newly established herd with the goal of expanding the herd with the least amount of impact on the native landscape and species to provide for future generations. 

Mimi Hillenbrand headshot

Mimi Hillenbrand, 777 Ranch

Mimi Hillenbrand has been running the 777 Ranch for the family for 15 years and has worked on the ranch since she was a child. It has always been her dream to run a ranch in the west. She has always had a passion for the land and all that lives there. Mimi completed her undergraduate studies at The University of Montana and received a bachelor's degree in Wildlife Biology and a master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences from Colorado State University. She has studied holistic management and has been practicing it for over 30 years. Mimi has the best outdoor office, works with amazing people, and loves the bison and land, which teach her something new every day.