Prairie Research Institute


PRI is home to seven state scientists who provide objective, reliable, timely scientific expertise and data to the policymakers, industries, communities, and people of Illinois. These scientists are Illinois’ authoritative experts on the history, current issues, and emerging concerns in archaeology; natural resources and ecology; climatology; entomology; geology; hydrology; and pollution prevention. These positions were established by the University of Illinois Scientific Surveys Act in 110 ILCS 425/20 in 2008.

Office of the State Archaeologist

The Illinois State Archaeologist provides archaeological information and advocates for the public importance of the archaeological record in Illinois. Activities of the Office of the State Archaeologist include:

  • Preservation: Identifying, evaluating and planning for the management and preservation of public and private archaeological sites and cultural landscapes in Illinois; working with public and private entities to preserve significant cultural resources in Illinois
  • Research: directing and conducting archaeological research in Illinois, with a particular focus on research with a direct economic impact on Illinois’ citizens; enabling smart development and helping preservationists and developers cooperate in achieving their goals
  • Data Management: retaining and managing archaeological databases featuring records of survey and excavation reports, photographs, burial mounds, and artifacts; acting as a repository of knowledge and a clearinghouse for distributing information about Illinois’ rich resources
  • Education: educating the people of Illinois through events, exhibits, publications and other media; informing other agencies about current legislative changes and programs, regulatory information, and best practices in cultural resource management

State Archaeologist Timothy Pauketat

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State Archaeologist Timothy Pauketat, who is also the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, has conducted most of his field research at and around the American Indian city of Cahokia or related complexes. His general research interests are materiality, affect and agency; religion and ontologies; cities and landscapes; global medievalism; climate change; North American archaeology; Woodland and Mississippian cultures; indigenous Prairie-Plains history; pottery.

State Archaeologist website
Ask an Archaeologist


Office of the State Biologist

The Office of the State Biologist communicates information and provides expert advice to the residents of Illinois and to our legislators and policymakers on issues related to nature, ecology, and conservation. A search to fill this office will open soon.


Office of the State Climatologist

The State Climatologist serves as Illinois’ authoritative voice on climate science and conducts research on and monitoring of Illinois weather and climate conditions. Activities of the Office of the State Climatologist program include:

  • Education and outreach: informing the people of Illinois about long-term climate trends and climate variability; monitoring and responding to current weather and climate conditions, such as drought, heat waves, and heavy rainfall events; providing climate information to state agencies, policymakers, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders; using social media, media interviews, and presentations to effectively reach Illinoisans.
  • Research: conducting applied climate research on issues that impact Illinois, such as drought, heat waves, and heavy rainfall events and reporting the results of this research; working with local, state, and federal agencies to understand and respond to climate-related issues.
  • Data Management: preserving Illinois climate and weather records that date to the 1800s and extracting insights from these data.

State Climatologist Trent Ford

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Hydroclimatologist Trent Ford, a native of Roanoke, Illinois, became State Climatologist in 2019. He previously was an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he taught courses on weather, climate, and society and hazardous weather and researched heat wave predictability and ways to use soil moisture data to improve drought monitoring. He earned a bachelor’s in geography from Illinois State University before completing his master’s and Ph.D. at Texas A&M University.

State Climatologist website
Contact: or 217-333-0729

Office of the State Geologist

The Illinois State Geologist serves as the authoritative spokesperson on matters of geoscience for the state of Illinois; represents Illinois with the Association of American State Geologists; and provides timely, accurate, objective information on research and scientific inquiries to the public, scientists, industry, and governmental agencies.

Activities of the Office of the State Geologist include:

  • Research: Prioritizing, promoting, directing, and conducting geological research in Illinois, with a focus on addressing key socially relevant issues as well as serving key constituents and stakeholders.
  • Public policy: Working with local, county, state, federal, and international agencies on the relevance of the geosciences and its potential positive impact on laws, rule-making, and land- and water-use decision making.
  • Education: Educating the public on the geoscience’s importance (water and mineral resources, waste disposal, siting, construction, earth hazards, energy, and environmental protection) through public presentations, field trips, publications, and online information.
  • Collaboration: Working with the AASG, USGS, and foreign geological surveys, and serving on national/international committees, all for program development, enhancement and optimization, and implementation for the benefit of scientific organizations and the public.

State Geologist Dick Berg

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State Geologist Richard C. Berg is also the director of the Illinois State Geological Survey, where he has worked since 1974. His scientific specialties are Quaternary geology, aquifer sensitivity assessment, and three-dimensional geological mapping. He has worked extensively with government officials at the local, state, and federal levels to promote a better understanding of the complexities of the subsurface as it applies to balancing economic development decision making with wise water and mineral resource use and environmental protection. He received his Ph.D. in soil geomorphology from the University of Illinois.

Ask a Geologist
State Geologist blog


Office of the State Entomologist

The State Entomologist serves as the authoritative spokesperson on matters related to insects or other arthropods of Illinois; provides current information on research and scientific inquiries on invertebrates, generally, and arthropods, specifically, to the public, scientists, industry, and government agencies; and is the primary point of contact for organizations that require transdisciplinary science to address questions related to the ecology, management, or control of invertebrates, generally, or arthropods, specifically, including insects.

State Entomologist Christopher Dietrich

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State Entomologist Christopher Dietrich has more than 30 years of entomological research experience. He has conducted field work in 17 countries and published more than 175 refereed scientific papers. He is broadly interested in insect biodiversity, evolution, classification and identification and is a world authority on leafhoppers and treehoppers (Hemiptera: Membracoidea), which include many important agricultural pests, invasive species, and vectors of plant pathogens. His current research focuses on documenting insect biodiversity, resolving phylogenetic relationships among major hemipteran lineages, and developing new tools and infrastructure for identifying and tracking species. He earned his B.S. in biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and Ph.D. in entomology at North Carolina State University.


Office of the State Hydrologist

The Illinois State Hydrologist is responsible for providing science-based information from Water Survey studies and other survey experts related to water resource issues, such as floods, droughts, and regional and local water supply.

State Hydrologist Laura Keefer

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State Hydrologist Laura Keefer has more than 30 years of experience in multi-scale watershed monitoring studies of hydrology, sediment, and nutrients for many Illinois watersheds. She also serves as technical or science advisor, as well as Water Survey representative, on dozens of committees ranging from watershed planning to state and federal interagency task forces to resolve hydrologic, sediment, and nutrient watershed issues. She is the deputy director of the Illinois State Water Survey.


Office of the State Pollution Prevention Scientist

The Illinois State Pollution Prevention Scientist serves as the authoritative spokesperson on matters of pollution prevention for the State of Illinois; represents Illinois on the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable and similar organizations; provides timely, objective information on advances in methods, practices, research, and policy related to pollution prevention to industry, government agencies, scientists, and the public.

State Pollution Prevention Scientist Kishore Rajagopalan

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State Pollution Prevention Scientist Kishore Rajagopalan has over 30 years of experience in plant operations, green process development, separation technologies, and pollution prevention research. His research interests involve the integration of separations research to advance green process development with a special focus on membrane processes. He holds three U.S. patents and has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles. At the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, he is an associate director and oversees the Applied Research on Industrial and Environmental Systems group.


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