Charles Michael Ray

SDPB News Producer

Charles Michael Ray grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota on the banks of Boxelder Creek downstream from the town of Nemo.

He began working for South Dakota Public Radio as a reporter in 1992 at the age of 19. He worked his way through college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and received a degree in Geology in 1997.  He then worked as a freelance journalist in the Czech capital of Prague.  After a year overseas he returned home to continue his work at SDPB-Radio and to get back to the Black Hills. 

Over the years his work has been recognized with numerous awards and fellowships.  He's won two national Edward R. Murrow awards and a National Scripps Howard News Service award. In 2006 Ray was a finalist in the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists. In 2009 he was selected as a Logan Science Journalist Polar Fellow.  He has won 25 regional Murrow Awards since 2004 and over 40 awards from the Associated Press since 1993.

Ray and his wife Andrea live in Rapid City. He still enjoys spending time at the family home in the Black Hills.  He's an avid kayaker and also enjoys ice hockey, mountain unicycling, backpacking, and several other outdoor activities.   


3:21 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Dakota Midday: School of Mines Professor Advises Mongolia on Dams

Dr. Scott Kenner
Credit South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

The people of Mongolia are considering damming some of their rivers.  The United States saw a huge push to build dams in the 1950’s, including series of dams on the Missouri River. While dams in the U.S. brought huge benefits, they also brought problems, including changing the natural balance and displacing residents.

Read more
2:51 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

The Native Vote And Future Elections

Frank Waln is one of a number of Lakota young people encouraging their peers to vote.
Credit Matika Wilbur

The 2014 election is well over.   But for some it’s not too soon to start thinking about 2016 or even 2020 and beyond. This is especially true if your goal is to get school age kids interested in voting.

An effort to increase voter turnout in tribal communities in South Dakota is continuing–and some say the 2014 election shows past efforts paid off.

You can find out more about Sicangu Lakota Artist Frank Waln at his website here.

Read more
12:56 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Deep Underground Gravity Lab Hunts Mystery Waves

Jamey Tollefson, Industrial Technician, and Tanner Prestegard, graduate student at the University of Minnesota, connect fiber optics for the seismometers on the 4850 level.
Credit Sanford Lab Science Liaison Director Jaret Heise / SDSTA

An array of seismographs positioned throughout the former Homestake Mine can detect earthquakes that happen on the other side of the planet.

The NSF funded research at the Sanford Lab aims to learn more about how earthquake waves travel through rock.

The research could also help scientists establish a next generation gravity wave detector.

Click play below to hear more.

Read more
3:23 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Native Americans, Landowners Protest Keystone XL Pipeline In South Dakota

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 5:36 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



Read more
1:02 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Asian Fungus Attacks Tiger Salamander

The Tiger Salamander may be vulnerable to a foreign fungus brought in through the pet trade.
Credit USD Graduate Student Drew Davis

South Dakota is home not only to mountain lions, but also tigers--tiger salamanders that is.

If you know where to look, you can find tiger salamanders across the state.    
But researchers fear these shy often elusive creatures could be wiped out by an invasive fungus that could come in from the Asian pet trade.

Click play below to hear more.

Read more
1:01 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Poli Sci Profs: Independent Prosecutor Needed For EB-5

Some political science professors who teach at universities across South Dakota say the EB-5 scandal requires an independent prosecutor.  They say the current system is not doing enough to get to the bottom of the case.
While other professors believe it’s still too early to make that call. 

Click play below to hear more.

Read more
3:00 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Get Out The Native Vote Effort Continues

The "War Pony" hit all nine of South Dakota's reservations in an effort to register Native voters and increase turnout at the polls.

Control of the Senate could be up for grabs in this midterm election--and some believe the Native American vote could be a deciding factor.  

In South Dakota the Native vote has a history of tipping tight races toward Democrats and there is now a large get out the vote in tribal communities.   But if and how the Native vote can change this race is still in question. 

Read more
5:19 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

The Native Vote And The U.S. Senate

The National Congress of American Indians is one organization pushing to get more Native people to the polls this election. Their nonpartisan "Every Vote Counts" effort is tied with

Who wins an election is often determined by who shows up to vote.

At least two sitting U.S. Senators can credit narrow political victories by margins they carried in Indian County.
Some political pundits point out that the number of Native Americans that turn out to vote in this election could again play a key role in determining the makeup of the U.S. Senate.
SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has this story on why some say the Native vote shouldn’t be overlooked in this election.

Read more
2:49 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Bush Fellow Preserves Lakota Peacemaking Traditions

Richard Iron Cloud
Credit Bush Foundation

If you’ve spent much time listening to the news lately, you’ve heard plenty of stories about conflict. That includes the unrest in the Middle East, Africa, and not to mention Ferguson, Missouri. Richard Iron Cloud is a peacemaker who has spent years working on the Pine Ridge Reservation to improve the tribal justice system and keep alive traditional Lakota ways of resolving conflict. He's a 2014 Bush Fellowship winner. The 100-thousand dollar grant is awarded to community leaders.

Read more
2:23 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

New Fund Celebrates South Dakota's 125th Anniversary

A group of Rapid City volunteers has started a new fund to help celebrate the state’s 125th anniversary. The Frontier Fund aims to raise at least $125 thousand in South Dakota and then give that money in small grants to local community non-profit organizations.  The idea is to not only meet needs in the state, but also build community and expand the notion of philanthropy through the fundraising effort. Charles Michael Ray spoke with fund organizers Matt Ehlman, Megan Clark and Madison Zimmerman-Dusek.

Read more
5:37 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Federal Court Keeps COOL Rules In Place

COOL labeling for American cattle like these is at center of a lawsuit mired in federal court.
Credit Charles Michael Ray

A federal appeals court has ruled that consumers who want to know where their meat comes from will continue to see country of origin labels in the supermarket.

You can hear the story by clicking the play button below.  

Read more
11:04 pm
Sun July 27, 2014

Jewel Cave Spelunkers Make Major Breakthrough

Caver Rene Ohms mapping a newly discovered cavern on the western flank of Jewel Cave.
Credit National Parks Service

Earlier this year a team of spelunkers, about five hours from the entrance of Jewel Cave crawled their way into what’s being called the most significant find of the last decade. 

The explorers pushing the south western edge of Jewel came across a series of huge previously undiscovered corridors. Some of the new cave passageways reach more than five stories high, 15 feet wide, and over a hundred feet long, and they keep going.

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray spoke with some of the explorers who are planning a return trip later this week.


Read more
9:05 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Prairie Dog Plague Vaccine Aims To Save Ferrets


In South Dakota prairie dogs have the plague.

The disease can kill off whole colonies and it hurts the effort to restore endangered species like the Black Footed Ferret.  

In order to preserve prairie dogs and ferrets in certain areas a new vaccine is being developed.  Researchers are now testing the vaccine in the field at Wind Cave National Park.


Read more
4:25 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Wildfires Spark In Rapid City

Crews fighting small wildfire in West Rapid City.

Two small wild fires kept Rapid City crews busy Monday afternoon. Much of the Black Hills are sweltering in near triple digit temperatures. Officials say the hot weather could increase the fire danger. Jeni Lawver is with South Dakota’s division of Wildland Fire. 

“If things continue the way that they have been with this really extremely hot weather I’d say in the next two weeks or so, I’d be more concerned of more fires popping up. I believe over the weekend we had 5 or 6 starts from lightning, but all of them were contained at either a half an acre or under,” says Lawver.

Read more
1:45 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Wild Idea: Harvesting Buffalo One At A Time

Jerry Blanks with Sustainable Harvest Alliance and Wild Idea Buffalo harvesting a bison from the field.

South Dakota is the largest producer of buffalo in the United States.   

The bison industry in South Dakota is diverse. Buffalo ranchers employ a wide range of methods to manage, slaughter, and process the bison they raise.

On today’s feature story SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray takes a look at an approach by one company to commercially harvest buffalo right in the field and run them through a mobile processing plant inside a semi-trailer.

Read more
1:54 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Artist Collects Dirt As Part Of Statehood Celebration

Artist Altman Studeny is collecting dirt from each county in South Dakota as part of a project celebrating 125 years of statehood.
Credit Charles Michael Ray, SDPB

This year South Dakota turns 125 years old.  One art project celebrating the state’s quasquicentennial incorporates dirt taken from each county in South Dakota and sixty-six bur oak trees set up for display at the state capitol. After being displayed at the capitol, the trees will be planted in the county that loaned the soil.  Altman Studeny is the Plankinton artist behind this project. He visited with SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray as he traveled through Pennington County on his way around the state.

Read more
10:58 am
Fri April 4, 2014

166 Polluted Rivers, Lakes, And Streams In SD

Water quality monitoring on Spring Creek in the Black Hills.

A report submitted by state officials to the EPA cites 166 lakes and streams in South Dakota as polluted or impaired.   The bodies of water fail to meet government standards for clean water.

Most of the polluted waters in South Dakota are due to non-point sources such as livestock waste.

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has this story on the work to deal with the causes of this contamination and a new citizen volunteer effort to monitor water quality in South Dakota. 

Read more
1:22 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Bombers Vs Ranchers On The High Plains

A B1 Bomber takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Credit Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan / U.S. Air Force

A low flying B1-Bomber makes a whole bunch of noise.   This is one reason a number of landowners in Meade County are angry over a proposed expansion of training space for military aircraft stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

The Department of Defense wants to increase the airspace it uses to train its B1 Bombers and other aircraft.  Ellsworth Officials say the move improves the military's effort to be ready for combat.

But some local residents say the loud airplanes hurt property values, scare livestock, and start fires.

Read more
10:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Hell Chicken May Have Roamed Your Backyard

With a crest and presumably feathered forelegs, the newly described dinosaur Anzu wyliei was nicknamed the “chicken from hell” by researchers at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and University of Utah.
Credit Courtesy Bob Walters

If you’ve ever crossed paths with an angry rooster you know that chickens can be mean.  But they’re nothing compared to their dinosaur ancestors.    A newly described fossil nicknamed the “chicken from hell” might have lived in your backyard 66-million years ago. 

The fossil resembles a chicken out of a horror movie and it once called South Dakota home.

Here is a link to the published research on the "chicken from hell"


Read more
1:17 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Lion Kill Bill Passes Senate

A tranquilized Black Hills mountain lion fitted with a radio collar.

A bill that expands the legal definition for when it’s OK to shoot a Mountain Lion is halfway through the State Legislature.

The State Senate gave approval to a measure that makes it OK to shoot a lion if a person feels a reasonable threat from an animal. 

Proponents argue the current law is too narrow and only allows someone shoot a big cat if the animals is threatening them or their livestock.

Read more
3:16 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

State Senate Rejects Teacher Shortage Resolution

The State Senate rejected a resolution recognizing a connection between the teacher shortage in South Dakota and low teacher pay.    A resolution expresses the intent of lawmakers, it is not binding law.  

Republican State Senator Larry Senator Larry Tidemann from Brookings supports the measure.

“We do have a teacher shortage.   When we look at the time when the baby-boomers are going to retire we need to replenish those folks.   What can we do about it?   We can do nothing, or first you have to recognize there is a problem, there is an issue,” says Tidemann. 

Read more
12:36 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Arctic Ice Loss And The Loopy Jet Stream

Fog covered peaks in the Brooks Range of Northern Alaska. Northern latitudes are warming faster than other parts of the hemisphere.

If you think the weather has gone crazy in recent years some scientists say you can blame the melting of the polar ice cap.

New research ties together the massive summer ice loss over the North Pole with a weakening of the jet stream leading to changes in the weather in mid latitudes.

Take for example the record flooding in 2011, the drought of 2012, and again floods in some areas around the country in 2013. 

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray spoke with a lead researcher of the study and with a regional climatologist to ask if this pattern of extreme weather will continue.

Read more
3:33 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Daugaard Doubts Audits Will Find Wrongdoing

The now bankrupt Northern Beef Packers Plant in Aberdeen is in the center of a scandal around the handling of state and EB-5 investment dollars.

Governor Dennis Daugaard says he believes the audits of the state’s EB-5 program and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will not turn up any major wrongdoing

The EB-5 program allows wealthy foreigners to acquire visas when they invest a half million dollars in a rural area.   The program was used in conjunction with the GOED to fund the now bankrupt Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen.  

Read more
5:02 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Chief Justice Heaps Praise On Reform Efforts

Chief Justice David Gilbertson during the 2014 State of the Judiciary Address in Pierre.

The Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court praises state lawmakers for passage of broad criminal justice reforms. Chief Justice David Gilbertson made his comments during the annual State of the Judiciary Address to lawmakers gathered in Pierre. 

Read more
12:32 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Farm Bill Still Mired

South Dakota Congressional leaders say a Farm Bill is key for Ranchers dealing with the wake of the October Blizzard.

There’s still no agreement on a federal Farm Bill.  Representative Kristi Noem says lawmakers are close to coming up with a complete package to send to President Obama.  Noem says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has not given a deadline for crafting the bill, which has not been done despite various extensions.  Eventually, the nation’s Ag policy would revert to a standard from 19-49 if the House and Senate don’t hammer out a measure.  Noem says that’s not likely.

Read more
4:54 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

State Of The State Kicks Off Session

Governor Dennis Daugaard delivers the 2014 State of the State Address.

Governor Dennis Daugaard delivered the annual State of the State Address on Tuesday (January 14, 2014) in Pierre to the opening session of the state legislature.   Daugaard began by highlighting the state’s accomplishments.  Daugaard has preached fiscal conservatism throughout his term as Governor—and he told lawmakers their work has paid off.

Read more
1:48 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

SD AG Wants To Crack Down On Meth Makers

The South Dakota Attorney General  wants to crack down on those who turn cold medicine into illegal drugs. Attorney General Marty Jackley says criminals are buying cold medicine and using it to manufacture meth. Jackley is proposing tighter restrictions and digital tracking of the purchases of pseudoephedrine.

Read more
1:21 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Church Sex Abuse Cases Dismissed

A 7th Judicial Circuit Court judge has thrown out a number of civil lawsuits against the Catholic Church that allege past sexual and physical abuse in Native American boarding schools.   

One case included a series of detailed letters written by clergy that plaintiffs say clearly show the church knew about sexual abuse of minors decades ago but covered it up.

Read more
1:26 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

StoryCorps: Chuck Childs

Chuck Childs
Credit StoryCorps

In September and October, the StoryCorps traveling booth was in Rapid City collecting conversations between family and friends. Among those who stopped by was 93-year-old Chuck Childs.

Read more
Around the Nation
6:31 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Shutdown Hinders S.D. Post-Blizzard Cleanup

Heavy and wet snow weighs down tree branches on the west side of Rapid City, S.D. Earlier this month, a fierce October snowstorm hit ranchers in the state hard.
Kristina Barker Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon October 14, 2013 7:58 am

A freak October blizzard earlier this month killed tens of thousands of cattle in South Dakota.

The number of animals is hard to confirm. In part, because the federal agency tasked with tallying livestock losses after a disaster is closed during the partial government shutdown.

October is often a great weather month to be in South Dakota, which is one reason why the early October blizzard caught so many off guard.

Todd Collins lost a fifth of his herd in this storm. "My dad is 80 years old, and he says he's never seen a killer storm the first of October."

Read more