Missouri Environment, Conservation, and Wildlife Research Guide

Missouri’s natural environment is highly diverse, with several distinct geological and ecological regions. Rolling hills and prairies are predominant in the north and west; the forested Ozark highlands are in the south; and low, flat land characterizes the state’s southeast region. Missouri is rich in scenic natural formations such as waterways, rocky hills, and caves; in habitats for fauna and flora; and in natural resources such as fertile soils, valuable minerals, and abundant supplies of water. The state is situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the two longest rivers in the United States. Historically, these rivers have served as transportation networks and geopolitical boundaries, shaping Missouri’s heritage as a significant crossroads and border region.

A Brief History

The natural environment has always played a major role in the lives of Missourians. The constant need for food, shelter, building materials, and energy sources has determined where people chose to live and how well they were able to survive. With the development of communities, towns, and large cities, Missourians faced new environmental issues such as the contamination of the soil and waterways, air pollution, depletion of resources, and the need to safely dispose of toxic waste in its various forms. Additionally, land development has disrupted ecological systems and displaced wildlife from its natural habitat.

All of this has combined to produce imbalances in Missouri’s ecosystem. Conservation authorities have for decades monitored the physical environment in an effort to sustain it for both current and future generations of Missourians. The State Historical Society of Missouri houses an extensive collection of manuscripts, photographs, editorial cartoons, magazines, and other materials that focus on this subject.

Articles from Missouri Historical Review and Missouri Times


Environmental publications held within the State Historical Society’s holdings are included in the SHSMO online catalog. Included in these publications are issues of Missouri Conservationist Magazine and ornithological books written by John James Audubon.

Editorial Cartoons

SHSMO's collection of editorial cartoons graphically and often poignantly reflects the attitudes and opinions of the artists and the citizens of Missouri. St. Louis Post-Dispatch cartoonists Daniel Robert Fitzpatrick and Tom Engelhardt often delivered cartoons with a strong social commentary on Missouri and national environmental issues and concerns.

View Environment Editorial Cartoons

See the entire Editorial Cartoon digital collection online here.


The State Historical Society of Missouri manuscript collections include papers and records of individuals and organizations active in studying or protecting the environment, and such topics as energy sources, recreation, wilderness areas, pollution, and recycling, and material from those seeking to develop the environment for business purposes and conventional and nuclear power.

View All Environment Manuscript Collections

Oral Histories

The Missouri Environment Oral History Project includes interviews with Missouri land use and natural resource protection professionals, and other individuals related to the environment in Missouri.

View Missouri Environment Oral History Transcripts


Missouri Natural Disasters

An important aspect of Missouri's environment is its climate and weather. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes occur in Missouri and affect the land as well as its inhabitants, both human and animal.

View a selection of Missouri tornado images here.

View a selection of Missouri flooding images here.

The Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri

View The Missouri Botanical Garden Collection Gallery on Flickr

The Missouri Botanical Garden, located in St. Louis, was founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw. The Garden is a National Historic Landmark and acts as a public attraction as well as a center for botanical research and science education. The Garden boasts 79 acres of horticultural display, a 14 acre Japanese garden, and includes Henry Shaw's original 1850 estate home. The Missouri Botanical Garden is also the headquarters for The Center for Plant Conservation, an organization focused on preventing the extinction of America’s imperiled native flora and restoring vigorous populations to the wild.

SHSMO Digital Photograph Collections

SHSMO photograph collections feature a wide variety of images depicting other elements of Missouri's environment, landscapes, and wildlife.

Collection Number Collection Title
P0008 Mary Ann Younk Photograph Collection
P0016 Gerald R. Massie Photographs
P0018 State of Missouri Photograph Collection
P0034 Charles Trefts Photographs
P0136 Missouri Department of Natural Resources Photographs
P0155 Debbie Kilgore Photograph Collection
P0814 St. Louis Division of Parks and Recreation Photographs
P0277 1896 St. Louis Tornado Photographs
P0375 Mrs. A. D. Segnin Photograph Collection
P0030 Missouri Ruralist Photographs

Vertical Files

The vertical files contain magazine and newspaper clippings, handwritten information donated by patrons, bibliographies, programs, brochures, flyers, and other materials that, by reason of their physical formats, cannot be placed on the shelves with books. SHSMO's Columbia Research Center has the following vertical files with materials focused on Missouri conservation, environment, and wildlife.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Tourist brochures and travel guides of Mark Twain Lake, Mark Twain National Forest, and Mark Twain State Park.

Missouri Department of Agriculture

Missouri Department of Conservation

  • Forestry Division
  • Natural Areas
  • State Forests
  • Wildlife Areas

Missouri Department of Consumer Affairs
Hunting and Fishing regulations and licensing.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

  • Air Pollution Control Program
  • Division of Energy
  • Division of Geology and Land Survey
  • Events
  • Hazardous Waste Program
  • Historic Preservation Program
  • State Parks
  • Technical Assistance Program

Division of Environmental Quality

  • Water Pollution
  • Missouri River Trail
  • Missouri River Valley