The Ecology Science Fair centers on student-driven investigations in ecology, encouraging students to engage in all steps of the research process, including the important final step of data presentation. University of Minnesota Extension is proud to partner with The Raptor Center to host the 25th annual Ecology Science Fair, with funding from the Cargill Foundation.
The Ecology Science Fair provides a forum for elementary, middle school and high school students to present their research. Students conduct research where they are at—whether at school, a local park, or at home—and then share their findings with other students, teachers and scientists at this annual celebration of student achievement in ecology.
Students share their research by presenting their projects and answering interview questions from a scientist. They may also attend breakout sessions that include fun ecology-related STEM presentations.
The Ecology Science Fair will be held at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Student Center on Saturday, January 28, 2023.
About the science fair
Students in elementary, middle school and high school, working individually, in small groups or as whole classes may submit projects, including home-schooled students. Please contact Lisa Curtis at CurtisL@umn.edu if you have questions.
Ecology studies the relationships of organisms to one another and their environment, and any project fitting within that category is welcome.
Students will attempt to answer questions of their choosing. Eligible student research includes indoor or outdoor investigations that take place at school, at a local park or at home.
The projects can be experiments in which students manipulate variables or observational studies—both kinds of studies are important and interesting! For example, if students are interested in studying if monarch larvae grow better on swamp milkweed or common milkweed, they would need to do a controlled experiment in which one group of larvae received swamp milkweed and another received common milkweed. If students wish to study how much weight larvae gain per day, they could weigh larvae every day.
Students may participate in one of these categories:
- Individual project: 1 student works on the project; engages in all steps of the research process.
- Small group project: 2-10 students work on the same project; engages in all steps of the research process.
- Class project: most or all of the class works together on the same project; engages in all steps of the research process.
- Stewardship project (New): 1 or more students engage in an ecology-related project conducted as an individual or a group (even as a family) that makes the environment a better place. This project may take place in a student’s own backyard, neighborhood, or local park. It need not follow the research process.
These research projects were carried out by students for past Ecology Science Fairs. These examples are intended to give you an idea of the type of ecology investigations that have been presented at the fair.
- Pollinators: Do They Like Fruit or Flowers More?
- Colorful Plant Growth: What Effect Does the Color of the Light Have on the Plant’s Growth?
- Fatal Attraction: Designing An Environmentally Friendly Japanese Beetle Trap
- Benthic Indicators: How Do Pollutants Affect Dragonfly Nymph Health?
- Tipping The Scale! An Invasive Chinese Mystery Snail Food Preference Study
- Pollinators’ Preference: Prairie vs. Lawn
- Dog Dilemma: What Effect Does Dog Gender Have on Training Behaviors?
- Sense-ational: Gender Differences in Touch Perception
- Agriculture vs. Aquaculture: The Battle Between Earth and Water
- What Food Do Birds Prefer?
- Monarch Movement: What Effect Does Fly Time or No Fly Time Have on Monarch Butterfly Behavior?
- Can Birds Sense the Weather?
- Does Temperature Affect How Many Birds Are Flying?
- Oops! I Watered My Grass with Caffeine!
- Ammonia Alert: What Effect Does the Size of the Fish Tank Have on Tank Chemistry?
- What Food Does a Painted Turtle Prefer?
- Is There a Difference in pH in Different Waters?
- The Green Machine: Different Biogasses Make Energy
- What Effect Does Tannic Acid Have on Duckweed (Lemna minor) While Under Stress of Motor Oil?
- Gobbling Gecko: What Effect Does Food Nutritional Value (Fat vs. Protein) Have on Gecko Eating Time?
- What Gets Snails Moving?
- Magical Molecules: What Effect Do Artificial Sweeteners Have on Probiotic Bacteria Growth?
- Where Do Hissing Cockroaches Prefer to Gather?
- Do Desert Millipedes Prefer Sandy or Loamy Substrates?
- Colors, Colors: A Bee's Favorite Color
- Pollinators’ Preference: A Single Goldenrod or a Bunch of Goldenrod
- What Temperatures Do Ants Prefer?
- Crowding Habitats: What Effect Does Monarch Habitat Density Have on Growth?
- How Do Temperature and Weather Conditions Affect the Amount of Birds We See?
- Macroinvertebrate Abundance Compared to Puddle Size
- Road Rush: What Effect Does Road Run-off Have on Spring Creek's Water Quality?
See our curriculum, Conducting Independent Investigations (pdf), for a guide to taking students through the entire investigation process. From brainstorming research questions to writing the sections of a scientific report for the presentation, our curriculum will help you guide your students every step of the way.
With our online tool, you can dive into your own real-world science investigation, guided through the process in six steps just like scientists use. From dreaming up and writing a research question, to developing a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, and analyzing your results, you can work alone or in a team collecting your data and digital artifacts and sharing your findings online. Register for free at Outdoor Investigator.
Students will present their projects to a scientist interviewer and a small group of peers. Parents, teachers and educators may also be present. See our oral presentation guide.
This year, students may choose between these two presentation methods:
- *NEW* Digital presentation - Limited to the first 12 projects that indicate their interest on the student registration form (available November 1).
- Students will give a 5-10 minute oral presentation on their research, using Google Slides or PowerPoint instead of a traditional poster display.
- Because of the 12 project limit, we will notify you of your presentation method ASAP.
- A template will be provided (via email) for creating the Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation.
- The completed digital presentation must be emailed to fair staff one week prior to the fair so that the presentation schedule can be completed.
- No additional technology is required by the student on the day of the fair.
- A small group of students will give their digital project presentations to an interviewer in a meeting room.
- Traditional freestanding poster presentation
- Students will give a 5-10 minute oral presentation on their research, using a traditional freestanding poster display.
- Displays are typically 36X 48 inches, tri-fold corrugated cardboard poster display boards, which can be purchased at office supply stores or online.
- A small group of students will give their poster project presentations to an interviewer in the ballroom.
- For details on what to include on the poster display, see our poster display guide.
You do not have to submit a written report, but all of the components of a scientific report must be included in the presentation and will be discussed in the interview on the day of the fair. For details on each section of the presentation with examples, see our guide to writing a scientific report (pdf).
The Teacher/Educator form indicates your intent to register your student(s) as participants. Register your students using the student registration form.