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 provide the 24th 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. Due to continued COVID uncertainty, this year’s Fair will be held 100% virtually. To reflect this, we have dubbed this year’s fair the Ecology Science eFair! 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 in this annual celebration of student achievement.
Students share their research by presenting their project and answering interview questions from a scientist. They may also attend virtual breakout sessions that include fun ecology-related STEM presentations.
The Ecology Science eFair will be held virtually, utilizing an online platform called zFairs, on Saturday, January 30, 2021. See more information under Registration below.
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 which take place at school, at a local park or at home. The projects can be either 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 simply weigh larvae every day.
Students may participate in one of these categories:
- Individual Project - engages in all steps of the research process; will be judged.
- Small Group Project - engages in all steps of the research process; will be judged.
- Class Project - engages in all steps of the research process; will be judged.
- Stewardship Project (NEW THIS YEAR) - engages 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 students’ own backyard, neighborhood, or local park. It need not follow the research process, and it will not be judged. Students will create a Google Slides presentation (template will be provided), and their project will be showcased at the Ecology Science Fair.
Each project can be completed by more than five students, but no more than five should represent the group at the Ecology Science eFair. Having smaller student groups allows for more manageable interview groups so students will benefit more from the experience.
We are proud to present several research project titles carried out by students for past Ecology Science Fairs. These samples 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.
Want to get even more in-depth? 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 and get started today!
Due to the virtual format of this year’s eFair, students will create a Google Slides presentation (template will be provided). A written report does NOT need to be submitted, but all of the components of a scientific report are required for the presentation and will be discussed in the interview on the day of the fair. Each presentation should include the following sections in order:
Discussion (or Conclusion)
For details on each section of the presentation with examples, see our guide to writing a scientific report (pdf).
The Ecology Science eFair will be held virtually, utilizing an online platform called zFairs, on Saturday, January 30, 2021.
Teachers and students may register for the Ecology Science eFair at https://mn-esf.zfairs.com.
Teacher Registration deadline is Friday, October 30, 2020.
Student Registration deadline is Friday, November 19, 2020.
Project Abstract and Google Slides Presentation (template to be provided) must be uploaded into zFairs by Friday, January 15, 2021.
To learn more about how the virtual Ecology Science eFair works, go to https://mn-esf.zfairs.com/ and click on the Fair tab on the top menu bar.