Ecology Science Fair
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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.
For the past 22 years, the Ecology Science Fair has provided a forum for elementary, middle school and high school students to present their research. Students conduct research in their classrooms, homes and schoolyards, and then share their findings with other students, teachers and scientists in this annual celebration of student achievement.
Students present their project by discussing their poster and answering interview questions from a scientist. They also attend two breakout sessions that include fun ecology-related STEM activities. All participants receive a lunch, t-shirt and awards for presenting projects.
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 612-624-8748 or 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.
Eligible student research includes indoor or outdoor investigations which take place in the classroom 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 will attempt to answer questions of their choosing. In some cases, their results will be definitive; in other cases, their questions will remain unanswered. All students will learn a great deal about how science works. Many projects are the results of collaborations with other students or even whole classes.
Each project can be completed by more than six students, but no more than six should represent the group at the Ecology Science Fair. 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 poster presentation, our curriculum will help you guide your students every step of the way.
All student presenters must make a poster on their investigation and submit an abstract for their poster. The abstract must be submitted online by the teacher at least four weeks prior to the Fair; students (or their teacher) will bring their poster with them on the day of the Fair.
In addition to presenting their research at the Ecology Science Fair, we encourage students to give at least two presentations to younger students, their peers or adult groups to further share their investigations—this is also excellent practice for presenting their project to interviewers at the Ecology Science Fair!
The poster should be created on a 3-by-4-foot tri-fold presentation board, and should include the following sections in this order:
Discussion (or Conclusion)
A separate scientific report does NOT need to be submitted, but all of its components are required for the poster and will be discussed in the presentation and interview. For details on writing the sections of the poster with examples, see our guide to writing a scientific report (pdf).
Pre-registration is required for all attendees.
Teachers can register themselves and up to six students free of charge. A $20 fee will be charged for each additional student. Lunch is included for all registered teachers and students, and teachers will receive a parking voucher. Payment may be made by cash or checks made out to the University of Minnesota.
Parents and other guests are welcome and may attend for free, but should pre-register through their student’s teacher. Lunch may be purchased for an additional fee of $10, and parking is included for all registered guests.
Once teachers have registered, they will be able to use the online registration system to submit their student participants’ names, project titles, abstracts, breakout session requests and any guests.