Science Projects & Exhibits

Ongoing :

The Sunfish Lake Park project on iNaturalist is open for observations- it is set up as a collection project.  Go to , click on the Community tab, go to Projects and search “Sunfish Lake Park”. Click on the blue text that comes up to see the observations posted to this collection so far. Your observations would be most welcome as additions to this collection. Please upload them using your own userid/password, and enter  “Sunfish Lake Park” in the PROJECT field.  If you don’t have an iNaturalist user id, it is very easy to set one up on the website.

Three Sisters Garden – in cooperation with the Native American Parent Advisory Committee of the Stillwater Schools, SMINC has set up a garden of Corn, Beans, and Squash in the Native American tradition. An elder from the White Earth Ojibwe Nation and our Master Gardener planted the vegetables and used fish to fertilize part of them. We set up 7′ deer block  netting to protect the crop, because in 2019 we cannot use the traditional method, where an elder would protect the garden with a bow and arrow, and the people would have roast venison to accompany the vegetables.


Planting the Three Sisters


Protection in place


Trail Videos – see this website’s home page or search “Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center” on You Tube

Birdhouse trail & nesting success survey

On Sunday April 7th, nine members of Stillwater Valley Girl Scout Troop 56493 and three members of Lake Elmo Cub Scout Pack 224 installed a dozen birdhouses at the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center in Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park. The Scouts had previously assembled the birdhouses at the nature center, and each Scout signed a house using a woodburning tool.  So the houses are named Bellah, Braedyn, Cacelia, Hallie, Hans, Heidi, Isaac, Lucy, Maya, Sarah, Sienna and Violet.  These scouting groups are guided by Stacey and Bill Stoffregen. Funding for the birdhouse kits was provided by the Thrivent Action Team Program, to whom we are grateful.
group-pic-with-new-houses.jpg birdhouse-assembly-1.jpg
installation-by-cub-scout.jpginstallation by Girl Scout 2
The next step is to set up a census program to check the houses weekly and determine which species are using each house, and how successful they are at nesting. Already the chickadees have been spotted furnishing the Bellah house, and a tree swallow is taking over the Braedyn house…

The Fish of Sunfish Lake – click here to read the report

sunfish lake preliminary fish survey report

The ICE911 Research Project – to slow the melting of the Arctic Ice by making it more reflective.  See Tony and Connie’s Presentation about our work with the Inuit people of northern Alaska – (it is full of pictures and may download slowly)

Inuit Traditions Meet Modern Science -Changing the Earth Together v5


The Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center will have a dozen framed exhibits on the walls, as well as items to touch and see.  The framed exhibits will show aspects of local natural features, with content provided by local expert volunteers. The contents of all exhibits will be available on computers with more detailed information about items in the exhibit,  for those who wish to delve deeper into the subject.  The status of each exhibit is as follows:

The History of Sunfish Lake Park – printed and mounted – need a few pictures

The Geology of Sunfish Lake Park – objects on display with handwritten explanation – is being further developed by a summer intern.

The Upland Forest of Sunfish Lake Park – printed and mounted

The Birds of Sunfish Lake Park – images mounted in the frame, not yet printed

Washington Conservation District and Valley Branch Watershed District – printed and mounted

Lake Elmo Pollution Stories – printed and mounted

The Prairie Restoration Project of Sunfish Lake Park – some documents on display, our summer intern will do further development of this exhibit.

The Aquatic Life of Sunfish Lake Park – some documents on display

Butterfly Census of Sunfish Lake Park – a few photos have been mounted, more soon!

Other Planned Exhibits – searching for Volunteer Contributors – if you would be interested in helping with one or more of these exhibits, please contact 

The Invasive Species of Sunfish Lake Park

The Animals of Sunfish Lake Park

The Plants of Sunfish Lake Park – trees, wildflowers, other plants, mushrooms

The Invertebrate Life of Sunfish Lake Park – a study has been started to compare the aquatic invertebrate population of Sunfish Lake with those of the two big ponds in the park. Watch for further information. 27 Hester-Dendy samplers were deployed in late May, for a six-week colonization period.

The Agricultural Economics of Lake Elmo – how much of what is grown in Lake Elmo nowadays, what does it cost, and what does it pay?

Weather Station with real-time display, and the Energy and Water Conservation Aspects of the SMINC Building