Research & education

Interpretive sign at one of Minnesota's scientific and natural areas.


Though the SNA Program gives priority to research that monitors the effects of management practices on natural areas, without causing harm to existing species and habitats, all proposals for any research receive careful consideration.

Projects may include:

  • Assessing a site for naturally occurring levels of contaminants like dioxin, as the EPA has in the past.
  • Monitoring the effects of management practices such as burning.
  • Following system recovery from natural catastrophic events such as blow-downs, floods, fires, etc.
  • Surveying plant or animal populations as baseline data for measuring the effects of environmental change.
  • Determining special habitat requirements for rare species.
  • Studying natural processes such as carbon cycling, pollination, or global climate change.
  • Observing the behavior or studying the genetics of rare species.

...or anything that increases our understanding of natural systems!

Who can apply to conduct research?

Researchers including undergraduate and graduate students as well as university professors and independents are strongly encouraged to carry out research in the Minnesota DNR's statewide system of Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs).

How do I apply?

Researchers must submit a completed research application This link needs MS Word to open. to the SNA Program.

Applications must include and describe:

  • Background, objectives, methods, and procedure.
  • A date for completion of fieldwork
  • Methods of collecting, marking, handling and final outcome of any resources collected
  • Probable impact on the study subject(s) and the surrounding habitat

As a general rule, researchers must deposit collected specimens in an SNA-approved, Minnesota public institution. They must submit a copy of their findings to the SNA Program no later than two years after completion of the project.


State natural areas provide unique opportunities for education and reflection. Students young and old learn about ecological processes as they refresh their spirits in a truly natural community. Scientific and Natural Areas serve as an interpretive resource by:

  • Encouraging use of sites as outdoor classrooms
  • Providing interpretive information on site features
  • Leading field trips
  • Making presentations to schools, local and statewide organizations, and groups
  • Promoting appropriate public use