Young Naturalist Awards

Part of Curriculum Collections.

From 2003-2016, the American Museum of Natural History administered the Young Naturalist Awards—a research-based science competition for students in grades 7-12. With a mission to promote participation and communication in science, the Young Naturalist Awards encouraged students to independently develop a research question about the natural world around them, plan and carry out an investigation, and present their findings in a narrative essay.  

Below is a selection of the winning essays. For a complete archive of the published winning essays, visit the Young Naturalist Awards in the Museum’s Digital Collections.  

Article The Effect of Water Temperature, Water Acidity, and Animal Age and Body Size on the Opercular Respiratory Rate of Brown Bullhead Catfish This young naturalist wondered how water quality affects the life of catfish. Article The Effectiveness of Botanical Extracts as Repellents Against Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes This young naturalist set out to test the effectiveness of four different plants in repelling mosquitoes. Article Facial Expression and its Relationship to Gesture in Western Lowland Gorillas This young naturalists set out to study how gorillas pair facial expressions and gestures to communicate. Article My Fish-Shaped Home: A History of Changes Did you know that Long Island was once part of a chain of volcanoes? Step back in time with this 7th-grader for a look at the forces... Article The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees This 7th grader in New York's Catskill Mountains found a pattern in the arrangement of tree branches that affect the gathering of... Article Saguaro Cactus: From Life to Death Journey to the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona with this 7th-grader for an up-close and personal look at the amazing saguaro cactus. Article An Analysis of Mockingbird Nesting Behavior in Residential Areas This young naturalist followed his curiosity about why mockingbirds had chosen to build their nests in a particular suburban area. Article Butterfly Buffet: The Feeding Preferences of Painted Ladies This young naturalist set up an experiment to see what colors and types of flowers butterflies prefer to feed on. Article Investigating the Effects of Water Pollution on Daphnia magna This Iowan eighth-grader turned her love of nature into a long-term study of water pollution. Article Are Dogs' Tongues Really Cleaner Than Humans'? "Don't let the dog lick you! Her tongue is full of bacteria!" A student investigates whether that's true. Article Bacterial Activity in Different Water Sources: A Sequel Comparative Study This young naturalist wondered if bacteria cultured from a deep aquifer were less harmful than bacteria found in lake water. Article Mango Skins: An Effective Organic Pest Deterrent This eighth grader conducts an experiment with a homemade pesticide made from mango skins. Article Afpectus Lunae: Does the Moon Rotate on Its Axis? Grab two oranges, and let this 8th-grader show you how the Moon rotates on its axis. Article Plant Extracts as Natural Insecticides An eighth grader creates a variety of insecticides from natural substances. Will they work? Article Goldfish as a Model for Understanding Learning and Memory: More Complex Than You Think How long is the long-term memory of a goldfish? This young naturalist designed an experiment with mazes to find out. Article The History and Geology of Rocks and Fossils in Helena, Montana A 9th-grader examines granite rocks that resemble elephant heads and sapphires that range from the blue-green to pink and yellow. Article Using Plant-Based Biofilters to Purify Household Wastewater This ecologically minded young naturalist tested the effectiveness of plant-based filters at removing key pollutants from wastewater. Article Explaining the Divergence of the Marine Iguana Subspecies on Espanola This young naturalist makes observations about the seven subspecies of marine iguana that live on the Galapagos Islands. Article Shaped by Nature and Man: The Geological History of the Palisades This 10th-grader from New York reflects on how the colliding of continental plates and glaciers helped shape the "mysterious... Article From Uplift to Glaciation: The Geological History of the Pikes Peak Region Traverse the geologic history of Pikes Peak and the southern Rocky Mountains with this 12th-grader from Colorado.