Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve LTER

Landscape art by Frank Meuschke


The University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is an experimental ecological reserve located in East Bethel, Minnesota, 35 minutes north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Its 5,400 acres (9 square miles) support a mosaic of more than 23 plant communities and represent the three major biomes found within Minnesota.

About the Site

Raymond Lindeman’s 1942 paper, “The Trophic Dynamic Aspect of Ecology,” was based on data collected at Cedar Creek and earned the site recognition as a crucible of modern ecosystem science. An LTER member since 1982, ecosystem research continues by exploring the long-term ecological and societal implications of human impacts on ecosystems. The diversity of landscape and people at Cedar Creek make it a valuable platform for ecological study and exploration by learners of all ages.

Cedar Creek joined the Ecological Reflections initiative in 2010 to expand public engagement through the interplay of science and humanities. Artists probe Cedar Creek ecology and long-term research through essay, sculpture, painting, and other artforms.

Arts/Humanities Programs

Art and science are, in many cases, inspired by similar motivations: a desire to explore the unexplored and to uncover the hidden patterns and relationships of everyday life. Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, with its diversity of plant and animal communities and its wealth of long-term ecological research, provides a unique opportunity for artists to investigate the intersection of science, nature, and humanity. Cedar Creek invites artists working in any genre (including but not limited to photography, painting, music, dance, and creative writing) to bring their unique ideas and perspectives to the site to help build a long-term, diverse body of work exploring this place and its science. Artists in Residence are selected each fall to serve a year-long term creating new art that explores and celebrates Cedar Creek’s science and scientific legacy.

Artists in Residence interact with scientists in the field, the lab, and the office by shadowing and assisting them and through interviews and documenting their work.

Residents’ works in progress are shared via Cedar Creek’s Facebook page, website, and quarterly newsletter. Final works are shared formally as part of education and outreach events and onsite exhibits in winter.

Learn more on the Cedar Creek Reflections website.

Examples of Resident Works

Ordinary Vikings, a 2011 art installation in the bur oak savanna by Minnesota artist Jill Johnson, explores the question, “Are we still tribal 1,000 years after the last Viking axe was thrown?” Johnson wanted visitors of Nordic descent to probe current connections to their heritage, 200 years after descendants left Europe for America. Using a form of “bog stav” sculpture, a Scandinavian folk art form in which human faces carved from wood are mounted on trees, Johnson made beeswax castings of Minnesota Swedish Americans, including some individuals who live near Cedar Creek, to create the sculptures. Found tree branches became bodies and the resulting figures were then suspended from bur oak trees in Cedar Creek’s oak savanna ecosystem. The sculptures swayed under the open canopy of the savanna trees and in the sunlight appeared luminous and alive.