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NatureNet Science Fellows Program

The call for applications for the 2018 cohort of NatureNet Science Fellows has closed. Please sign up to be on the NatureNet mailing list to receive notice of when the next call will open.

The Program

The Nature Conservancy recognizes climate change as the single greatest threat to our mission, and to humanity. Never before has there been an issue that so tightly integrates the health of the planet with the economy, food production, clean, reliable water, health, and equality.

The NatureNet Science Fellows and Research Grant program aims to bridge academic excellence and conservation practice to confront climate change, and to create a new generation of conservation leaders who combine the rigor of academic science with real-world application. Within this framework, the program goals are to:

  • Support innovative and impact-oriented research that help deliver TNC outcomes;
  • Invest in the talent potential of a new generation of climate change leaders;
  • Recruit scientists who bring a diversity of culture, experience, and ideas into conservation; and
  • Provide partner universities and fellows with access to real-world conservation issues.

Within these goals are two overarching themes:

  • Theme 1: Halting Climate Change
    The majority of projected climate change impacts can be avoided if we act quickly and aggressively towards a low-carbon energy system. Getting there will require major new advances in the science and engineering behind energy technology -- from storage, improved efficiency, and transmission, to new source development--and in how we deploy all energy sources--from encouraging major energy source shifts to siting and operating new infrastructure with minimal environmental impact. Fellows may tackle these challenges from the fields of physics, chemistry, landscape planning, electrical engineering, biology, nanotechnology, political science, meteorology, waste management, computer science, energy technology, geography, or transport engineering.

  • Theme 2: Adapting to Climate Change
    Climate change is already happening, and current levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere have already locked the planet into significant climate disruption. The NatureNet program supports research that will identify new means for reducing these impacts and improving the ability of both nature and people to adapt. Relevant challenges will be addressed by fellows from fields as wide ranging as coral biology, agricultural technology, political economics, coastal geomorphology, ecology, forestry, water and sanitation health, climatology, environmental toxicology, agronomy, irrigation engineering, animal husbandry, fisheries, or coastal engineering.

For a list of the TNC projects within these themes we are seeking post doc support for in the 2018 call, refer to the NatureNet website.

Ideal Candidates

Ideal Candidates for NatureNet Science Fellowships and Research Grants are outstanding early-career scientists and engineers who seek to improve and expand their research skills while directing their efforts toward problems at the interface of climate, conservation, business, technology, and people. Recognizing that our conservation mission is best advanced by the contributions of individuals of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and cultures - we encourage applicants from all cultures, races, colors, religions, sexes, national or regional origins, ages, disability status, sexual orientations, gender identities, military or veteran status or other status protected by law.

Through this ground-breaking research, the program will create a network of fellows, university scientists, engineers and conservation scientists that increases the rigor and breadth of thought applied to the issue of climate change, and ensures that breakthroughs will reach well beyond the network to create impact.

Funding & Eligibility

The 2018 call for applications features two post-doctoral opportunities. Please read the Eligibility and Award Terms carefully to determine the best fit for your research program.

Option 1: Post-Doctoral Fellowship Position

Eligibility and Award Terms

Fellows identify and work with a Nature Conservancy mentor and a senior scholar (or scholars) from one of the NatureNet partner universities to develop a research program. Eligible individuals will:

  • Not be employed as a post-doctoral student (at another university) at the start of this fellowship.
  • Have completed their doctorate within five years before the application close date in November. Applicants who have not yet completed their doctorate must clearly indicate on the application the date the degree is expected.

The Conservancy expects post-doctoral appointments to start between May and September. Each Fellow will receive a non-negotiable annual salary of $50,000 plus benefits, with the postdoctoral position expected to run for two consecutive years. In addition to the stipend, each Fellow receives an annual travel budget of approximately $5,000 and an annual research fund of approximately $20,000. Second-year renewal of the fellowship is contingent upon satisfactory progress and contribution to the collective program.

The program is run in partnership with a diversity of universities that represent traditional and non-traditional disciplines relevant to conservation science. Applicants must identify one university as their home institution but are encouraged to suggest collaborations with additional universities and institutions if those collaborations will greatly enhance the research. For the list of 2018 university partners, see the University Partners tab.

Option 2: Post-Doctoral Research Grant

Eligibility and Award Terms

Grantees and a university mentor from their host institution collaborate with a Nature Conservancy mentor to develop a research application. Eligible individuals will:

  • Hold a post-doctoral position at an accredited university or research institution at the time of application.
  • Have completed their doctorate within five years before the application close date in November.

Each grantee will receive a research stipend of $20,000, with the grant period expected to run for two consecutive years. Second-year renewal of the grant is contingent upon satisfactory progress and contribution to the collective program. The Conservancy will distribute grant funds between May and September. Funds are awarded directly to the grantee's institution and may be used by the grantee for such purposes as equipment, technical assistance, professional travel, trainee support, summer salary, or any other activity directly related to the grantees' research. If used for summer salary, support is limited to a maximum of two-ninths of established academic salary. This summer research period is to be regarded as two full months.

Eligible individuals will have completed their doctorate within the past five years as of the application close date of November 6, 2017. Applicants who have not yet completed their doctorate must clearly indicate on the application the date the degree is expected. Fellow appointments are expected to start no later than October 2018. Please also review the NatureNet Fellow Expectations Outline.

How to Apply

Applications will be accepted from September 8, 2017 through November 6, 2017 at 11:59pm EST.

  1. Cover letter (limited to 1 page). Applicants should describe their research experience and suitability for the program and illustrate how their previous experience strengthens their ability to develop and implement the proposed research.

  2. Research proposal (limited to 2 pages). The proposal should highlight the research question of interest, clearly articulate the research approach and methods, and outline the project's scientific significance. Most importantly, within this context projects should demonstrate a clear potential for delivering results for The Nature Conservancy's global priorities, identify the audience who will use the outputs of your work, and address the NatureNet programs themes of action-oriented research that focuses on climate change mitigation and/or adaptation. Applicants are strongly encouraged to develop their projects with their TNC and University mentors.

  3. Curriculum Vitae or resume.

  4. Three letters of recommendation to be submitted through the online application system. References should speak to the applicant's ability to complete the proposed project, the feasibility of completing the project within the 2-year time frame, and how the project relates to past work/skills.

  5. Letters of support from your proposed TNC and University mentors. Mentors should speak to the importance of the project for TNC or their University, the feasibility of completing the proposed research within the 2-year time frame, and the role they will play in mentoring the applicant through the project. The applicant is expected to engage in co-development of the proposal with both proposed mentors and proof of co-development will be assessed during proposal review.

  6. Research budget for Postdoctoral Research Grant Applications only.

Accepted candidates will be notified by March 2018. Fellows will be expected to start when funds are available in September 2018. For further information, please contact the NatureNet Science Fellows Program at

University Partners

Those applying for the Post-doctoral Fellowship Position must identify one university as your home institution. You are encouraged to suggest collaborations with additional universities and institutions within your proposal if those collaborations will greatly enhance the research. This year's participating universities for the full fellowship program are:

  • Arizona State University - Center for Biodiversity Outcomes
  • Brown University - Institute at Brown for Environment and Society
  • Columbia University - Earth Institute
  • Cornell University - Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
  • University of California-Los Angeles - Institute of Environment and Sustainability
  • University of Pennsylvania - Biology Department, Wharton School of Business, Materials Science and Chemistry programs (green chemistry), VIPER (integrated program in energy research)
Click here for more information on 2018 Partner Universities and University Mentors, including university-specific research topic priorities.


Applicants will identify at least one mentor from the partner institution and one mentor from The Nature Conservancy to develop a research program. Applicants are asked to first identify which of the active TNC priority projects best aligns with your work. The TNC lead for the project will act as your mentor. To identify available mentors and related projects, review 2018 University Partners, Projects and Mentors web page. You may wish to share the Mentor Expectations document when seeking mentor commitment.