NatureNet Science Fellows Program

The Nature Conservancy will not be taking applications for NatureNet Science Fellows in 2019. We’re working to build greater diversity and flexibility into the program for both fellows and universities. Please sign up for the NatureNet mailing list (on the right) for notification of our next request for proposals.

Program Overview and Goals

As a leading global conservation organization with a mission to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends, The Nature Conservancy has a critical role to play in creating a world where people and nature thrive. Over the next ten years, through our Shared Conservation Agenda, the Conservancy is addressing the root causes of some of the toughest problems facing people and nature in these five areas 1) climate change, 2) land and water protection, 3) food and water sustainability, 4) building healthy cities, and 5) connecting nature and people.

That’s why the Conservancy has established the NatureNet Science Fellows Program to create a reservoir of new interdisciplinary science talent that will carry out the new work of conservation. Fellows will work with a Nature Conservancy mentor and a hosting senior scholar (or scholars) from an accredited research institution to develop a research program. This joint mentorship model allows for fellows and grantees to take fundamental research questions and the traditional support provided by universities and embed themselves in the practice of applied conservation through TNC networks. Within this framework, the NatureNet program goals are to:

  • Recruit scientists who bring a diversity of culture, experience, and ideas into conservation;
  • Support cutting-edge, impact-oriented research that helps deliver TNC outcomes and builds TNC’s research network; and
  • Invest in the talent potential of a new generation of climate change leaders;

Ideal NatureNet Candidate

The NatureNet Science Fellows program bridges academic excellence and conservation practice to create a new generation of climate change leaders who combine the rigor of academic science with real-world application. The outstanding early-career scientists and engineers in this 2-year postdoctoral program differ from other postdocs in two major ways:

  1. They have prioritized improving and expanding their research skills— directing their efforts towards problems at the interface of climate, conservation, business, technology, and people; AND
  2. They are committed to their professional development— participating and applying trainings designed to improve skills in science communication, working-group facilitation, and leadership.

Recognizing that the Nature Conservancy’s conservation mission is best advanced by the contributions of individuals of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and cultures— NatureNet 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.

Program Contacts

Dawn O'Neal, Ph.D. is the Program Director for NatureNet Science Fellows and TNC’s Science Professional Development Program, two initiatives of Global Science that foster high impact research and promote increased effectiveness of scientist through professional development.

Kassie Morton, the University Partnership Coordinator, coordinates university partner communication and administrative support for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Science program. This includes efforts to broaden TNCs reach within the scientific community through collaborative, solutions-driven partnerships on scientific and policy research.

Email with questions.

Funding & Eligibility

Applicants are required to identify a project from the Projects and Mentors List. It is expected that applicants will reach out to Nature Conservancy and University mentors to identify best fit and engage in co-development of the proposal. Letters of support are required from both mentors. Questions? Please view our Frequently Asked Questions Document.


Applicants must have completed their doctorate within five years of the application close date. Please contact the NatureNet Program Director if there are extenuating circumstances that have caused significant educational or employment disruption resulting in an applicant holding their doctorate for more than five years.

Postdoctoral appointments and grant dispersals start between May 1 and October 1. Applicants who have not yet completed their doctorate must clearly indicate on the application that the degree is expected to be awarded no later than September 1 of the year they start the fellowship. For those applying for a fellowship through Columbia University, this must be the first post-doc position you will hold.

Fellowships and grants are expected to run for two consecutive years. Second-year renewal is contingent upon satisfactory progress and contribution to the collective program.


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 postdoctoral student at the start of this fellowship. Applicants employed in non-postdoctoral positions that will continue into the fellowship period should address in their application how they will manage the responsibilities of both positions.

Each Fellow will receive a non-negotiable annual salary of $50,000 plus benefits and an annual research and travel budget of approximately $25,000.

University Partners (Full Postdoctoral Fellowship)

The program is run in partnership with universities that represent traditional and non-traditional disciplines relevant to conservation science. Applicants must identify one university as their home institution and may submit only one application, but are encouraged to suggest collaborations with additional universities and institutions. This year’s participating universities for the full fellowship are: Institute at Brown University for Environment and Society ; Columbia University’s Earth Institute; Stanford University; University of California – Los Angeles’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability; University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment; University of Virginia, and the University of Queensland.


Eligible individuals will hold a postdoctoral position, with at least two years remaining on the position, at an accredited university or research institution at the time of application. Grantees and their university mentor collaborate with a Nature Conservancy mentor to develop a research application.

Each grantee will receive a research stipend of $20,000 plus $2,100 to cover institutional indirect costs. Funds are awarded directly to the grantee's institution and may be used for such purposes as equipment, technical assistance, professional travel, trainee support, or any other activity directly related to the grantees's research. Salary support is limited to a maximum of three months of the established academic salary (not including IDC).

How to Apply

Applicants may submit only ONE application, but may develop multi-organizational teams (including mentors/team members from multiple University Partners). The application requires the following components:

  1. Select the project you are applying to from this list.
  2. Cover letter (1 page, single spaced, size 11-point font, 1-inch margins). Applicants should describe their research experience and suitability for the program, illustrate how their previous experience strengthens their ability to develop and implement the proposed research, speak to their interest in a career in conservation or conservation-based research, and indicate how the program will help achieve career goals.
  3. Research proposal (2 pages, single spaced, size 11-point font, 1-inch margins). The proposal should highlight the research question of interest; clearly articulate the research approach and methods; address potential challenges, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success; and outline the project’s scientific and conservation significance. Most importantly, within this context projects should demonstrate a clear potential for delivering results for The Nature Conservancy’s Shared Conservation Agenda within the 2-year timeframe, and identify the audience who will use the outputs of your work. Applicants must develop their projects with their TNC and University mentors.
  4. Curriculum Vitae or resume.
  5. 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, feasibility of completing the project within the 2-year time frame, and how the project relates to past work/skills. Letters of recommendation from project mentors will not be accepted.
  6. Letters of support from your proposed TNC and University mentors. Mentors should speak to importance of 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.
  7. Research budget for Postdoctoral Research Grant Applications only.

Accepted candidates will be notified by January 2019. Fellows will be expected to start when funds are available between May 1 and October 1. For further information, please contact the NatureNet Science Fellows Program at

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NatureNet Science Fellows Program