NatureNet Science Fellows Program

The program will not be releasing a call for applications fall 2021 for a 2022 cohort. Please sign up for the NatureNet mailling list (on right) to receive updates on future opportunities.

Program Overview and Goals

  • The Conservancy’s NatureNet Science Fellowship operates on the principle that – to address the scope and scale of these environmental challenges – TNC needs to foster a new generation of interdisciplinary conservation science leaders.
  • In many ways, the world of conservation science has changed more in the last 15 years than it has in the previous 30. The 21st century is a new world for a movement once focused primarily on protecting the last, best places on Earth.
  • Now it’s a movement building on the work that has gone before to protect the health and function of the lands and waters we all depend on, while meeting increasing needs for food, water and energy without exacerbating global climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
  • At a time when many scientists are trained to enter academia or industry, NatureNet is a unique opportunity for TNC to leverage this traditional academic pathway to attract scientists with diverse backgrounds and introduce them to how their experiences and expertise can have real conservation impact.
  • NatureNet is also an opportunity for TNC to add new brands of science – science the blends ecology, biology, and natural resource management with climatology, physics, economics, business, chemistry, and engineering to insure we are conducting the best analyses for rapid testing and deployment of conservation solutions.

Applied Science for Lasting Conservation Results

  • Now in its sixth year, the NatureNet Science Fellowship awards 2-year fellowships to promising early career scientists. Each fellow is jointly mentored by a Conservancy field practitioner and a senior scholar from a university or accredited research institution on a project with direct application to specific TNC priorities and goals.
  • The fellowship provides TNC an unparalleled incubator for rapidly developing evidence-based conservation strategies for application to real challenges around the world. The program also offers valuable professional development and networking opportunities to fellows setting a strong foundation for building lasting relationships with former fellows as they pursue their science careers at TNC or in academia, government agencies, or at other NGOs.
  • NatureNet Science Fellows gain experience, test theories in the field, and further their careers at the forefront of conservation science. TNC is also able to make a wider connection to universities that often leads to opportunities for collaboration well outside the NatureNet Science Fellowship program itself.
  • Additionally, the Conservancy’s commitment to working at all levels of applied conservation, from science and research to community engagement and policy implementation, means fellows can also tap the organization’s global networks and reach decision-makers in a matter of days instead of months or years.

Program Contacts

Dawn O'Neal, Ph.D. , Director of Strategic Initiatives and the Program Director for NatureNet Science Fellows provides leadership for Global Science’s programs and activities that support the strengthening of TNC’s scientific community, with an eye towards increasing the diversity of scientists.

Kassie Morton, Project Manager for the Global Science program, provides project management support for several collaborative Global Science initiatives and coordinates Global Science university partnerships. 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 select a project from the Projects List. Questions? Please view our Frequently Asked Questions Document or email


  • Recognizing that the Nature Conservancy’s conservation mission is best advanced by the contributions of individuals of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and cultures — NatureNet encourages 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.
  • Additionally, special consideration will be given to applicants working with academic mentors from historically black and tribal colleges, Hispanic serving institutions, and international universities from Africa, Asia, and Latin and South America.
  • Dispersal of fellowship funds starts between May 1 and October 1.
  • Fellows are employed by their sponsoring academic institutions. The program will provide up to 10.5% indirect costs to the sponsoring academic institution. Fellowship funds may be used for such purposes as salary, equipment, technical assistance, professional travel, trainee support, or any other activity directly related to the fellow’s research.
  • Fellows may be physically based at either the sponsoring academic institution or Nature Conservancy offices, typically the location of either the academic or TNC mentor. We encourage applicants to explore both options to determine which would be more suitable to the proposed research and beneficial to their continued development as a conservationist.


  • Eligible individuals will start a postdoctoral position by September 1 of the year they start the fellowship or 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Postdoctoral Fellows may apply for a maximum research stipend totalling $118,000 including 10.5% IDC over two years. Fellowships are expected to run for two consecutive years. Second-year renewal is contingent upon satisfactory progress and contribution to the collective program.


  • At the time of application, eligible individuals (Ph.D or Masters students) will be currently enrolled or will start a graduate position by September of the year they start the fellowship. Ph.D. students should have at least two years remaining on the position. Master's students at least one, but should preferably plan to start their term by May 1.
  • Graduate Fellows may apply for a maximum research stipend totally $74,000 including 10.5% IDC over two years. Fellowships are expected to run for two consecutive years. Second-year renewal is contingent upon satisfactory progress and contribution to the collective program.

How to Apply

Applications are due by January 1, 2021 and must be submitted through this application portal using the register or login buttons.
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 (2 page, single spaced, size 11-point font, 1-inch margins). Applicants should not use cover letters to restate or extend material presented in the proposal or vita. Thoughtful, well-crafted cover letters improve the likelihood that competitive proposals will be identified during the initial stages of proposal evaluation. Applicants should
    1. Describe their research experience and suitability for the program,
    2. Illustrate how their previous experience strengthens their ability to develop and implement the proposed research,
    3. Speak to their interest in a career in conservation, and
    4. Indicate how the program will help achieve career goals.
  3. Research proposal (5 pages - not including figures or references, single spaced, size 11-point font, 1-inch margins). The proposal should clearly articulate the research approach and methods including plans for engaging relevant stakeholders; address potential challenges and describe alternative strategies as appropriate; articulate intermediate benchmarks for success; and include a basic understanding of how appropriate “people factors” (e.g. community culture, gender, race, religion, ethnicity) can influence or be influenced by the proposed environmental action. Most importantly, within this context projects should demonstrate a clear potential for delivering results within the 2-year timeframe. Applicants must develop their projects with the support of their University mentors.
  4. Curriculum Vitae or resume.
  5. Two letters of recommendation to be submitted through the online application system. References should speak to the applicant’s ability to complete the proposed 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 University mentors. Mentors should speak to importance of project for their overall research program or University, the applicant’s ability to complete 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 and proof of co-development will be assessed during proposal review.
  7. Research budget Click Here for Budget Template. Each proposal must contain a budget for each year of support requested. The amounts for each budget line item requested must be documented and justified in a separate Budget Justification Document as specified in the Budget Template. The proposal may request funds under any of the categories listed so long as the item and amount are considered necessary and reasonable.

Accepted candidates will be notified by March 2021. 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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The Nature Conservancy
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Phone: +1 (703) 841-5300
NatureNet Science Fellows Program