NatureNet Science Fellows Program

The call for applications for 2017 NatureNet Fellows has closed. Please check back in August 2017 for future opportunities.

The Nature Conservancy is pleased to solicit applications for the NatureNet Science Fellows program, a trans-disciplinary postdoctoral fellowship program aimed at bridging academic excellence and conservation practice to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

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 program seeks to bring leading early career scientists and engineers from diverse fields into the realm of problem solving at the interface of climate change, technology, and conservation.

This program drives research to tackle the two overarching challenges of climate change: 1) Halting climate change and 2) Adapting to the change that is already underway.

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 and may address issues like:

  • Identifying priority areas for new renewable energy development that maximize production and minimize environmental impact
  • Discovering and deploying new low carbon energy sources with minimal environmental impact
  • Identifying the full suite of environmental, social and economic risks of new energy technologies, carbon capture technologies, or even geoengineering
  • Analyzing policy or market options to encourage a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy
  • Developing economic mechanisms and ecological approaches for landscape modifications that capture carbon, such as large scale habitat restoration

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, and may include:

  • Protecting coastal habitats, urban areas and vulnerable communities from sea level rise
  • Predicting and responding to extreme events to reduce impacts and ensure disaster response does not further damage vulnerable ecosystems and people
  • Managing habitats as carbon sinks, migratory corridors and water filters to lessen species loss and water supply impacts
  • Designing and incentivizing climate-smart agriculture, with lower fertilizer and water needs, higher drought and flood tolerance, and lower environmental impacts
  • Establishing networks of corridors and reserves that will be resilient to climate disruption Consideration of assisted migration and enhanced evolution to facilitate resilience

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.

University Partners

The program is run in partnership with a diversity of universities that represent traditional and non-traditional disciplines relevant to conservation science.

Applicants must choose one university as their home institution. This year's participating universities are:

  • Earth Institute at Columbia University
  • Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University
  • Stanford University (emphasis on soils, agriculture, and climate)
  • Institute of Environment and Sustainability at University of California - Los Angeles
  • Institute on the Environment at University of Minnesota (emphasis on ecological economics and agricultural management)
  • School of Arts and Sciences at University of Pennsylvania
  • Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at University of Queensland
  • College of Arts and Sciences at University of Virginia (Science Division)
Click here for more information on Partner Universities and Mentors, including specific guidelines and topical foci.


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

Visit Partner Universities and Potential Mentors for more information.

To identify potential TNC Mentors, consider the following options:


The NatureNet Science Fellows program expects fellow appointments to start between May 1 and September 1, 2017. Eligible individuals will have completed their doctorate within the past five years before the application close date of November 30th, 2016. Applicants who have not yet completed their doctorate must clearly indicate on the application the date the degree is expected.

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.

How to Apply

The application process is open from September 15, 2016. Applications must be submitted by November 30, 2016 at 11:59pm EST.

  • Cover letter and research proposal (2 pages). Applicants should describe experience and suitability for the program through a brief research proposal. Unlike a standard cover letter, this proposal should highlight a research question of interest, the research approach and methods, the scientific significance, and significance to The Nature Conservancy and action-oriented research. The proposal should illustrate the strengths of the applicant's experience towards developing and implementing this research.

  • Curriculum Vitae, including list of publications

  • Three Letters of recommendation

Accepted candidates will be notified by mid-March 2017. Funds are available for fellows to start on approximately May 1, 2017.

For further information, please contact the NatureNet Science Fellows Program at