MarineGEO Postdoctoral Fellowship: Call for Proposals

Submission Deadline: December 15, 2016


The Smithsonian’s Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network (TMON) invites proposals for the MarineGEO Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. Proposals should advance the goals of the Marine Global Earth Observatory. MarineGEO is a growing, long-term, worldwide research program focused on understanding geographic and temporal patterns and processes in coastal marine biodiversity and ecosystems using comparative approaches. By specializing in coastal systems, MarineGEO studies can reveal the role marine biodiversity plays in maintaining resilient ecosystems in the portion of the ocean where people and marine biodiversity are concentrated and interact most. To learn more about MarineGEO and our labs, please visit the program website.

MarineGEO Goals

MarineGEO seeks to:

  1. Transform our understanding of the links between biodiversity and ecological processes in coastal marine ecosystems, the forces of change, and related consequences for society, using integrative and multidisciplinary approaches across space and time
  2. Provide the science needed to understand coastal health (e.g., resilience and sustainability)

MarineGEO is dedicated to understanding changes in and relationships among the biodiversity, structure, and functioning of marine ecosystems at local to global scales. Two cornerstones of MarineGEO are (1) the use of standardized, repeated, long-term research and (2) coordinated experiments conducted across the Smithsonian’s facilities and an expanding global network of diverse partners. This approach is designed to:

  • Achieve rigorous, comparative understanding of biodiversity trends across space and time
  • Understand the nature and causes of variation in coastal marine ecosystems
  • Assess links between local and global environmental forcing, biodiversity, and functioning of ecosystems

Research Proposals

We seek applications for postdoctoral research projects that directly address MarineGEO goals through at least one of these overarching research themes:

  1. How does marine biodiversity vary through space and time across habitats and the globe?
  2. How do natural and human forces (e.g. fishing, land-use, invasions, habitat loss) drive changes in marine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and ecosystem resilience?
  3. What are the consequences of these changes in marine ecosystems for human well-being?
  4. How does anthropogenic alteration of carbon cycles affect coastal marine ecosystems and their service provision?
  5. How do dispersal and metapopulation dynamics connect marine ecosystems and influence responses to change?
  6. How do nearshore food webs change through space and time?
  7. How can the past—ancient through historic—help us understand the consequences of local human activities and global change in the present?
  8. Where are the critical tipping points that lead to rapid and unwanted shifts in marine ecosystems, and how can these best be avoided?

Proposals must focus on comparative research that directly addresses MarineGEO goals and questions above.  Projects must involve at least two Smithsonian TMON facilities. Projects should be scoped to a level that the fellow can accomplish alone or with limited assistance.  If field assistance is required (e.g., for diving), proposals should include estimates of those needs.

Postdoctoral fellows must collaborate directly with two or more Smithsonian scientists as named co-advisors (see Smithsonian Marine Research Staff) and must select co-advisors from more than one Smithsonian unit (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Marine Station-Fort Pierce, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, National Zoological Park). Postdoctoral fellows must select one of these locations to be their primary in-residence unit. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact prospective co-advisors in developing their proposals.

Eligibility and Award Amount

Applicants must have completed their Ph.D. before commencing the fellowship. Individuals who have been Smithsonian employees or contractors within the previous year are not eligible. The award total is for $63,000 maximum per year, which is divided into stipend, research allowance, health insurance, and relocation expenses. The stipend is $48,000 per year, allowing up to $15,000 for the remaining expenses. The fellow may acquire private, open market, or Smithsonian health insurance, but should be aware of these costs. If additional funds are desired beyond the $15,000 for research, health insurance and relocation, the fellow should expect to find external opportunities to supplement the fellowship funds. Awards will be made for a maximum of two years, pending first-year performance review and funding availability.

Proposal Submission

Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with Smithsonian staff scientists prior to proposal submission. Applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 PM (EST) on December 15, 2016 to SOLAA. Each element of the application should be uploaded to SOLAA as its own document.  Applications missing any elements will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.  Applicants must provide the names and email addresses of two referees through SOLAA.  Referees should submit their recommendation letters into SOLAA by the application deadline.

Proposal Components

Proposals are submitted electronically to SOLAA. The proposal must include the following elements:

  1. Title Page and Abstract (uploaded to SOLAA under Abstract)
    1. Title page: Project title, name of applicant, proposed sponsors’ names and corresponding SI units, proposed start date
    2. Abstract: Brief summary of proposed research and its significance, not to exceed 300 words
  2. Research Proposal (not to exceed 8 pages, 12-pt font, double-spaced).  The proposal body should state how the proposed research addresses MarineGEO goals and questions, is comparative, and utilizes Smithsonian resources.
    1. Introduction: Problem statement, background, rationale, and support from published scientific literature.
    2. Goals and Objectives: A clear statement of the central questions, problems, and/or hypotheses to be addressed, and the major objectives that will address the goals.
    3. Methods: A summary of proposed scientific approach, procedures, experimental designs, technical methods, and data analysis. Summarize the types of equipment and technology required (boats, microscopes, scuba equipment, etc.) and the frequency of their need.
    4. Research facilities: Description of which TMON facilities will be used. Information on existing facilities can be on these sites: Carrie Bow Cay Field StationSmithsonian Environmental Research CenterSmithsonian Marine Station, and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – Bocas del Toro.
    5. Significance: Significance of the project for MarineGEO and environmental science.
  3. Bibliography References cited within the proposal
  4. Time Table Estimate of time periods for each phase of the proposed research, schedule of work, locations and approximate dates of field travel
  5. Budget and Justification (max. $15,000/year): An itemized budget and justification for each year of the following expenses
    1. Research Allowance to include supplies, equipment needs, and travel for research purposes (including lodging, per diem, and transportation)
    2. Relocation Allowance to include transportation from point of origin to Smithsonian and return, but does not include moving expenses
    3. Health Insurance Allowance, which can be sourced privately, on the open market, or through the Smithsonian
    4. Matching Funds to include source and amounts of matching funds from other sources, if available or needed.
  6. Curriculum Vitae
  7. Transcripts or other materials when transcripts are not issued from all appropriate graduate institutions. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable. 
  8. Letters of Recommendation should be sent by two non-Smithsonian referees through the SOLAA system. Please provide a copy of the research proposal to the references. Applicants will send an email to their references through the SOLAA system that prompts the referees to provide references through the web. All reference letters are considered confidential unless the referee has waived confidentiality.

Proposal Review and Award Notification

Proposals will be peer-reviewed by a panel of Smithsonian scientists for scientific merit, project feasibility, and match with MarineGEO goals. Award notification will be sent electronically to the applicants on or before 15 March 2017.

Smithsonian Scientific Diving Authorization

All research involving SCUBA diving must comply with Smithsonian policy and be authorized by Smithsonian. See for more details.  Fellows who plan to use SCUBA are strongly encouraged to be AAUS-certified scientific divers prior to commencing the fellowship.

Progress Reports and Publications

A progress report is required and must be submitted electronically no later than ten months after start of fellowship appointment. A final report is due on the date of completion of the fellowship appointment. All publications resulting from work supported by the Smithsonian Institution must include an acknowledgment of the appropriate Smithsonian Research Unit(s), MarineGEO, and the Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network.


The following Smithsonian scientists are on the TMON Executive Committee:

For questions about application process and status, please contact