MarineGEO Postdoctoral Fellowship: Call for Proposals

Submission Deadline: December 15, 2018



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), a Smithsonian-led worldwide research collaboration dedicated to understanding changes in and relationships among the biodiversity, structure, and functioning of coastal marine ecosystems at local to global scales using comparative approaches. To learn more about MarineGEO, please visit the program website.

MarineGEO Goals

MarineGEO seeks to:  

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

Two cornerstones of MarineGEO are: 

  • the use of standardized, repeated, long-term research 
  • coordinated experiments conducted across the Smithsonian’s facilities and an expanding global network of diverse partners 

Research Proposals

The 2019 MarineGEO Postdoctoral Fellowship is a two-year fellowship that specifically contributes to the goals of the Smithsonian’s MarineGEO program. Proposals must focus on comparative research across habitats and/or geographic scales utilizing MarineGEO observatories. Applicants are encouraged to leverage existing MarineGEO resources like data, collaborative fieldwork, and well-established methods in their proposed work. Applicants should develop their project proposals in consultation with a TMON scientist listed below under Contacts. In particular, proposals should address one of the following MarineGEO priorities.

  1. Environmental-biodiversity coupling: Through ongoing observational study and other data collection events, MarineGEO boasts an ever-growing biodiversity dataset. In addition to regular survey data, biodiversity data also includes foundational museum collections, barcoding, and Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS). MarineGEO also collects extensive real-time data on the chemical and physical dynamics at Smithsonian and partner sites (weather, water quality, ocean acidification, tides, and sea level rise). Proposed projects under this priority should analyze and synthesize existing and incoming environmental and biodiversity data in a comparative framework to better understand patterns and relationships between them, anthropogenic influences, and/or underlying forcing factors. Projects may also utilize historical ecology as a tool to extend observational data or illuminate environmental and biodiversity changes across prehistorical, historical, and contemporary time scales.
  2. Ecosystem processes and functioning: In an effort to understand what makes coastal ecosystems work, MarineGEO uniquely examines ecosystem processes to assess ecosystem health and compare functioning across habitats, along gradients, and on macroecological scales. Research themes of interest include: productivity, consumption, decomposition, meaningful species interactions, tipping points/alternative states, trophic structure, functional groups, etc. Proposals under this priority may leverage existing process and function data, collect new data, and/or incorporate historical data for comparative examination of ecosystem function and health.
  3. Coordinated networked experiment: MarineGEO utilizes the strength of a growing global network to tackle research questions larger than any one site could answer individually. Project proposals under this priority should leverage the existing network of sites to address research themes through a coordinated experiment. Research themes of interest include: ecosystem structure and function, fishing impacts, invasive species, habitat distribution and loss, consumer pressure, pollution, levels of habitat degradation, historical ecology, the efficacy of management practices like marine protected areas and restoration, and marine parasites and diseases. In addition to these themes, applicants may choose to build on the MarineGEO Pan-American predation experiment, which is a specific coordinated experiment underway manipulating predator access to standardized fouling community panels in shallow waters across latitudinal gradients and follows responses of community development, including relative effects on native and non-native species. 

The proposal’s project, work plan, and budget should be arranged in consultation with Smithsonian advisors prior to submission. In addressing one of the above listed priorities, proposed work should utilize at least two MarineGEO network sites. MarineGEO will commit some on-site personnel time and in-kind support to the broader project at the Smithsonian sites (Maryland, Florida, Belize, and Panama). Therefore, proposals should outline how the project will leverage the strength of the existing MarineGEO network and involve on-site Smithsonian staff. If field assistance beyond Smithsonian staff is required (e.g., for diving), proposals should include estimates of those needs. 

All proposals must name at least two advisors, representing at least two MarineGEO sites. At least one advisor must be selected from the Contacts list below, but additional advisors and consultants may be selected from across the MarineGEO network. Postdoctoral fellows must collaborate directly with at least one Smithsonian scientist named as primary advisor (see Smithsonian Marine Research Staff) from at least one Smithsonian unit (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Marine Station-Fort Pierce, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute). One of these locations must be the fellow’s primary in-residence unit.

Eligibility and Award Amount

Applicants must have their Ph.D. conferred before commencing the fellowship. Individuals who have been Smithsonian employees or contractors within the previous year are not eligible. 

The award total is $65,400 maximum per year, which is divided into $50,400 for stipend and $15,000 for research allowance, health insurance, and relocation expenses. The fellow may acquire private, open market, or Smithsonian health insurance and should be aware of these costs. If additional funds are desired beyond the $15,000, the fellow should expect to find external funding 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

Applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 PM (EST) on December 15, 2018 to Smithsonian OnLine Academic Appointments system. To be considered for review, prospective applicants must consult with one of the Smithsonian staff scientists listed below during proposal development prior to submission. It is recommended to begin the application on SOLAA several days before the deadline to become familiar with the submission system. Each element of the application should be uploaded to SOLAA as its own document. Applicants must provide the names and email addresses of two referees through SOLAA and are responsible for ensuring the referees submit their recommendation letters into SOLAA by the application deadline. Applications will not be reviewed if they were not developed in consultation with Smithsonian scientists, are missing any elements, or do not meet formatting guidelines. 

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 advisors’ names and corresponding Smithsonian unit, MarineGEO priority addressed, name of Smithsonian scientist(s) who consulted on the proposal, proposed start date, intended Smithsonian unit of residence.
    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). Statement of how the proposed research addresses MarineGEO goals, contributes to an above-listed MarineGEO priority, is comparative research, and utilizes Smithsonian resources.
    1. Introduction: Problem statement, background, rationale, and support from published scientific literature.
    2. Goals and Objectives: A clear statement of central questions, specific hypotheses to be addressed, and major objectives that will address the project goals. 
    3. Methods: A summary of proposed scientific approaches, procedures, experimental designs, technical methods, proposed sites, and data analysis. Includes a summary of 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 and partner facilities will be used. The TMON sites are: Carrie Bow Cay Field StationSmithsonian Environmental Research CenterSmithsonian Marine Station, and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – Bocas del Toro. All sites are listed under MarineGEO Places.
    5. Significance: Statement of expected products, outcomes, and their significance for MarineGEO and marine ecology broadly.
  3. Bibliography References cited within the proposal.
  4. Time Table Estimate of time required 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 plus any in-kind support arranged in advance with co-advisors): 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 not moving expenses.
    3. Health Insurance Allowance, which can be sourced privately, on the open market, or through the Smithsonian plans.
    4. Matching Funds to include source and amounts of matching funds from other sources, if available or needed.
  6. Curriculum Vitae (not to exceed 4 pages).
  7. Transcripts from all 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

A panel of Smithsonian scientists will review proposals for: scientific merit, project feasibility, match with MarineGEO goals and priorities, and the extent to which Smithsonian expertise and resources can contribute to the project. Award notification will be sent electronically to applicants on or before March 15, 2019.

Smithsonian Scientific Diving Authorization

All research involving SCUBA diving must comply with Smithsonian policy and be authorized by the 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. These fellows must contact the Smithsonian Scientific Diving office as soon as possible after the award has been made.

Progress Reports and Publications

The following reporting is required:

  • A progress report, submitted electronically no later than ten months after start of fellowship appointment. 
  • A final report, due on the date of completion of the fellowship appointment. 
  • Exit seminar summarizing results to-date of the project within three months of the fellowship’s conclusion.
  • Acknowledgment of the appropriate Smithsonian research unit(s), the Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network, and a MarineGEO contribution number in all publications resulting from work (or time) supported by the Smithsonian Institution.


At least one of the following Smithsonian TMON scientists should be listed as a co-advisor and consulted in proposal development:


For questions about application process and status, please contact