Smithsonian Institution — MarineGEO Postdoctoral Fellowship Call for Proposals 2018

Smithsonian Institution — MarineGEO Postdoctoral Fellowship Call for Proposals 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 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 2018 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 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 initiatives.

  1. 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 could 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, the efficacy of management practices like marine protected areas and restoration, and marine parasites and diseases. (TMON scientists: Any listed under Contacts below)
  2. MarineGEO pan-American predation experiment: Applicants may choose to build on this specific MarineGEO experiment addressing how latitudinal diversity gradients influence the strengths and impacts of species interaction. The foundational experimental design manipulates predator access to standardized fouling community panels in shallow waters across latitudinal (and potentially other) gradients and will follow responses of community development, including relative effects on native and non-native species. The experiment will be deployed in at least 20 sites across the Americas. Fellowship proposals leveraging this experiment may focus on, but are not limited to, barcoding and metagenomics analysis of community or microbial responses, measuring predator activity, testing the relative roles of positive and negative interactions, and testing the effects of human disturbance gradients on community responses. (TMON scientists: Gregory Ruiz and Mark Torchin)
  3. Chemical-Physical Observation Program: MarineGEO 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 could analyze and synthesize the data in a comparative framework to better understand their relationship to patterns of biodiversity, anthropogenic influences, or the underlying forcing factors. (TMON scientists: Patrick Megonigal and Whitman Miller)
  4. Biodiversity baselines: While a component of MarineGEO focuses on long-term biodiversity observations, changes in those observations over time are illuminated in greater context against a baseline of existing biodiversity. A few MarineGEO sites (Hawaii, British Columbia, Chesapeake Bay, Panama) have conducted or will conduct initial biodiversity assessments to establish this baseline. Much of this work has focused on creating foundational museum collections, barcoding, and Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS). Proposed projects could focus on: synthesizing data from any given assessment, comparing data and outcomes across sites, or providing a historical perspective of current assessments compared to historical and prehistorical records. (Mary Hagedorn, Nancy Knowlton, Aaron O’Dea, and Matt Ogburn)

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 projects, MarineGEO will commit some on-site personnel time and in-kind support to the broader project. Therefore, proposals should outline how the project will leverage the strength of the existing MarineGEO network and involve on-site staff. If field assistance beyond on-site staff is required (e.g., for diving), proposals should include estimates of those needs.

At least one advisor must be selected from the Contacts list below. Postdoctoral fellows must collaborate directly with two or more Smithsonian scientists as named co-advisors (see Smithsonian Marine Research Staff) from more than 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 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 $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, 2017 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 initiative addressed, name of Smithsonian scientist 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). The proposal body should state how the proposed research addresses MarineGEO goals, leverages an above-listed MarineGEO initiative, 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 the central questions, specific hypotheses to be addressed, and the 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. 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 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 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 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 initiatives, 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, 2018.

For questions about application process and status, please contact

Submission Deadline: December 15, 2017