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Ocean Ecosystems Grants

EarthWatch Institute

Grant amount: US $20,000 - US $80,000

Anticipated deadline: The deadline for this grant has passed

Applicant type: Postdoctoral Researcher Faculty Working Professional

Funding uses: Research

Location of project: Anywhere in the world

Location of residency: Anywhere in the world

Degree requirements: Applicants must have a completed PhD


Earthwatch Ocean Ecosystems Program

This Program supports research in marine ecology, broadly defined as relationships among aquatic organisms and their interactions with the environments of the oceans. Marine ecology also encompasses the biogeochemistry of ocean ecosystems, such as impacts of climate change on ocean acidification, marine carbon sequestration, and sea level rise. This field includes work that examines the effects of human natural-resources use on ocean food webs. 

Specifically, Earthwatch is seeking research proposals from scientists for projects that will address global change in ocean ecosystems by:

  • Increasing scientific knowledge and public awareness of environmental challenges to marine ecosystems, while providing locally relevant solutions;
  • Increasing partnerships with grassroots organizations, as well as with governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at local and international levels; and
  • Informing management plans and environmental policies.

Focal Ocean Ecosystem Program Research Topics

We invite proposals on the following ocean ecology research topics:

  • Climate change impacts on ocean ecology, especially on sea level rise, ocean acidification, marine biodiversity, wildlife, species adaptation, and marine carbon sequestration;
  • Keystone species and biodiversity, particularly food web relationships driven by apex predators and other keystone species and their effects on biodiversity and ecosystem productivity;
  • Threatened habitats such as coral reefs, saltwater marshes, coastal wetlands, and mangroves;
  • Human-wildlife coexistence, including the reduction of conflict between humans and marine animals and sustainable use of marine resources;
  • Sustainable aquaculture, including shellfish production;
  • Ecological restoration, with a focus on repairing the damage humans have done to marine ecosystems and improving marine ecosystem management; and
  • Marine ecology in urban areas.

Projects begin 2 years after application year (eg, in 2019 for applications submitted in June 2017). Typical annual budgets average between US $20,000–$80,000, with approximately half of the total budget covering volunteer expenses while on the project. 

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • All proposals must be submitted by the PI.
    • All PIs must have a PhD and an affiliation with a university, government agency, or NGO.
  • All proposed projects must have an overarching research theme directly related to global change and enable participation of citizen scientists and community members. 
  • Citizen Science requirements: To fit the citizen scientist model, all proposed projects must:
    • Have a 3-year or longer duration (longer-term research may receive priority support);
    • Incorporate field-based research;
    • Have data gathered primarily by citizen-scientist volunteers recruited by Earthwatch;
    • Field 4 to 10 teams per year that span 7 to 14 days, each accommodating 4 to 20 volunteers per team as needed for data collection;
    • Provide housing for volunteers within a reasonable distance from the research site;
    • Be open to graduate, college, and/or high school student participation;
    • Be run in English, with all communications and supporting documents in English;
    • Educate each team of Earthwatch volunteers about the project's science and its relevance; and
    • Share project data with managers and if possible contribute to open-source datasets to maximize the impacts of the project
  • Annual grants cover project expenses while in the field including:
    • equipment (limited),
    • tools, and supplies;
    • research permits;
    • scientist transport to the field;
    • support staff;
    • food and housing for principal investigators, staff, and Earthwatch volunteers.


  • Earthwatch strongly encourages graduate student participation in projects as co-PIs.
  • Earthwatch is particularly interested in:
    • interdisciplinary proposals and those that incorporate open-source, shared data;
    • proposals for projects that will improve the livelihoods of human communities in emerging nations;
    • helping support emerging scientists from developing nations.


  • We do not currently fund research in any nations and regions listed here.
  • Grants do not cover: 
    • scientist salaries,
    • student tuition,
    • overhead,
    • capital equipment, and
    • post-field work data analysis.