RFP: Citizen Science for Species Discovery

National Geographic Society

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Anticipated deadline: Jan 15, 2021 8:59pm PST

Grant amount: US $5,000 - US $30,000

Fields of work: Citizen Science

Applicant type: Individuals, Indigenous Group, Government Entity, Nonprofit

Funding uses: Research, Project / Program

Location of project: Africa; Americas; Antarctica; Europe; Oceania Show all

Location of residency: Africa; Americas; Antarctica; Europe; Oceania Show all

Age restriction: At least 18 years of age

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About this funder:



RFP: Citizen Science for Species Discovery

Humans share the Earth with a spectacular variety of life. Since 1753, when Carl Linnaeus began our modern system of giving organisms two-part Latin names, almost two million species of eukaryotes have been identified and named. However, most of the millions of organisms on the planet have not yet been catalogued. The most recent biodiversity estimates suggest that more than 80 percent of species remain unknown to science — and that doesn’t even count bacteria! Lack of data impairs our ability to responsibly manage and conserve the planet’s resources. With more than one million species on the verge of extinction, we need to act rapidly or they will be gone forever — and will remain mostly unknown.  

Eminent biodiversity scientist E.O. Wilson has called for a “Linnaean renaissance” to close the gap between the number of estimated species and those described by science. In honor of Wilson’s contributions to the field, and in celebration of his 90th birthday on June 10, National Geographic seeks to support the discovery of species through citizen science.

Proposals should activate a network of citizen scientists to help support the discovery of species, bridge biodiversity gaps, and accelerate biodiversity data collection, identification, and classification. We encourage proposals for work in any biome.

Successful applications must provide clear justification as to why the specific area needs to be explored. Preference will be given to proposals from applicants who reside in the country of fieldwork, and all proposals must include a team member from the country where the fieldwork takes place.

Please note: National Geographic requires that any projects intending to collect specimens have permissions from and operate under the biodiversity legislation of the host country — no exceptions. Applicants must obtain export and import permits where applicable. Applicants selected for funding will be required to show permits and depository plans prior to any work commencing.


Priority will be given to citizen science projects that do one or more of the following:

  • Support citizen scientists to conduct inventories, surveys, and/or research in areas that demonstrate a likelihood for new species discoveries due to species endemism and richness, especially where these have been highly damaged or threatened by human activities.
  • Support the rediscovery of species where there is evidence a species thought to be extinct may still exist.
  • Support the surveying of and primary data collection on species occurrences and abundances for species and regions with limited existing data.
  • Encourage students and other citizen scientists who engage with these projects to build the attitudes, skills, and knowledge necessary to become stewards of the planet and contribute to solving real-world issues.

For citizen science proposals, participation and data generation are of equal importance. Participation must be free for all users and cannot incorporate for-profit activities. Technologies might include mobile applications, web-based applications, or hardware and sensors with direct citizen science usage. Projects should create learning experiences through the collection of data and/or ground-truthing of data relevant to the trends or status of threatened, poorly understood, and undiscovered species.

Applicants should be willing to share collected biodiversity information not related to the discovery of new species to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) through a GBIF data publisher such as Map of Life or contribute them via citizen science mobile apps such as iNaturalist within the duration of the grant.

Proposals may request $5,000 to $30,000. The budgets of successful proposals will include reasonable, well-justified costs directly required to complete the project. Please see the Preparing Your Proposal page regarding budgetary guidance, including stipend eligibility, and justify all budget requests in detail. Successful applicants may use awarded funds over one to two years.

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


  • Project Leadership:
    • You may submit a proposal as the project leader for only one project at a time. You must submit a final report and media from any previous grants for which you were the leader before applying to lead a new project.
    • Organizations can apply for grants, but the person within the organization who will lead the project—not the institution—should be the applicant and will be expected to meet the requirements of the grant.
    • Students should not submit in their advisor’s name. The individual responsible for carrying out the project should apply and write the application.
  • Age Restrictions:
    • All applicants must be at least 18 years old at the time they submit an application. 
  • Citizenship:
    • We encourage applications from around the world. If you are planning to work outside of your home country or community, you must include the name and contact information for at least one local collaborator as a project team member in the application. Please note that the National Geographic Society does not assist with visas.
  • Current Grant Restrictions:
    • As a result of changes in Chinese law effective January 1, 2017, the National Geographic Society is unable to support new grantee work in mainland China. This applies to any individual or organization proposing work in mainland China, regardless of citizenship. We will still accept applications from residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau as long as the proposed work is outside of mainland China. The National Geographic Society continues to actively pursue registration with the Chinese government and will restart grant making once the registration process is complete.
    •  You may be required to obtain an Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) license through the U.S. Treasury before the National Geographic Society will deliberate on your application if you are a resident/citizen, or are proposing to conduct fieldwork, in an OFAC-sanctioned country or region. See further information about these restrictions on the OFAC website. Please work with your legal counsel to determine what authorizations are required.
    •  You are prohibited from engaging in any grant-funded work with any individual or organization who is on the Specially Designated National (SDN) list maintained by the U.S. Treasury. Again, please work with your legal counsel if you have any questions.