on Biodiversity Funding
Funding Sources for Graduate Students in Arthropod Biodiversity
Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University,
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC H9X 3V9, Canada
Advice on Preparing Applications
for Sources of Funding
Sources of Funding
One of the
greatest obstacles to conducting research in biodiversity is finding a way to pay for it.
Because of this, one of the most essential skills for students to develop is the ability
to locate and secure funding for graduate and postdoctoral studies, research and travel.
This document provides information on some of the available funding sources for graduate
study and research in biodiversity, with special reference to terrestrial
Even after a
source of funding has been located, there is still the matter of getting it. It is
surprising and discouraging to see how many students submit poorly prepared applications
for funding. One of the reasons for this may be that many students never receive training
in grantsmanship. To (hopefully) alleviate this oversight, this document also gives some
general advice on the preparation of grant applications. Like all advice regarding money,
it should be taken seriously.
additions or comments should be sent to BiologicalSurvey@gmail.com.
General Advice on Preparing Applications
The two mistakes
that many students make is not applying for money that they are eligible for, and applying
for money that they are not eligible for.
Some grant funds
are never given out because there are not enough applications for the available funds. Do
not rely on your supervisor, department or colleagues to tell you about the sources of
money available out there. Get used to searching for yourself.
Read the program
eligibility guidelines carefully. If a particular source of funding is specifically for
studies of nutrition supplements in North Dakota beef cattle, do not assume that they will
fund your study of Manitoba grasshoppers on the assumption that North Dakota beef cattle
might eat some grasshoppers that blow south. That being said, some sources of funding are
so broadly targeted that a wide range of studies can fit within their guidelines. Do not
pass up a potential source of support just because the program title seems out of your
area at first glance.
instructions are usually relatively clear and unambiguous. However, this is not always the
case. If there are ambiguous instructions or requirements it is better to find out than to
make the wrong assumption. If there is any doubt, ask (the agency, not your roommate).
Most agencies have an email address or web site for questions on the application process.
Follow instructions exactly. The first two words often do not present any problems; many
students have trouble with the word exactly. Must be typed does not mean can be printed very neatly using a black pen. In ONE page does not mean In as few pages as possible. Using
8 point type to fit into the ONE page
will not win you friends either. Details are important in the money
game. We may not agree with the rules but it is more productive to
follow them. Many applications will be downgraded or rejected if the
forms are not filled out correctly; generally the bigger the agency,
the tougher the rules.
Give your project
or proposal a title. This is not always asked for on applications, but it is important to
identify your work and put it in context. Think of your title as a one line abstract that
will sell your proposal.
Be clear about
what you are asking for. You want money for a specific purpose but the committee will not
read between the lines and anticipate why you need it. You have to state your needs
clearly to lead the reviewers to the final message. It also helps to show them that you
have thought this out yourself. Too many students want the money but are not that clear on
Justify everything. Everything you ask for should be clearly justified and placed
in the context of the proposal. Every research question should be supported by references
to previous work or potential outcomes. Never leave an opening for a critical reviewer to
ask why? (or worse - so what?)
Think about the
level of language required in the project description. Funding sources range from national
and international scientific agencies to private industry to community groups. This means
that your application might be read and reviewed by an established scientist, a middle
manager or a volunteer with no scientific background. Different audiences require different terminology and different levels of
explanation from technical to layperson's terms. The best way to proceed is to talk to people who have been successful in
securing funding from agencies at similar levels and look at their successful proposals.
Cite references. Supporting your statements is just as important in a grant proposal as in a thesis or
manuscript. Place your work into the context of previous research and show how your work
will advance the field.
realistic budget. Do not over- or under-estimate expenses. Assume that reviewers either
know, or can easily find out, how much it costs to fly to Los Angeles, to stay in a Boston
hotel, or feed yourself in the woods. In equipment and material budgets, ask for only what
is really needed. You may need chemicals and pipettes, but it's a good bet that your
supervisor's lab already has a compound microscope or DNA sequencer. Get quotations, do
not just come up with a ballpark figure for how much something should cost (many students
are really bad at ballpark figures). Indicate other available sources of funding if the
application asks for them (see following section on honesty). Do not assume that you will
get more money if you seem desperate; some sources of funding are meant only as
supplements to existing support. You need to be realistic to get partial funding.
honest. It is
amazing how quickly information can move through the scientific community. Honesty is
especially important when indicating other sources of funding (see above) or your current
financial status, but it also applies to your ability to do the work, the proposed time
frame, the importance to your thesis, etc. In general, assume that the people reading your
application have been playing this game a lot longer than you have and that they have seen
all the tricks.
reference are important. An excellent letter of reference can give you a definite edge in
a competition, while a lukewarm one can take you out of the running. Although it can be a
delicate issue, make sure that the people writing your letters are going to help your
cause. Generic letters are next to useless; a letter should be specific to the
application, and specific to your qualifications. Any specific questions asked of
reviewers on the application should be addressed directly.
vital. There is absolutely no excuse for typographical or grammatical errors in a grant
application. Never rely on a computer spell checker (For example, a spell checker will not
make a distinction between form from and farm, or between flies and files). Some reviewers will reject applications with errors, the assumption
being that if you can't get this part
right, how can you do research?
your proposal and application early enough to have it reviewed. It is much better (and
potentially less costly) to have your supervisor or colleagues find the errors and
inconsistencies than the grants committee. Take criticism objectively and use it to
improve your application.
Make sure that the
application package is complete. It is surprising how many applicants omit required
sections of applications. Transcripts, budget estimates, letters of reference, etc. are
all essential parts of the package if they are requested. Many applications are rejected
immediately if they are incomplete. Read the instructions carefully and include everything
that is listed. Allow enough time to get transcripts and letters of reference.
take a lot of time and effort. Make your investment appropriate to the size of the grant.
Do not spend weeks crafting an application for a $100 grant; your time is more valuable
than that. By the same token, spend enough time and effort on the larger programs.
The worst thing
that you can do is fill in the package at the last minute. Applications completed in a
hurry are sometimes incomplete, usually incorporate errors, and are almost always not as
clear as they could be. Reviewers can spot the hastily prepared applications. Always take
the time to do the job right, and never underestimate the time it will take to fill out an
application. This is especially true of online applications or complex forms.
real. Do not assume that the committee will be sympathetic to your exam schedule or your
computer virus problems. Late applications often go directly from mailbox to recycling
bin. If you are pushing a deadline, find out whether originals or FAX copies are
acceptable. Sometimes, original signatures are required.
for Sources of Funding
are far more sources of money out there than most students
realize, and many strategies for finding them. This section
includes some general advice on locating these sources, and
information on two very comprehensive search engines that most
university students have access to.
Searches and Awards Databases
of the best ways to find sources of funding is to use one of
the online sources that are available. Most universities
subscribe to at least one of these sources and users,
including students, can create customized search profiles that
are specific to their interests. Remember that search engines
are never as flexible or forgiving as the human mind, so when
you are searching for funding sources try different
combinations of keywords in successive searches. A slight
change in many of these databases will usually return very
university research grants offices or graduate studies offices
have award guides or lists of available funding sources. These
should be easy to locate on the university=s
web site. Most universities will also have a direct link to
other funding search engines like those described below.
of Science Funding Opportunities. This section of the Community of Science site
(http://www.cos.com) is a searchable online database of
funding sources in many scientific fields. Sources of funding
open to established researchers, postdoctoral researchers,
graduate students, undergraduates and many other groups or
individuals are listed and your status as a student can be
included in the search parameters. Custom profiles and
specific searches can be done relatively easily. This is an
excellent place to start.
This is part of the Infoed site. It is very similar to the
Community of Science site and has many of the same search
features and funding sources. However, the two databases will
often return different information on the same searches so
trying both is advisable if you have access to both.
Specific Sources of Funding
This section gives
details on some specific funding sources. The list is divided into four categories:
Scholarships and Fellowships; Funding for Museum Visits; Funding for Research, Fieldwork
and Travel; and Other Potential Funding Sources. The list is obviously not exhaustive. It
is meant as an overview of some of the available sources of support, as well as some
strategies for finding other sources. Many other societies, institutions,
government agencies and non-governmental organizations have similar
programs. The databases listed above will help you find some of those
Funding sources in this section provide scholarships
and fellowships for graduate students. Most of these sources are for
living expenses, etc. rather than research support. Each university will
have its own internal list of scholarships, fellowships and awards and
students should search these lists thoroughly. Some internal university
awards are not awarded in some years because nobody bothers to apply. Do
not perpetuate this trend. Universities will also generally have
information and contact addresses on external sources available to
students. This section summarizes some of the major sources of funding
available to all students, as well as some sources specific to entomology
Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postgraduate
Awards - Scholarships for support of M.Sc. or Ph.D. studies in all fields of
science and engineering. Awarded on the basis of academic merit and
research potential. http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/
Supplements Program -
NSERC offers annual supplements through institutional and university
partners to encourage superior students to pursue graduate studies in
selected disciplines. The Canadian Forest Service Supplements or
Systematics Research Graduate Supplements may be of interest to
entomology students. http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/
Scholarship Programs - Some provinces have graduate scholarship programs
similar to the federal NSERC program. Programs like FCAR in Quebec and
OGS in Ontario provide funding to graduate students from those
Contact: Graduate Awards office at your university.
Society of Canada Postgraduate Awards - Two awards of $2000 given annually
to Canadian students in the first year of postgraduate studies in
Society of Canada Biological
Survey of Canada Scholarship - One award of $1000 given in
alternate years to a Canadian post-graduate student carrying out a
project on insect or terrestrial arthropod faunistics in a Canadian
Society of Canada Keith Kevan Scholarship - One award given in alternate years
to a Canadian graduate student pursuing studies in insect systematics.
Society of Alberta Undergraduate Award in Entomology - An annual award of $500 given by the ESA to an undergraduate student
from a post-secondary institution in Alberta in recognition of
academic achievements in entomology.
Scholarship - One award of $500 offered annually by the Entomological Society of
Saskatchewan to a graduate student in entomology in the province of
Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship - A number of annual scholarships
sponsored by BioQuip Products (US$2000) and The Entomological
Foundation (US$1500) given to undergraduate students from the USA,
Canada or Mexico with a demonstrated interest in entomology.http://www.entfdn.org/awards_scholar_fellow.php
Memorial Research Award - Sponsored by the Entomological Foundation. Given annually to a graduate student
who has completed a thesis in the fields of arthropod morphology,
systematics, taxonomy or evolution at a recognized university. http://www.entsoc.org/awards/student/snodgrass.htm
Habitat Canada Graduate Scholarship Awards - Scholarship support for M.Sc. and
Ph.D. level students conducting graduate research in the conservation
of wildlife habitat. Students are strongly advised to contact Wildlife
Habitat Canada prior to applying to ensure that their proposed
projects are eligible for the program. http://www.whc.org
Conservation Scholarship - World Wildlife Fund Canada. Graduate scholarship for
a M.Sc. or Ph.D. student whose research deals directly with the
conservation of plants or animals at risk in Canada, or a wild habitat
recognized by the WWF as a priority for protection.
Funding for Museum Visits
Several museums have funding programs to support visits
by students or other researchers to their collections. Students wishing
to visit a particular institution to conduct research may have access to
these programs. A few examples of museum programs are listed below;
students planning to visit other museums should enquire about similar
programs at those institutions. Many institutions will help to defray
travel costs in return for authoritative curation of part of their
Canacoll Foundation - An independent, non-profit organization that provides grants for
research on the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and
Museum of Natural History Collection Study Grants - Financial assistance up to US$500
to assist predoctoral and recent postdoctoral scientists to study the
collections of the AMNH. http://research.amnh.org/grants/grantsprog.html
Awards (Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia) - Financial assistance to cover
travel and living costs for predoctoral or recent postdoctoral
graduates who wish to conduct studies in the collections of the ANSP.
Contact: Curator or research scientists in area of interest at ANSP.
Several sources of funding are available to graduate students,
predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers wishing to conduct research
in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and National Museum
of Natural History.
Funding For Research,
Fieldwork and Travel
Sources in this section cover a broader range of
activities, including laboratory and field research, conference travel,
etc. The requirements, eligibility, size and focus of these programs
vary widely. Check the individual programs for further details.
Undergraduate Student Research Awards - These awards are available to undergraduate
students who wish to gain research experience in a university of
industry laboratory. They provide up to 4 months of summer research
Society of Canada Graduate Research-Travel Grants - Two awards of up to $2000
annually given to allow students to undertake research or course work
relevant to their thesis that could not be carried out at their own
Society of British Columbia Graduate Student Scholarships - Two awards annually of $500 to allow graduate student members of the
ESBC to attend conferences other than the ESBC Annual Meeting to
present research papers or posters.
Society of Alberta Student Travel Grants - Grants to defray the costs of
attending the Entomological Society of Alberta annual meeting for
student members of the ESA.
Society of Ontario Student Travel Grants - Grants to allow graduate students
to attend the Entomological Society of Ontario annual meeting.
Nature Discovery Fund - Grants of $500-$3000 in support of efforts to discover and name
insect biodiversity. Grants are available for fieldwork to collect
specimens in poorly known regions or habitats, or for completion and
publication of existing projects. This program is administered by the
Canadian Museum of Nature.http://www.nature.ca/research/ndfund/ndfund_e.cfm
Roosevelt Memorial Grants - Administered by the American Museum of Natural
History. Support to individuals for research on North American fauna
in any phase of wildlife conservation or natural history related to
the activities of the AMNH.
Grants in Aid - Arctic Institute of North America. Support up to $500 for young
researchers, including graduate students, to defray the costs of
research in the north.
Robinson Memorial Scholarship - Arctic Institute of North America. $5000 scholarship
given annually to a graduate student in northern biology. May be used
to defray the costs of research.
Allison Scholarship - Arctic Institute of North America. $2000 scholarship given annually
to a graduate student conducting research related to northern issues
(including northern biology). http://www.arctic.ucalgary.ca/index.php?page=scholarships_awards_grants
Scientific Training Program - Administered by the Northern Studies Committee at
selected Canadian Universities on behalf of the Department of Indian
Affairs and Northern Development. Support up to $3000 for graduate
students or senior undergraduates to defray the costs of research in
de la faune du Québec - Funding to researchers and groups (including
graduate students) for projects on conservation, biodiversity and
related areas in Quebec.
Geographic Society - Research grants are given to established researchers for projects
related to the general interests of the Society. Although graduate
students are eligible to apply as principal investigators, the success
rate is very low. Postdoctoral researchers are eligible to apply. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/research/grant/rg1.html
Fund Student Research Travel Grants - Up to four grants of $1000 each
year for support of field work, museum visits or conference travel by
students of North American Dipterology. Preference is given to studies
in whole-organism biology including systematics, faunistics and
Contact: Dr. T. A. Wheeler, Chair of Grants Committee, <email@example.com>
Other Potential Funding
Most established researchers have realized that it is
necessary to explore non-traditional sources of funding to support
research projects. Graduate students have had some success with this
route as well. A few non-traditional sources of funding are listed here.
Contacts with these groups may require dealing with local
representatives, regional offices, etc. It is sometimes necessary to do
some legwork to find the right person to talk to. This is usually
frustrating, but can be very financially rewarding.
Nature Conservancy - Best known for efforts to purchase and preserve threatened habitats,
The Nature Conservancy also funds research, including graduate student
projects on biodiversity in priority habitats. Local offices of The
Nature Conservancy Canada are a logical place to start to explore
funding possibilities. Students in areas of Canada adjoining the USA
may have some success contacting The Nature Conservancy south of the
border. At least one graduate project in Canada has been partly funded
by The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. http://www.natureconservancy.ca
Groups - National, provincial and regional conservation and naturalists
groups often have pools of money available for research, especially in
threatened habitats or species. Some of these groups have a history of
supporting biodiversity and conservation research. Some leg work would
be required in finding these connections but they might be fruitful.
Contact: Search websites and newsletters of conservation and naturalists group
to see recent and ongoing activities in support of research. Contact
organizers or directors.
Growers Groups, Producers Groups - Many members of the private sector are
becoming more research-friendly. There are several examples of industry
money funding biodiversity research across the country in recent years.
Forestry, mining, ranching, crop production interests all can be
convinced, with the proper presentation of the potential benefits to
supporting research relevant to their activities, whether in
rehabilitation, increasing sustainability, impact assessment, etc.
Contact: Find someone who has been active in pursuing industry funding. Find out
what they did. Do more legwork