Smith Fellows

Proposal Guidelines

2014 Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship in Conservation Research

Bridging the Gap Between Research and Application

Eligibility and Award Terms
Application Materials
Deadlines and Contact Info
Selection Criteria, Process, and Notification

Important dates

All applications materials must be received by September 20, 2013. Interviews will be conducted in January 2014. Unsuccessful candidates will be notified of the status of their application by January 31, 2014. Funds are available for Fellows to start anytime between March and September 2014.

About the Fellowship

The purpose of the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship is: To create opportunities for leading conservation biologists to strengthen their skills through two years of applied post-doctoral research, supplemented by training programs, peer networking, and field learning experiences; so that they may: 1. Build productive partnerships with conservation practitioners; and 2. Contribute and communicate scientific knowledge to problems of critical importance in conservation.

The focus of Smith Fellows’ research and activities should be characterized by:

  • Cutting edge research in conservation biology;
  • Defining frontiers and leading the future of conservation biology;
  • Developing the future world leaders in conservation biology research and application through training and mentorship;
  • Building coalitions of organizations and partnerships to support conservation biology;
  • Supporting and encouraging high-potential individuals to accept risk as a component of change and leadership and thus make significant change in the world.

These Fellowships enable outstanding early-career scientists based at a United States institution to improve and expand their research skills while directing their efforts towards problems of pressing conservation concern for the United States. The Program encourages individuals to apply who want to better link conservation science and theory with pressing policy and management applications. We envision that the cadre of scientists supported by the Smith Fellows Program eventually will assume leadership positions across the field of conservation science. The Program is funded by the Cedar Tree Foundation, founded by Dr. David H. Smith, and administered by the Society For Conservation Biology.

Smith Fellows are awarded two years of support for applied research in the field of biological conservation and closely related fields. Each Fellow is mentored by; 1) an academic mentor, typically at an academic institution, who encourages the Fellow's continued academic development, and 2) a field or practitioner mentor who helps the Fellow connect her/his research to practical conservation challenges.  The practitioner mentor is typically affiliated with a conservation organization (government agency, non-governmental organization, or other non-academic conservation organization) with expertise and experience in “on-the-ground” application of conservation science. Fellows may be administratively based at either the sponsoring academic institution or conservation organization, typically the location of either the academic or practitioner mentor.

Eligibility and Award Terms

To be eligible individuals must have completed their doctorate within the past five years or by the time the award is made in 2014. Applicants who have not yet completed their doctorate must clearly indicate on the application the date the degree is expected.

Each Fellow will receive an annual salary of $50,000 plus benefits, with the post-doctoral position expected to run for two consecutive years. In addition to the stipend, each Fellow receives a travel budget of $8,000 and a research fund of $32,000 over the 2-year fellowship period.

Fellows will spend up to three weeks per year during their fellowship attending Program-sponsored professional development retreats each year. These retreats provide opportunities to cultivate skills typically not covered during their academic education including: leadership, communications, professional and funder networks, and to gain better understanding of policy making and application of research. Fellows are expected to pursue their research outlined in their proposal on a full-time basis.

Fellows are employed either by their sponsoring academic institution or conservation organization, typically the location of either their academic or practitioner mentor. The Program will provide up to 5% of the total direct costs as overhead reimbursement to the host organization. Second-year renewal of the fellowship is contingent upon satisfactory progress (including but not limited to participation in Program sponsored retreats) as well as timely completion of first-year activity and financial reports.

Application Materials

All materials must be submitted electronically to All files should be submitted in PDF or MS Word format. You may submit materials in separate files or all in one file (all in one file and PDF preferred). Please include your last name in some part of the file name. Letters sent on your behalf should include your last name and the sender’s last name in some part of the file name. Please do not *lock* PDF documents as they will be merged with other application materials (such as recommendation letters) to make review more convenient. Many Universities will offer to submit entire proposals on an applicant's behalf. We are accustomed to receiving proposals directly from the applicant and prefer to do it this way. The only item that should come directly from the University/other sponsoring institution is the indirect cost waiver (item 7. below).

Literature cited is not included in the 8-page limit. Research approaches may include comparative studies, synthetic analyses across sites, experimentation or observational studies, applied modeling, or any combination. Proposed research may include intensive work at one site, work at multiple sites, or comparative evaluations of studies by other scientists across many sites. In all cases, the central questions of the inquiry must be clearly articulated. Proposed study sites must be noted; an explanation of how the results will inform conservation practice is required. The research plan (excluding literature cited) must not under any circumstances exceed 8 pages. Font size must be at least 11 point; margins must be at least 2.5 cm; line spacing must be at least 1.5. The cover letter, literature cited, personal statement, and curriculum vitae are not included in the 8-page limit for the research plan. Deviations from these requirements may be grounds for disqualification.

  1. Cover letter: Applicants should provide a compelling narrative of her/his interest in conservation, evidence of leadership and innovation, and how the fellowship could facilitate a unique and interdisciplinary plan for professional development. Applicants should not use cover letters to restate or extend material presented in the proposal, personal statement, and vita. Thoughtful, well-crafted cover letters improve the likelihood that competitive proposals will be identified during the initial stages of proposal evaluation.
  2. Title Page: Include applicant's name, contact information, project title, academic sponsor and research institution, reference names and institutions, and conservation practitioner sponsor (if known).
  3. Research Plan: The 8-page research plan should include the following:
    1. abstract,
    2. background section,
    3. statement of objectives,
    4. approaches and methods,
    5. anticipated results,
    6. research schedule,
    7. relevance to conservation science and practice
  4. Applicant’s Curriculum Vitae.
  5. Personal Statement: Please address the following questions (<200 words each):
    1. Give an example(s) of an accomplishment you believe demonstrates your leadership skills or entrepreneurial abilities.
    2. How is your research “cutting edge” or innovative?
    3. What will be the greatest impact of your research? Who or what will be most greatly affected?
  6. Letters:
    1. Three (3) letters of recommendation addressing the merits of the candidate and the candidate’s proposal. Letters should be written by individuals familiar with the applicant's skills, experience, and research. Letters should emphasize the qualifications of the applicant, in particular any unique abilities to contribute significantly to conservation science and practice. Each letter writer must submit an electronic copy of their letter to It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that reference letters are submitted by the deadline.
    2. Sponsor Support Letter: Letter from the sponsoring scientist expressing their commitment to support the applicant’s research and to encourage her/his professional development as a conservation scientist. The sponsor’s letter should verify the availability of laboratory/office space, libraries and other relevant institutional resources, and describe how the applicant’s research relates to the sponsor’s ongoing research.
    3. Sponsor’s Abbreviated Curriculum Vitae: A 2-page version of the sponsoring scientist’s CV (similar to that required by NSF).
    4. Support letter from practitioner mentor: If a conservation practitioner has already agreed to serve as a mentor, s/he should submit a letter expressing their support and describing how the proposed research will benefit conservation efforts. Applicants who arrange for mentors before submission provide the review panel with strong evidence of initiative and leadership.
  7. Indirect cost waiver: A letter verifying that the sponsoring institution will waive indirect costs in excess of 5%. Request the waiver early to ensure your application will be complete by the deadline. This item may be submitted via fax to 703.995.4633 or email.

Deadlines and Contact Information

All application materials, including letters from sponsors and references, must be received by Society for Conservation Biology to by 5pm EST on September 20, 2013. The selection process begins immediately after this date. There are no extensions to this deadline and incomplete applications may be disqualified. Questions about the application process may be directed to the Smith Fellows Program at

Selection Criteria, Process, and Notification

Fellows are selected according to four criteria: 1) professional record, 2) perceived potential for innovation and leadership, 3) commitment to biological conservation, and 4) the strength of their proposal. An ideal Smith Fellow is an innovative, practical-minded researcher with strong leadership potential. S/he will have excellent communication skills and a keen interest in applied research that improves conservation practice. The ideal proposal will clearly articulate concepts and objectives that are both innovative and feasible. The Fellowship funders require that the Fellow be based at a U.S. institution and that the research be primarily conducted in the U.S. However, U.S. citizenship is not required.

Proposal evaluation will emphasize clarity of thought and evidence of leadership potential. A broad spectrum of external research scientists and other conservation professionals initially conduct written reviews of all applications. A separately convened review panel selects a pool of semi-finalists deemed eligible for interviews. Personal interviews are then conducted before making the final selection.

Unsuccessful candidates will be notified of the status of their application by January 31, 2014. Because of staff limitations we are unable to provide a written critique of proposals. Funds are available for Fellows to start between 1 March and 1 September 2014 at the Fellow’s discretion.