Federal agencies fund the bulk of research work in the U.S.  In FY 2009 six agencies accounted for 93 percent of total Federal basic and applied research funding.  In order of spending, these six agencies are Health and Human Services (~ $29.5 billion,  Dept of Energy (~6.4 billion) Dept.of Defense ($6.1 billion), NSF ($4.7 billion),  NASA($1.9 billion ), and the Department of Agriculture ($1.9 billion).   Within the Dept. of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health account for 97% of basic and applied research spending.   This page summarizes the major sources of agency funding in the fields of biology, ecology and wildland resources. 

 

Solicited Funding by Agency  Click the agency title to go to a particular section.

 

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Department of Commerce (NOAA)

Department of Defense

Department of Education

Department of Energy

Department of Health and Human Services (NIH, CDC)

Department of Interior

Department of State

Environmental Protection Agency

NASA

National Science Foundation

U.S. Agency for International Development

 

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is comprised of a number of agencies.  However, most research funding for biologists, ecologists and natural resource specialists will come through NIFA. But it is worth keeping USFS and NRCS in mind too.

  1. Formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides support for research and extension activities at land-grant institutions through grants to the states on the basis of statutory formulas. Eligibility is limited mostly to land-grant institutions such as USU.  Click here for a list of competitive grants through NIFA.   Here’s an FAQ for those writing grant proposals to NIFA. And here is the USDA Strategic Plan FY 2010-2015 (including 2012 update). 
  1. U.S. Forest Service.  Notable for 2011 are the National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost Share Grant Program and the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant.  Look for announcements on Grants.gov. The Forest Service is active internationally as well.   A bit dated, but worth looking at is A Guide to Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships in International Forestry and Natural Resources. 
  1. Natural Resources Conservation Service supports Conservation Innovation through a grant program by the same name. Other programs of interest that provide technical and financial support are listed here.  All NRCS competitive grants and cooperative agreements are posted on Grants.Gov.

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Department of Commerce (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sits within the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Grant programs are not described in one place but under the various offices/divisions of NOAA.  

Of particular interest:   NOAA's Office of Education advances public environmental literacy and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through the Environmental Literacy Grants (ELG) Program.  The ELG Program is a competitive grants program that supports formal and informal/non-formal education projects implemented on regional to national scales.  All Office of Education Funding Announcements can be found here.  Click here for NOAA’s Education Strategic Plan  2009-2029. 

The Climate Program Office both conducts and supports climate research, observations, modeling, information management, assessments, interdisciplinary decision support research, outreach, education, and stakeholder partnership development.  Current CPO grant opportunities may be viewed here.  

Use Grants.gov to find all funding opportunities. Click here for NOAA’s Next Generation Strategic  Plan.

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Department of Defense

SERDP and ESTCP  are the Department of Defense's environmental research programs.  Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) is an environmental science and technology program, planned and executed in partnership with DOE and EPA, with participation by numerous other federal and non-federal organizations.   SERDP issues two annual solicitations. 1) The Core Solicitation seeks proposals for basic and applied research, and advanced technology development. Core projects vary in cost and duration, consistent with the scope of the work proposed. 2)The SERDP Exploratory Development (SEED) program is designed to investigate innovative approaches that entail high technical risk or require supporting data to provide proof of concept.  SERDP issues two annual solicitations.

The Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) is DoD’s environmental technology demonstration and validation program. ESTCP also issues an annual solicitation.  2011 funding will be awarded to demonstrate and validate technologies for treatment of perchlorate-contaminated groundwater used for drinking water in the Inland Empire region of Southern California.

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Department of Education (ED)

The Department of Education sponsors discretionary grants and cooperative agreements. Most seem to be geared toward elementary education and/or underserved populations.  See the Guide to U.S. Department of Education Funding.   If you are interested in collaboration with a distance campus with a large minority population, you might find money through a ED program. The Office of Postsecondary Education administers programs that address critical national needs in support of postsecondary education.  The mission of the Institute for Education Science is to provide rigorous and relevant evidence on which to ground education practice and policy. Current IES grant competitions are listed here.  

Grantmaking at ED is a pdf that includes a section on how to apply for discretionary grants and cooperative agreements and an explanation of the review process.  A list of currently open grant competitions can be found here.  The various program offices publish notices in the Federal Register to announce that they are soliciting applications for new discretionary grant competitions. Opportunities are also listed on Grants.gov.

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Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) conducts research in the areas of Climate and Environmental Sciences and Biological Systems Science. The BER  program seeks to understand how genomic information is translated to functional capabilities, enabling more confident redesign of microbes and plants for sustainable biofuel production, improved carbon storage, or contaminant bioremediation. Further, BER research advances understanding of the roles of Earth’s biogeochemical systems (the atmosphere, land, oceans, sea ice, and subsurface) in determining climate so we can predict climate decades or centuries into the future, information needed to plan for future energy and resource needs.Click here to see current BER funding opportunities.  

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Department of Health and Human Services (NIH, CDC)

Both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  are part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

  1. The total budget of the NIH is over 4 times as large as NSF.  It goes without saying there are a lot of opportunities for biologists.  Ecologists might want to check the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for the occasional announcement appropriate for their work or a partnership that would include their work.   For example, there is currently an opportunity called Climate Change and Health:  Assessing and Modeling Population Vulnerability to Climate Change.

    NIH accepts both solicited and non-solicited grant applications through a variety of mechanisms.  Click here to search for solicited funding opportunities in all categories.  Additional grant information and resources can be found here.  The NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts is the official publication for NIH medical and behavioral research grant policies, guidelines and funding opportunities.You can subscribe to an NIH funding opportunities RSS feed, which includes both solicitations (RFAs) and Program Announcements (PAs) here.  You can also follow  NIH funding opportunities on Twitter.
  2. Within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention awards nearly 85% of its ~$10 billion budget through grants and contracts to help accomplish its mission to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury and disability.   Go to Grants.gov to find opporunities.   Click here to see useful information on finding and applying for CDC grants.   

 

Department of Interior

Department of the Interior opportunities are listed on Grants.gov (Bureau of Indian Affairs, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, Office of Surface Mining, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USGS)

  1. Bureau of Land Management works primarily through cooperative agreements within a wide variety of natural and cultural resource categories including invasive species, environmental education, biological surveys, archaeology and conservation.  The BLM also engages with University researchers through Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit (CESU) agreements.    USU is a partner of 3 different CESU’s:   Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Rocky Mountains.  Click here for an explanation of how CESU’s work.

  2. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service  Most granting programs target state and local governments, conservation organizations and private individuals.  The most promising programs for possible university funding that I found are: Division of Bird Habitat Conservation:  The Standard Grants Program supports projects in Canada, the United States, and Mexico that involve long-term protection, restoration, and/or enhancement of wetlands and associated uplands habitats. In Mexico, partners may also conduct projects involving technical training, environmental education and outreach, organizational infrastructure development, and sustainable-use studies.  

    The Small Grants Program operates only in the United States; it supports the same type of projects and adheres to the same selection criteria and administrative guidelines as the Standard Grants Program. However, project activities are usually smaller in scope and involve fewer project dollars. Grant requests may not exceed $75,000, and funding priority is given to grantees or partners new to the program.

    International activities can be funded through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s International Affairs office.  This office supports work on critically endangered species, amphibians, elephants, great apes, marine turtles, rhino and tiger AND supports work in specific regions (Africa, LAC, Mexico, China, India and Russia).

  1. National Park Service. Like the BLM, the NPS works primarily through cooperative agreements.  Look for announcements on  Grants.gov.  NPS also arranges for University researchers through Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit (CESU) agreements.  USU is a partner within 3 different CESU’s:  Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Rocky Mountains. Click here for an explanation of how CESU’s work.

 

  1. U.S. Geological Survey.  Annual USGS Federal Assistance Program Announcements are listedhere.   Solicitations are also announced on Grants.gov.

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Department of State

The Department of State administers the Fulbright international exchange program.

There are three Fulbright programs of interest to U.S. researchers. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program sends American scholars and professionals abroad to lecture and/or conduct research for up to a year.

The Fulbright Specialist Program sends U.S. faculty and professionals to serve as expert consultants on curriculum, faculty development, institutional planning, and related subjects at overseas academic institutions for a period of 2 to 6 weeks. Eligible disciplines include Environmental Science, Agriculture, and Biology Education.?

The Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program and Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program bring foreign scholars to lecture and/or conduct post-doctoral research for up to a year at U.S. colleges and universities.

There are also Fulbrights available for non-US scholars. Click here to see information on Core Scholar, Fulbright Nexus Regional Scholar, and Occasional Lecturer Programs.

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Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers a number of grant  programs related to water, air, climate, wastes and pollution, ecosystems, human health and green living.  Click here to see more on EPA Grants and Fellowships.  Click here for a list of open announcements.

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NASA

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate will sponsor scientific research on questions that require viewing earth from space. These questions may involve atmosphere composition, weather, carbon cycle and ecosystems, water and energy cycles, climate variability and change, and the earth surface and interior.  Click here for current questions of interest and a link to NASA’s Science Strategy.

NSPIRES is the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System. This web-based system supports the entire lifecycle of NASA research solicitation and awards, from the release of solicitation announcements through the peer review and selection process, to awards management and publication of research results. Click here to access NSPIRES.  Click here to access NSPIRES tutorials, including ones on how to sign up for email notifications and how to write proposals for NASA.

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National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. NSF’s mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences.  In addition to research, NSF funds the procurement and development of instrumentation, conferences and workshops, dissertation research in selected areas, international travel and graduate fellowships. 

Proposals may be submitted in response to program descriptions, announcements or solicitations. To search for solicitations using specific keywords click here.   At any time, scientists are also welcome to send in unsolicited proposals for research and education projects, in any existing or emerging field. The Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPP) provides guidance on proposal preparation and submission and award management.

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U.S. Agency for International Development

U.S. Agency for International Development
USAID considers the U.S. higher education community as a valued partner in international development.  USAID’s programs in natural resource management are closely linked with programs to improve health, increase agricultural productivity, mitigate or adapt to climate change.  A map of countries where USAID provides assistance can be found by clicking here. See the USAID web site for more information on current priorities. 

The majority of USAID funding is competitively awarded through specific requests or invitations such as Requests for Proposals, Requests for Applications, Invitations for Bids, and Annual Program Statements.   Look for grant opportunities on grants.gov.  Look for more formal types of contract opportunities on FedBizOpps.gov

USAID will not support proposals that operate only in the U.S. and will not fund     infrastructure development in the U.S. Concept papers and proposals that apply the understanding of USAID development goals and objectives (specifically sector, country strategies) will be more competitive than those do not.

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