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“Rediscovering natural history. Embracing social sciences. Looking beyond academia for knowledge. Using humans as the focal points of ecological studies and animals as the observers. Adopting technologies once reserved for the CIA and NASA and biotech corporations. All of these relatively recent additions to an ecologist’s repertoire are collectively stretching and pushing the science into all sorts of new directions”

— Sagarin & Pauchard 2012, Observation and Ecology

The Rafe Sagarin Fund for Innovative Ecology, in collaboration with the Western Society of Naturalists, provides funding for creative research that includes a strong element of observational ecology. Funds are available for actual research costs, such as salaries, field and laboratory equipment, consumable supplies, computer time, usage fees, and research travel costs. The application deadline will be annually at Midnight on December 1st (Pacific Time).


Rafe with critter

Applicant must be a full time graduate student enrolled in a formal degree program or a postdoctoral scholar at an accredited university. There are no citizenship restrictions and students from all countries are eligible.
Previous award winners are ineligible.
Membership in the Western Society of Naturalists is required during the year of application (graduate students receive a discounted rate of $5/year).


At least one award of up to $2,500 US is available to support research to begin within the year following the WSN meeting (in-progress research is also eligible). Award recipients are strongly encouraged to present their research findings at a subsequent WSN meeting and will be offered free registration to one meeting to facilitate sharing of their results.

Award winners will be required to submit a picture, short one-paragraph biography, and short one-paragraph project summary for posting on the WSN and Rafe Sagarin Fund websites prior to receipt of the award monies.
A written 1–2 page report for a general audience is required one year after award receipt. Videos or other creative products are also strongly encouraged.


The full call for proposals, including detailed instructions, is available here.


  1. Cover page with the following information: proposal title, applicant name, affiliation, mailing address, email address, and phone number. Include a listing of no more than FIVE keywords that describe the proposed research.
  2. The proposal must explicitly address the questions below, somewhere within a two-page limit. The specific format of the proposal is up to you.
    1. What motivates and inspires you to pursue your project idea?
    2. What are the project goals and methods?
    3. What roles do observational ecology and discovery play in the project?
    4. What makes your approach unique, innovative, bold and/or risky?
    5. What is the timeline of completion for the specific elements to be aided by this fund and the entire project?
    6. What scholarly and creative impacts and products will result from the research?
    7. How might your work inspire new ways of viewing the world over the longer term?

    Please note that the proposal should be clear and accessible for a broad audience of ecologists; jargon should be avoided. A list of references cited and any figures or tables are NOT included in the two-page limit.

    Applicants should also submit:

  3. A line-item budget and brief budget justification that outlines how the grant funds will be used.
  4. A curriculum vitae of the applicant’s academic background. Please do not send reprints.
  5. A list of current and pending financial support for all projects that the applicant is involved with.
  6. One letter of recommendation from the applicant’s research advisor. Letter must be emailed separately by the advisor and received by the application deadline (Email to: apply@rafeinnovativeecologyfund.org). Please do not send additional letters of recommendation.


Applications must be submitted in PDF format as a single document that includes items #1–5 above.
Please entitle the document as: lastname_firstname_sagarin_year.pdf

Email to: apply@rafeinnovativeecologyfund.org

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Completed applications must be received no later than 11:59 pm (PDT) on December 1st. NO exceptions. Please apply early and avoid the deadline rush. You will be sent email confirmation of receipt of your complete application within 7 days. You will next be contacted by email in March or April following your submission to announce whether you were chosen for the award.

For further information contact:
Kim Selkoe
Selection Committee Chair, Rafe Sagarin Fund for Innovative Ecology
Email: apply@rafeinnovativeecologyfund.org