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“Even the most staid and traditional university ecology departments are now finding their ranks filled with students and young professors looking towards economics, law, public policy, and anthropology to guide their inquiries… As an ever-larger set of variables becomes available for examination, the opportunities for serendipitous discovery of something completely unexpected are as great as they were when Darwin sailed around the world on the Beagle.”

— Sagarin & Pauchard 2012, Observation and Ecology

Rafe transect


Rafe Sagarin’s research interests were incredibly broad, and proposals are invited from a similar breadth of disciplines and approaches. Rafe championed the importance of rediscovering natural history, and applications are encouraged from students whose research is grounded solidly in the natural history of marine, freshwater, or terrestrial organisms.

Since Rafe’s conception of observational ecology encompassed more than traditional natural history, the fund especially invites proposals for interdisciplinary inquiry that integrate natural history in creative ways with one or more of the following:

  • historical data, including that gathered from unconventional sources
  • social sciences
  • remote sensing, remote video, and other technologies
  • education and public outreach
  • citizen science
  • molecular tools
  • the arts

Overall, the fund seeks to build on Rafe’s legacy by supporting graduate student and postdoctoral research to address important ecological and/or societal questions through observational approaches applied in novel, creative, and (last, but not least) fun ways.