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David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program

The purpose of the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship is to create opportunities for leading conservation scientists to engage in innovative/novel applied research, and 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; 2) Contribute to solutions that address critical conservation problems through research and practice; and 3) Advance engagement with and understanding of conservation issues through communication, outreach, and diverse partnerships. Smith Fellows’ research and activities have long served on the cutting edge of conservation science, producing future world leaders in conservation science research and application.

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

  • Innovative and/or pioneering applied conservation research defining frontiers and leading the future of conservation science. Proposed projects should not be a direct continuation of a candidate’s PhD work. If elements of their PhD are included in the proposal, they need to articulate the new or ‘risky’ elements incorporated in the Smith proposal;
  • Developing future leaders in conservation research and application through training and mentorship;
  • Developing the future world leaders in conservation research and application through training and mentorship;
  • Building coalitions of organizations and partnerships to support conservation science;
  • 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 provide support for outstanding early-career scientists from around the globe 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 U.S and its 5 permanently inhabited territories: Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. Individuals who want to better link conservation science and theory with policy and management are encouraged to apply. We envision that the cadre of scientists supported by the Smith Fellows Program will continue to assume leadership positions across the field of conservation science.

Smith Fellows are awarded two years of support for applied research in conservation science and closely related fields, including conservation social science. Research may include approaches such as comparative studies, synthetic analyses across sites, experimentation or observational studies, applied modeling, incorporation of social science data, or any combination. In all cases, the central questions of the inquiry must be clearly articulated. Proposed study site(s) must be identified; and an explanation and plan for how the results inform conservation practice is required. For a strong proposal, this explanation should include specifics for how the applicant will work with a broad array of partners and collaborators to ‘apply’ this work.

Each applicant proposes a team of at least two mentors to work closely with them during their Fellowship including: providing an ‘institutional home’ for the Fellow, helping with research design, connecting the Fellow and their research to practical applications, supporting the Fellow’s professional development as a conservation scientist, and helping to build research skills, collaborations, and networks. At least one of the mentors should have a primary focus on conservation practice and will help connect the Fellow’s research to practical applications and provide insight into the management and policy implications of the work. The mentor team is integral to the Fellow’s and project success, and mentors are expected to be an active part of the proposed research plan and to meet with Fellows regularly to help shape and guide the work.

Fellows may be administratively based at either the sponsoring academic institution or a conservation organization and are typically based at the location of either the academic or practitioner mentor. We encourage applicants to explore all options to determine which would be more suitable to the proposed research and beneficial to their continued development as a scientist.

More about the organizations supporting the Fellowship:

Funded by the Cedar Tree Foundation (CTF), and hosted by its administrative partner, the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), The David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program (The Smith Fellowship) was founded in 1998 on a bold vision to bridge conservation science and practice by supporting the development of promising early career conservation scientists and their research. A prestigious two-year post-doctoral research fellowship, the Program recruits and funds high-caliber, early career scientists at the post doctorate level to conduct research that contributes to critical knowledge and applications for pressing problems in U.S. conservation science.

Please click here for the full Mission Statement and to learn more.

Values: The Smith Fellows Program values respect and dignity for all. The Smith Fellows Program recognizes that the advancement and excellence of conservation biology is intertwined with and relies on a commitment to greater access and inclusion of humans of many views, vantage points, identities, lived experiences, and geographies who actively participate in conservation with equal opportunity and access across all levels of the Fellowship experience. As a Program and community, the Smith Fellows Program welcomes diversity of all types and prioritizes equity, inclusion, and belonging. Likewise, as an entity promoting an evidence-based approach, we recognize and embrace multiple ways of knowing, including traditional ecological knowledge, community science, local knowledge, and Western science.

The Smith Fellows Program and its administrative host, the Society for Conservation Biology, are committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and invite individuals who bring a diversity of lived experience and ideas to apply. We believe diversity promotes innovation and is essential to addressing complex conservation challenges, leading to more just, equitable and effective conservation goals and outcomes. We are committed to an inclusive environment, ensuring that everyone connected to the program feels valued, supported, and empowered to thrive. Our commitment to DEIB extends to all aspects of the Program, including recruitment, selection, support, and advancement of our Fellows.

Eligibility and Award Terms

To be eligible, individuals must have completed their doctorate within the five years preceding their award date, or by the time the award is made in 2025. For the 2025-2026 Fellowship, applicants must have completed their doctorate after March 1, 2020 and before September 30, 2025 to be eligible. Applicants who have not yet completed their doctorate must clearly indicate on the application the date the degree is expected.

The Fellowship must be administered by a U.S. based institution, but U.S. citizenship is not required. The research must have primary relevance to conservation management or policy as it is practiced in the U.S and its 5 permanently inhabited territories: Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. The majority of the work must take place on site within these locations, including relevant local partnerships. Each Fellow will receive an annual salary of $70,000 in 2025 and $72,100 in 2026, plus benefits, with the post-doctoral position expected to run for two consecutive years. In addition to the stipend, each Fellow receives a travel and research budget of $40,000 over the 2-year fellowship period.

Fellows will spend three weeks per year during their fellowship attending Program-sponsored professional development retreats (a total of six weeks of on-site professional development across the duration of the Fellowship). These retreats are a core aspect of the Fellowship experience, and participation is required. These retreats provide opportunities to cultivate skills not typically covered during their academic education including: leadership, communications, professional and funder networking, policy-making, and research applications. Fellows are expected to pursue the 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 host institution or organization is responsible for administration of salary and benefits, as well as visa sponsorship if needed. 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.

Individuals needing a U.S. visa must work with their host institution to ensure they can live and work in the U.S. throughout the 2-year Fellowship. The Smith Fellows program does not provide visa sponsorships.

Click here to learn about the Smith Fellowship and to see a complete breakdown of the proposal guidelines.



1. Register

Click on the "Register" link and complete and submit the registration form. 

2. Login

Login to the proposal submission platform with your email and password.

3. Create

Create your online application. For a list of required information and attachments, please review the Proposal Guidelines

4. Save

During the Request for Proposals period, your application can be saved as DRAFT until all the required information is completed and attachments uploaded. As each section is complete, you will see a appear in the category tab when the application is saved. At any time, you can download and print your application by clicking on the icon in the Application Summary section.

5. Submit

On completion, save your proposal as FINAL. Download and print a copy of your application for your records by clicking on the icon in the Application Summary section in the right column. Note: If an update is required prior to the deadline, you can make the update and resave as FINAL.

If you require assistance or additional information, please contact the Program Staff - smithfellows@conbio.org

Contact Us

David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship
Society for Conservation Biology
1133 15th Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005 USA
Phone: 1-202-234-4133 x101
Email:   smithinfo@conbio.org
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