Resilience and Sustainability Science Postdoctoral Fellowship

Last year, the Smithsonian announced the launch of Our Shared Future: Life on a Sustainable Planet, through which the Institution aims to promote evidence-based decision-making, working in concert with local communities to address the climate crisis.

Life on a Sustainable Planet will use the Institution’s 176-year history of scientific research and data gathering across a global network of research centers, its expansive museum collection, and its diverse set of exhibits and educational programs to produce, curate and communicate evidence-based strategies for adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change to the public. The Institution will pioneer new technologies to collect environmental data, develop new platforms to analyze and share these data and work with partners and communities to inform conservation action.

Life on a Sustainable Planet, in part, is supported by the Adrienne Arsht Community-Based Resilience Solutions Initiative, which in turn, is funding an inaugural cohort of resilience fellows, working across several Smithsonian units and with outside partners, to use our collections to understand resilience in nature better, and to strengthen connections between our collections and the latest scientific innovations. In this “living laboratory,” scientists will study how we can use fundamental knowledge of nature-based resilience solutions in ecological systems such as tropical rainforests to help create resilient communities and to devise and field-test solutions.

Through the Resilience and Sustainability Fellowship, the Smithsonian seeks to support five post-doctoral fellows and two Ocean Nexus-STRI* post-doctoral fellows as they conduct independent research in the spirit of the Smithsonian’s wide-ranging research effort and in support of the Smithsonian’s goals to understand and expand resilience. These fellows will be able to leverage the Smithsonian’s resources, including its scientists, collections, exhibits, and data sets, to advance scientific understanding resilience and sustainability in either marine or terrestrial systems.

Deadline: August 31, 2023. 
Notification Date: Fall 2023
Term: 24 months (in residence); 36 months for Ocean Nexus-STRI* fellows
Stipend: Recipients will receive a stipend of $62,000 per year for Postdoctoral Fellows. Stipends are prorated for periods of less than 24 months. A maximum research allowance of $16,000 per year (up to $32,000) is available for the fellowship period. Fellows will also receive cohort-style training opportunities throughout their fellowship. Travel to trainings and workshops will be supported by STRI and NMNH.

All proposals are welcome, but proposals should focus on the resilience and sustainability connecting complex marine or terrestrial systems (e.g., forests, freshwater systems, soils, etc.) with the people who depend on these systems and the services these systems provide. By resilience, we mean the ability of people and nature to respond and/or adapt to external stressors. As such, proposals must address at least two of the following:

  • Socio-environmental external stressors as drivers of change
  • Socio-environmental factors that influence the ability to adapt or that convey resilience
  • Adaptive strategies
  • Adaptive responses/outcomes

Importantly, proposals must also demonstrate that the research:

  • is use-inspired;
  • clearly relates to or informs solutions to current global environmental challenges; and
  • includes a diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) component.

Applications may be focused on any number of a broad set of natural or social science disciplines (inclusive of, but no limited to: animal behavior, anthropology, archeology, chemical ecology, conservation biology, ecology, economics, evolutionary biology, functional genomics, geography microbial ecology, molecular biology, marine biology, natural history, neurobiology, paleoecology, paleontology, physiology, political economy, political ecology, public policy, sensory ecology, sociology, soils sciences, taxonomy, etc.).

Research proposals should be constructed and submitted with two advisors:

  • One primary research advisor from STRI or NMNH (depending on where the proposed research is based), and
  • A second advisor from another organization or Smithsonian Unit. In the case of the STRI-Ocean Nexus fellows, the second advisor must be from the Ocean Nexus program.
*The two (2), 3-year Ocean Nexus-STRI fellows will have advisors from Ocean Nexus and STRI, with a specific focus on inclusion of underrepresented communities such as women and BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) individuals. Applicants to this fellowship, in addition to the fields specified above, can include those with a background in critical gender and race studies, or other fields that have been historically less represented in ecology and ocean science. Fellows will receive specific training in public policy analysis and critical theory and will be expected to spend time both at STRI and at an Ocean Nexus partner institute. All interested ocean-focused fellows will be considered for Ocean Nexus-specific training courses.

We particularly encourage the following:

  • Proposals with a second advisor from the private sector, civil society, or the public sector
  • Research that takes advantage of the facilities and capacities of STRI and/or NMNH, including Smithsonian collections, to better understand resilience in nature and human communities, and to strengthen connections between Smithsonian collections and the latest interdisciplinary research innovations
  • Proposals that include comparative research across tropical countries and/or collaborations with other Smithsonian units and museums

What other opportunities are there for Resilience and Sustainability Fellows?

STRI has established collaborative agreements with the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC) for use of its research vessel, the S/Y Eugen Seibold. For further information on the MPIC vessel please click here. Additionally, the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) vessel, the Falkor Too, will be in the vicinity of Panama in 2024 and may be available pending application; for information on this vessel, please click here.

Fellows interested in pursuing vessel time opportunities will have the option to indicate this on their application and will be required to specify how they would use vessel time and how it contributes to their overall proposal. Being selected as a Fellow will not depend on your confirmation of approval of vessel time. (For questions about S/Y Eugen Seibold vessel operations and capabilities, please contact Aaron O’Dea:


Applicants for Postdoctoral Fellowships must have or will have received the Ph.D. by the time the fellowship begins. Applicants must propose to conduct research in residence.

How to Apply

Apply Through the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment System (SOLAA). Select "Start Your Application" and only enter the program name. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Go to:
  2. Select "New to SOLAA?” Complete the information to create an account.
  3. Once you create your account and provide the information required, you can select the type of appointment. Choose as follows: 4
  4. Program Type: "Fellowship"
  5. Unit of interest: "Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute" or "National Museum of Natural History"
  6. Program: "STRI Sustainability and Resilience Science Postdoctoral Fellowship"
    • Fill in the application questions
    • Upload the required documents
    • Request reference letters, giving sufficient time for referees to submit them. It is your responsibility to send the email request to your recommenders and check in the system that the letters have been submitted.

Application Materials

The SOLAA application will allow you to upload the following files types (there is a 3MB limit and only the following types of documents are supported: .bmp, .doc, .docx, .gif, .jpeg, .jpg, .pdf, .png, .rtf, .tif, .tiff, .txt, .xls, and .xlsx):

The complete application should include the following information:

  • A detailed research proposal (summary [one page] + project description [5-page maximum]):
    • The one-page project summary should provide an overview of the proposed research and broader impact. The project description should provide clear description of research and broader impact, and must not exceed a maximum 5 pages total, font size 12 pts, single spaced on 8 ½ x 11 paper size.
    • The project description must include objectives, hypotheses or research question(s), experimental design, significance, and a broader impacts engagement plan.
  • A max. 1 page information sheet about the proposed external advisor and their institution, and how this proposed research aligns with the institution’s goals.
  • If relevant, a max. 1 page statement indicating why they would like to be considered for one of the 3-year collaborative fellowships with the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center.
  • A detailed annual budget. The annual research/travel allowance is not expected to exceed $16,000.00 (or up to $32,000 for the entire fellowship).
  • Bibliography: The References Cited section is limited to 3 pages.
  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • A max. 1 page diversity statement that aligns with Smithsonian (a statement that reflects your views and experience in working towards the goal of promoting a diverse, inclusive, collegial, and rigorous scientific workplace; and how these views relate to your research project and expected outcomes). For guidance on the preparation of this statement, please click here.
  • Two letters of reference (should not be from your proposed co-advisors)
  • Applicants must designate a staff member from STRI or NMNH (and from Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus if they are applying for that program) to serve as a research advisor, and a secondary advisor from another institution or another Smithsonian Unit (STRI-Ocean Nexus fellows will not need a second advisor from the Smithsonian). Both the primary and secondary advisors must be consulted during the proposal construction process, and before the application is submitted. STRI Staff members are listed here, NMNH staff members are listed here, and Ocean Nexus PIs can be found here.
  • Applicants must indicate if they are interested in exploring research vessel opportunities, and if so, to provide a brief statement on:
    • How they would use vessel time and how it contributes to their overall proposal.
    • Whether or not they have initiated the process to secure vessel time.

How are fellows selected? Selection criteria will include:

  • Alignment with the theme of resilience, as described in this document
  • Effective demonstration that proposed research is use-inspired
  • Demonstrated interdisciplinary effort (e.g., through the external partner and other collaborators, inclusive of people and nature, innovative methodologies, etc.)
  • Clear commitment to DEI

Applicants will be informed in Fall 2023.

Awards are based upon merit, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, age, or condition of handicap of the applicant. Proposals received after the application deadline will not be considered. Incomplete applications will be eliminated.

For more information, please send an email to

Tax Information

This information is being offered as a courtesy only for fellows and interns. Fellows and interns are solely responsible for determining their own tax liability and complying with all applicable tax laws and reporting obligations.

  • Neither the Smithsonian, on behalf of STRI, nor the Republic of Panama withholds taxes on any fellowship awards. This is because fellows are performing their own, independent research and are neither treated as employees or contractors of the Smithsonian.
  • US citizens: Payment of income tax is a personal obligation of each individual. The Internal Revenue Service of the United States (IRS) specifies that all income of citizens and residents of the USA, and their spouses if filing jointly, that is generated from fellowship or internship appointments is reportable.
  • Smithsonian stipend recipients who are U.S. citizens or residents will NOT receive an IRS tax form (W-2 or 1099) from the Smithsonian because they are not employees of or contractors for the Smithsonian. Stipend recipients are responsible, however, for including the entire award (stipend, travel, and research allowances) in their income tax return for each full or partial tax year during which he/she received an award. U.S. citizens who reside in the U.S. will receive a Financial Statement from the Smithsonian that includes the amount of the stipend paid but this is for the fellow or intern’s personal records and is not submitted to the IRS. U.S. Citizens who reside in Panama will not receive a Financial Statement unless they request one. Persons who are residents of other countries are responsible for complying with the applicable tax reporting requirements for their home country.
  • For those required to report their income to the IRS, various income exemptions and the tax credits on fellowship and internship awards may be available, depending in part on the length of time the fellow or intern spends in Panama during a tax year. These exemptions vary tremendously with individual circumstances and each fellow/intern is responsible for determining his/her own exemptions and tax liability. The Smithsonian cannot provide tax advice on these matters. Fellowship recipients are encouraged to consult IRS publications 970 "Tax Benefits for Education" at, and publication 54 “Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad” at You may call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 for further information and to request forms by mail. Commercial online tax preparation services are also available.
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