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Biological Oceanography Program: Additional Information


The Program supports biological oceanographic and marine ecological research in environments ranging from estuarine and coastal systems to the deep sea, as well as in the Great Lakes. Proposals submitted to the Program must have a compelling context in population, community, or ecosystem ecology or oceanography and address topics that will contribute significantly to the understanding of marine or Great Lakes ecosystems. Proposals on applied topics, for example fisheries stock assessments, pollution and microplastics impacts, ecotoxicology, harmful algal blooms, restoration ecology, geoengineering, and conservation biology, are generally outside the scope of the Biological Oceanography Program. Such topics can be incorporated as broader impact objectives, provided that the primary intellectual motivation for the proposal is in basic ecology or oceanography.

The Program supports interdisciplinary research and often co-reviews and co-funds projects with other programs in the Division of Ocean Sciences, the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO), and across the NSF. For investigators who anticipate co-review, it is important that a proposal be submitted to the NSF program that supports the main research focus of the project, as that program will lead the peer review. For example, BIO programs lead the review process when the primary focus is on organismal physiology, symbiotic mechanisms, cellular biology, biochemistry, molecular genetic processes, systematics, or evolution.

Investigators are encouraged to contact the Program by email ( and include a 1-page summary of the project’s research goal and objectives for guidance to determine whether Biological Oceanography is the appropriate program, or lead program, for their proposal.


The National Science Foundation encourages research that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries. In addition to supporting unsolicited interdisciplinary proposals, the Program participates in several collaborative activities across Programs, Divisions, and Directorates within NSF, and marine-focused proposals can be submitted to:

  • BoCP: Biodiversity on a Changing Planet
  • LTER: Long-Term Ecological Research (at this time, invited renewals only)
  • EEID: Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases
  • ORCC: Organismal Response to Climate Change
  • GEO EMBRACE: Empowering Broader Academic Capacity and Education
  • OCE PRF: Ocean Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships



The RAPID funding mechanism facilitates fundamental research of severe urgency, including quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events. Requests may be up to 12 months and $200K. The RAPID mechanism is not intended to support a “ship of opportunity” or similar request. Interested investigators should consult the NSF PAPPG (Part I. Chapter II.F.2) and contact the Program by e-mail ( in advance of submission to discuss the project. The Program will request a two-page (maximum) prospectus to evaluate the objectives of the project and whether it meets the criteria for a RAPID. Following this internal review, if the Program determines the project is appropriate for RAPID support, the PI will be invited to develop the proposal for submission through


The EAGER mechanism supports research that is high-risk, exploratory, and potentially transformative. Requests may be for up to two years and $300K. EAGER support is not for generation of preliminary data or “proof-of-concept” for proposals that are appropriate for our routine peer review process. Interested investigators should consult the NSF PAPPG Part I. Chapter II.F.3 and contact the Program by e-mail ( in advance of submission to discuss the project. The Program will request a two-page (maximum) prospectus to evaluate the overall objectives of the project and decide if it meets the EAGER criteria. If the Program determines the project is appropriate for EAGER support, the PI will be invited to develop the proposal for submission through


For any supplement request, be sure to contact the managing program director responsible for your award to discuss the opportunity before submitting any formal request in Note that awards originating from cross-directorate or special competitions typically do not have supplemental support available.

The Program rarely supports general requests for supplemental funding. In the event of unusual circumstances or emergency situations where a small amount of additional funding is needed to ensure adequate completion of the original scope of the awarded project, the Program may consider a supplement request.

In addition, the NSF PAPPG describes special supplemental requests, such as for Career-Life Balance or Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities, that the Program will consider on a case-by-case basis.

Investigators are encouraged to include funding for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), Research Experiences for Teachers (RET), or Research Opportunity Awards (ROA) activities as part of full proposals that undergo peer review rather than as post-award supplements. If a unique opportunity arises, the Program may provide supplemental support to awards from the core program.


The Biological Oceanography program does not accept unsolicited proposals for workshops or Research Coordination Networks (RCNs). We fund very few such activities and focus on those that advance a new direction for Biological Oceanography or a new network of collaborators. We occasionally support attendance of students and postdocs to special meetings of wide interest to our community. If you have an idea that might be appropriate for this type of funding please email the program (


Investigators who plan to conduct research using an Academic Research Fleet vessel must submit a Ship-time and Marine Equipment Request Form (SME) to University-National Oceanography Laboratory System (UNOLS) and include a copy of the SME as a supplementary document in the proposal submitted to NSF. For more information about ship requests and submitting Academic Research Fleet SMEs to UNOLS see OCE guidance for Proposals that Include US Academic Research Fleet Ship Time. Proposals requesting use of regional or local class vessels must be submitted at least 12 months in advance of fieldwork, whereas requests for global class vessels must be submitted at least 18 months in advance.

Investigators are responsible for notifying UNOLS and proposed ship operators about the outcome of proposal review to ensure that ship time is scheduled for any funded projects. Investigators should update their SMEs to include funding status and any new information about equipment or other special needs.

For investigators wishing to charter non-ARF vessels, please see this additional guidance from UNOLS.


NSF does not normally provide funds for international collaborators or employees of Federal agencies or Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), as stated in the NSF PAPPG sections I.E.2.c. and I.E.2.d., respectively. Investigators must contact the Program prior to submission to discuss possible support for Federal employees or international participants (including travel costs).

The Geosciences Directorate participates in several specific opportunities, known as lead agency opportunities, that allow for international collaboration through a single proposal and review process and with funding from both NSF and a partnering government agency. Some of these involve Ocean Sciences (details can be found in the Dear Colleague Letters).


NSF requires a Data Management Plan for each proposal. Proposals submitted to the Program must follow data management guidance set forth in the NSF PAPPG and the OCE Sample and Data Policy. Investigators are encouraged to use guidance and tools available from the Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO) to ensure their proposal meets these requirements. BCO-DMO is supported by programs in the NSF Geosciences Directorate, including the Biological Oceanography Program, and provides a central portal for metadata and data for Program projects.

For funded investigators, please be sure to include updates on data management activities, including a link to your project page with BCO-DMO, in all annual and final reports.


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