The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
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Healthy Ecosystems Grants 4 - Request for Applications (Closed)

Grants - HE 4 Composite

Topic: Advancing Understanding of Coastal Ecosystem Function and Dynamics in the Coupled Natural-Human System of the U.S. Gulf Coast

Key Dates and Information

Award Information
Total funding available: $5 million
Award duration: Up to 36 months

All application materials must be submitted via the Gulf Research Program's online application system.

Letter of Intent (LOI)
An LOI is required for this funding opportunity.
March 27, 2019: Online LOI submission opens
May 22, 2019, 5:00 pm ET: LOI due (Closed)

Full Proposal
May 23, 2019: Online full proposal submission opens (ONLY open to applicants who submitted an LOI)
July 31, 2019, 5:00 pm ET: Full proposal due (Closed)

Award Selection and Notification
Winter 2020

About the Gulf Research Program
The Gulf Research Program is an independent, science-based program founded in 2013 as part of legal settlements with the companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. It seeks to enhance offshore energy system safety and protect human health and the environment by catalyzing advances in science, practice, and capacity to generate long-term benefits for the Gulf of Mexico region and the nation.Learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions: Grants
PDF (download/view all information about this funding opportunity as a PDF)

RFA Version Information and Revision Notes:
  • Version 1.3 (Issued 07/15/19): Corrected a typo pertaining to letters of commitment.
  • Version 1.2 (Issued 05/23/19): Changed LOI encourage/discourage notification date and full proposal due date.
  • Version 1.1 (Issued 05/06/19): Corrected description pertaining to budget attachment for full proposal.

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The Gulf Research Program (GRP) seeks to support use-inspired research to improve understanding of how coastal ecosystems in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico region are affected by or interact with natural processes (e.g., sea level rise, watershed hydrology) and human activities (e.g., coastal development, energy-related infrastructure, recreational and commercial fisheries) as part of a coupled natural-human system.


As highlighted in a recent National Academies report, Understanding the Long-Term Evolution of the Coupled Natural-Human Coastal System: The Future of the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Gulf Coast is a complex system with deeply interconnected natural and human interactions and feedbacks. The physical landscape is dynamic and subject to processes such as hurricanes, sea level rise, and subsidence. Within this landscape, diverse ecosystems experience changes in external inputs, including quantities of nutrients, freshwater, and sediment that in turn affect the function and dynamics of those ecosystems. In parallel to these natural processes, human activities, such as coastal development and the presence of industrial activities, also affect the natural landscape. Given these interconnectivities, supporting the resilience and maintaining the habitability of the Gulf Coast in the future requires:
  • Improved understanding of the different components of this coupled natural-human coastal system and their interactions and feedbacks, and
  • Effective use of this understanding in related decision-making and management actions.

Funding Priorities

To advance overall understanding of the coupled natural-human system of the U.S. Gulf Coast, we seek projects that address critical research gaps related to increasing understanding of the function and dynamics of U.S. Gulf Coast ecosystems within the broader context of the interactions and feedbacks between ecosystems and natural processes and/or human activities (e.g., those related to sea level rise, changes in hydrology and sediment loading, increasing storm intensity and frequency, coastal development, industrial activity). It is expected that projects will be directly applicable to informing decision-making and management actions in the Gulf Coast region either through conducting needed foundational science and/or by developing a new or improving an existing actionable output (e.g., decision tool).

The GRP is especially looking for projects that increase understanding of:
  • the effects of current and predicted future physical and environmental conditions on the distribution and abundance of key ecosystems along the Gulf Coast, including—but not limited to—salt marshes, oyster reefs, dunes, beaches, seagrass meadows, barrier islands, and mangrove forests; and/or
  • the individual or combined role of specific environmental conditions, physical forcing, climate change, and coastal development on the function and dynamics of Gulf Coast ecosystems.
Examples of potential projects could include:
  • A modeling study that focuses on understanding the relative importance of specific physical and/or human factors (e.g., a hurricane or an oil spill) on a particular ecosystem function (e.g., nutrient processing) or ecosystem distribution (e.g., mangroves).
  • A field study that includes collection of critical data to inform an integrated model for planning; for example, how an oyster reef might change in response to a coastal development project or other human activities.
  • A data synthesis study that combines existing data from multiple disciplines, and perhaps includes some original data collection, to provide new insight into how rising sea levels may affect marsh distribution.

Project Guidelines

To be considered responsive to this Request for Applications, applications must:
  • Clearly describe how the proposed project is critical to advancing understanding of the coupled human-natural system of the U.S. Gulf Coast.
    • Applicants may choose to focus on the interactions and feedbacks between ecosystems and natural processes, human activities, or a combination of natural processes and human activities; however, applicants must clearly articulate how their project will advance understanding of the coupled system.
    • Regardless of the project scope, applicants should clearly articulate the broader context of how the project focus is impacted by or affects human activities.
    • Projects should focus on Gulf Coast ecosystems.
  • Clearly describe the data approach for the project. For example, applicants should clearly indicate whether the project includes new data collection, synthesis and analysis, and/or modeling as well as provide an explanation that justifies the proposed approach.
  • Include a multidisciplinary team. As this RFA addresses problems requiring a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, it is expected that the makeup of the proposed project team will reflect this to the degree appropriate to the particular project.
  • Clearly articulate how the project results or outputs will be useful to intended users either now or in the future to advance related decision-making or management actions.
    • Details must be included on the intended end users of the knowledge, tool, or other outputs generated either now or in the future (e.g., specific decision-makers or resource managers).
    • A clear description of a pathway(s) for translation, application, and/or implementation of research findings into further action and/or decision-making must also be included. Although publication in scholarly journals should be a component of this, it is expected that this step will involve an outreach or engagement activity or set of activities that go beyond publication in scholarly journals.

Award Information

Total funding available: $5 million
Award amounts: All budget requests must be commensurate with the scope of work proposed.
Project Duration: Up to 36 months
Estimated number of awards: To be determined. Resources made available under this funding opportunity will depend on the quality of proposals received and the budgets proposed by successful applicants. The Gulf Research Program reserves the right to select for negotiation all, some, one, or none of the proposals received in response to this solicitation.
Award Notification: Winter 2020


These terms mean the following when referenced:
  • Applicant: The organization under which an application is being submitted (i.e., applying organization).
  • Project director: The individual who will lead the proposed project. The project director is responsible for the direction and intellectual design of the project and has primary responsibility for project execution and the submission of all required reports to GRP. Project directors usually initiate applications that are officially submitted by their employing organizations (the applicant). When initiating an application, the project director is responsible for ensuring it meets all the requirements outlined by the Gulf Research Program as well as any requirements set by their employing organization.
  • Key personnel: Individuals who share in the responsibility of the direction or intellectual design of the proposed project and/or contribute to the execution of the proposed project in a substantive, measurable way.
The Gulf Research Program welcomes applications from all types of U.S. organizations, excluding federal agencies, on behalf of qualified individuals.

Applications must adhere to the following to be eligible:
  • U.S. organizations (excluding federal agencies) that have a valid federal tax ID number are eligible to apply.
  • BP Exploration and Production, Inc. (BP), Transocean Deepwater, Inc. (Transocean), their affiliates, and employees are not eligible to receive grant funding or to participate in any grant.
  • This funding opportunity is for distinct activities only. Proposed activities that are part of a broader, existing effort or "project" may only be eligible if the application clearly demonstrates that the funding request is for distinct activities that would not otherwise occur.
  • Activities currently under consideration for funding from other sources are not eligible. The status of "currently under consideration for funding from other sources" is intended to mean that full or final application materials have been submitted to another entity to request funding. Submission of a letter of intent or pre-proposal to another funding source does not constitute an activity being "currently under consideration for funding from other sources" if that submission is a step that precedes submission of full or final application materials in an application process.
  • U.S. organizations may partner with international organizations; a U.S. organization must be the applicant, but applicants may include key personnel from and subawards to non-U.S. organizations. Please note that legal restrictions may prohibit transactions, including subawards, between U.S. entities and entities within certain foreign countries.
  • U.S. federal agencies are not eligible to receive Gulf Research Program funding as applicants or subawardees, although their employees may be non-funded collaborators. Any proposed collaboration with employees of a U.S. federal agency should not involve any transfer of Gulf Research Program funding to the agency and must be in compliance with all applicable federal statutes and regulations. This will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine if this requirement is met.
  • Activities involving advocacy or lobbying are not eligible.
Individuals named as project director or key personnel in an application must adhere to the following:
  • An individual may be proposed as project director in only one application. If an individual is proposed as project director in any application, that individual may also be proposed as key personnel in up to two additional applications.
  • An individual not proposed as a project director in any application may be named as key personnel in up to three applications.
  • It is the responsibility of each individual being named as project director or key personnel in any application to ensure that they are not named in more than three total applications.

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Image credits: (from left) Woody Woodrow/USFWS, Roschetzklstock Photo/iStock, mixmotive/iStock.