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Research Awards

AOU Research awards provide support for research in various areas of avian biology to students and postdoctoral researchers who are members of the American Ornithologists' Union or other members without access to funds from major granting agencies. Awards are made annually in amounts up to a maximum of $2,500.

Deadline: 31 January 2014, 12 noon (EST). The online application form will be taken down at that time.

Applications for AOU Research Awards must be submitted using the application form. In addition to completing the required fields in the form, applicants must upload their application as a single PDF file. Applicants will receive an email confirming successful submission of their application.

Applicants should carefully follow the guidelines below when preparing and submitting their application. If you have any questions about the application process, feel free to contact

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Student or postdoctoral researcher, or researcher without access to funds from major granting agencies.
  2. Membership in the AOU. If you are currently not a member, then join immediately. Students may be eligible for AOU Membership Awards.
  3. Maximum of one research award per year.
  4. Maximum of two research awards per lifetime. Typically, those two awards would be for an M.S. project and, later, for a Ph.D. project. However, undergraduate students, postdoctoral research associates, and individuals engaged in independent research (not associated with a university) also may apply for an AOU Research Award, thus other scenarios are possible (e.g., an award for an undergraduate project and, later, for a Ph.D. project). Individuals are limited to one award per degree program or project (e.g., a doctoral student can only receive one award during his/her doctoral program).

Applicants for an AOU Research Award also may apply for funds from other sources (e.g., the Frank M. Chapman Memorial Fund, Sigma Xi, Animal Behavior Society, and those listed on the BIRDNET grants page). However, requests for funding from other sources must be noted in your application (see below). If successful in obtaining funds from both the AOU and other sources, applicants are expected to notify the Committee Chair.

Application Format

A complete application consists of three parts. Send all materials appropriately collated in a single PDF file. The entire file should not exceed 8 pages, including the proposal statement, budget, and the applicant's CV. The PDF must be named in the following format: LastName_FirstName_AOUResearchAward_2014.pdf. Applications not using this format will not be accepted. Use the following format in preparing your application:

  1. Proposal Statement
    • Length: 5 pages or less (including references and tables and/or figures)
    • Double-spaced
    • One-inch margins
    • Cite references in the text using the author-date method
    • Include the following in the body of the proposal:
      1. Heading
        • Include at the top of the first page your name, e-mail address, institutional affiliation, and the title of your proposal
      2. Abstract
        • No more than 150 words.
      3. Introduction:
        • Provide relevant background information.
        • Clearly explain the significance and uniqueness of your project and what 'gap' (or unanswered question) in the literature your study will address & help clarify. What information will your study provide that is not currently available? How will your study help answer important questions in the ornithological literature?
        • Clearly state the specific objective(s) of the project.
      4. Methods and experimental design:
        • Explain how the study will be carried out and, where necessary, explain why this approach, and not others, was chosen
        • Provide references where possible to lend support to your choice of methods.
        • Given the varying backgrounds of members of AOU Committee on Research Awards, write this section for reviewers who may know little about the specific methodological details in your particular field.
        • If the project involves capturing, manipulating, or collecting animals, or otherwise requires permits (especially if it is to be conducted in a foreign country), make it clear that you have obtained, or have at least initiated the process of securing, the necessary permits. Any study that involves collecting (killing) birds must be thoroughly justified, performed according to state and federal permits, and approved by appropriate Institutional Animal Care Committees.
      5. Timetable: Dates for completion of project, graduation (if applicable), and publication of results.
      6. Facilities: Describe the available facilities (e.g., specialized equipment, labs, and study sites) required for the proposed project. Clearly indicate the extent to which you have made arrangements for the use of facilities, e.g., "Dr. X at the University of Y has agreed to help me with the use of her sound analysis equipment during July 2013."
      7. Literature Cited: Cite references according to the format used in The Auk.
      8. Figures, legends, and tables: Use as necessary to clarify the text. Reduce and arrange these so that they all fit on one page.
  2. Budget
    • Length: 1 page only
    • Be reasonable and specific, and remember that the maximum request is $2,500.
    • Padded budgets and requests for items that do not appear necessary will reduce the chances of your study being funded.
    • Appropriate budget item requests include:
      • Essential research-related travel (e.g., to and from a study site)
      • Expendable supplies and equipment
      • Living expenses in the field for the applicant and, if essential, field assistants
    • Requests for salaries for assistants are appropriate only if you can convince the committee that volunteers are not available.
    • Inappropriate requests for budget items include:
      • Routine living expenses
      • Stipend or salary for yourself
      • Ttravel to meetings
      • Supplies and overhead expenses normally provided by your institution
      • Most requests for permanent equipment (e.g., binoculars, scopes, and camping equipment) unless these are to become property of the applicant's institution or the AOU
    • If you are applying via a university, indirect costs will not be provided.
    • Include the following in the budget:
      1. List budget items: For each item, indicate clearly whether you are requesting it from the AOU or another source. The budget list should be arranged according to actual or potential funding sources. You may need to indicate "Pending" for some items.
      2. Statement of justification and need: In some cases, it may be necessary to explain briefly why you need certain items. Include a brief statement summarizing how the project may have to be modified if AOU funding is not granted.
      3. Multiple Applications to Granting Agencies: Applicants are encouraged to apply to other agencies besides the AOU for funding the same research project and even for the same items. Applicants must not, however, accept more than one award or grant for the same budget item.
  3. Curriculum Vitae
    • Length: 2 pages or less
    • Include information about your:
      • Educational and research background
      • Employment history
      • Papers and posters presented at meetings
      • Publications
    • Do not send reprints or thesis proposals

Application Evaluation

Successful applications are usually built around one, or a few, carefully defined, feasible, and clearly delineated question(s). Common problems with applications include: proposed research projects that are too broad and overly ambitious, objectives defined too loosely, and the methods stated too vaguely. Having the application read and critiqued by your advisor and one or two additional colleagues will likely improve its readability and overall quality. Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

Other characteristics of a good proposal include necessary background information, alternative hypotheses (if appropriate), relevant citations and figures, and clear, concise writing. For additional information about how to write a good proposal, check out the AOU Research Awards' "Hints for Writing a Successful Proposal".

After evaluating and ranking all proposals, the Chair of the Committee will determine which fund is most appropriate for supporting the top proposals. Thus, applicants need not indicate that they are applying for a particular award. The Committee will likely award about 28–30 grants in 2014.

Award Notification

All applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application by 1 May 2014. The official announcement of awards will be made at the September 2014 AOU meeting in Estes Park. CO.

Reporting and Accounting

Successful applicants are asked to write a brief report summarizing their accomplishments at the completion of their project, or by one year after receiving the award, whichever comes first. Successful applicants are required to keep records of their expenditures and to submit a table and receipts to the current Committee Chair at the end of their project or by the end of a year following award receipt. Successful applicants also must acknowledge their AOU award in any publications resulting from the funded project. One copy of any such publication (or thesis abstract) should be sent to the current Chair as soon as the publication is available.

About the Awards

The Josselyn Van Tyne Memorial Research Fund, Alexander Wetmore Memorial Research Fund, Margaret Morse Nice Fund, Donald L. Bleitz Fund, Herbert and Betty Carnes Fund, and AOU Research Grants Fund were established to provide research funds for students and postdocs who are members of the American Ornithologists' Union or other members without access to funds from major granting agencies. The Van Tyne, Bleitz, and Research Grants funds provide support for research in all areas of avian biology. The Wetmore Memorial Fund supports research in avian systematics, paleo-ornithology, biogeography, and especially neotropical biology. We encourage Latin American students to apply. The Margaret Morse Nice Fund is designated to encourage ornithological research by female graduate students. In addition, research awards from the Carnes bequest to the AOU are available. As stipulated in Betty Carnes' will, recipients of this award must be females and non-smokers (i.e., have not smoked for at least the previous six months).

Previous Recipients of AOU Research Awards