The Ecosystem Studies Program (ES) supports investigations of ecosystem structure and function across a diversity of spatial and temporal (including paleo) scales to advance understanding of: 1) material and energy fluxes and transformations within and among ecosystems; 2) roles and relationships of ecosystem components in whole-system structure and function; 3) ecosystem dynamics, resilience, and trajectories of ecosystem change through time; and 4) linkages among ecosystems in space, time, and across spatial and temporal scales.
The ES program supports research on natural, managed, and disturbed ecosystems, including those in terrestrial, freshwater, wetland, coastal (including salt marsh and mangrove), and human-dominated environments. Proposals may focus on areas such as: biogeochemical cycling and elemental budgets; primary and secondary productivity; roles of species in ecosystem functioning; stoichiometric relationships; climate-ecosystem feedbacks; impacts of climate and global environmental change on ecosystems; energy and radiatively active gas fluxes; ecosystem services; and landscape dynamics. Proposals may address the cycling of non-nutrient elements, but proposals specifically ecotoxicological in orientation, or without an explicit link to ecosystem processes, will not be considered. Ecosystem-oriented proposals with coastal marine, deep ocean, or Laurentian Great Lakes study sites are reviewed by the Biological Oceanography Program in the Division of Ocean Sciences. Studies of the structure and dynamics of food webs are commonly co-reviewed with the Population and Community Ecology program, also in the Division of Environmental Biology.
The ES program encourages a diversity of research approaches. Observational studies and manipulative experiments in field, mesocosm, and laboratory settings are supported, with the expectation that the research, whether hypothesis- or discovery-driven, has a strong conceptual foundation. Inter- and multi-disciplinary proposals that fall across traditional programmatic boundaries are welcomed and encouraged; ES often co-reviews proposals with other programs across the Foundation. Proposals that incorporate quantitative or conceptual modeling efforts are encouraged, particularly those promoting integration and synthesis or advancing ecosystem science through either the pursuit of new theoretical paradigms or novel modeling approaches. Proposals that, in whole or part, strive to develop new techniques can be supported when a compelling argument exists that there is the potential for a major advance in ecosystem science. Projects that are potentially transformative -- that is, those that may change the conceptual basis of ecosystem science and have broad implications for future research -- are given particular priority.
The program funds proposals submitted in response to the CAREER, RCN, LTREB, MCA and OPUS solicitations. It also funds conference and workshop proposals, requests for supplemental funding, and RAPID or EAGER applications. Investigators wishing to submit such proposals should discuss them with a program officer prior to preparing a formal proposal.