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Earthwatch announces request for proposals for field-based research projects in Cuba

Chris Merkord

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Earthwatch is pleased to announce the posting of a request for proposals for field research on
biodiversity and sustainable agriculture in Cuba.

Many of the Earth's ecosystems are experiencing unprecedented and extensive environmental degradation
and damage. Human development and natural resources extraction are putting wildlife and the habitats on
which they depend at risk. Climate change is exacerbating these impacts by altering phenology and
disease occurrence, and shifting the frequency and magnitude of disturbances such as hurricanes,
droughts, fires and floods. Concurrent with that, providing sustainable food and forest resources to
meet the growing needs of humanity in a rapidly changing world is one of our most urgent conservation
needs. The island nation of Cuba has a long history of effective sustainable agriculture, as well as
maintaining the most ecologically diverse terrestrial and aquatic diversity in the Caribbean. Yet there
is a paucity of scientific research on this island. We are seeking proposals from scientists who can
help fill this knowledge gap.

Earthwatch seeks to develop and support critical and innovative research, as Cuba responds to the
various agents of change at local, regional and global scales. This nation's rich and vibrant cultural
heritage will provide both context and collaborators for scientific research.

Specifically, Earthwatch is seeking research proposals from scientists for projects that will address
global change with respect to Cuba's biological diversity and agricultural areas by:
- Increasing scientific knowledge and public awareness of environmental challenges in Cuba, while
providing locally relevant solutions (e.g. sustainable forestry, agriculture and fisheries);
- Increasing partnerships with grassroots organizations, as well as with governmental and non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) at local and international levels;
- Informing Cuban management plans and environmental policies; and
- Improving the livelihoods and resilience of Cuba's human communities.

Because meeting these challenges requires contributions from many research fields, we are particularly
interested in interdisciplinary proposals. We are also very interested in studies that can be applied
to a wide range of Cuban habitats and to taxa across multiple scales. Specific focal areas for
Earthwatch support are biodiversity and sustainable agriculture and forestry in Cuba.

We invite proposals by qualified scientists on a broad range of ecological topics, including:
- Keystone species and biodiversity, particularly studies of food web relationships driven by apex
predators and other keystone species (e.g. pollinators) and their effects on ecosystem productivity.
This includes research in terrestrial, freshwater, marine as well as urban ecosystems;
- Climate change impacts on biogeochemical processes, habitat, community assembly and resiliency,
maintenance of species diversity, species adaptation and extinction, and carbon sequestration;
- Climate change impacts in agriculture and forestry systems on water availability and quality,
nutrient flow, maintenance of species diversity, and carbon sequestration;
- Human-wildlife coexistence, including the reduction of conflict between humans and wildlife, the
reduction of wildlife damage to crops and forests, and noninvasive pest control;
- Cooperative sustainable agriculture and forestry strategies, including climate-smart agriculture;
- Development of tools to create and monitor resilience in agriculture and forestry systems, including
erosion control, soil conservation and soil health, and weed control.

For over 40 years, in order to understand and find sustainable solutions to global change, Earthwatch
has supported scientists in the field assisted by citizen scientists. Participation by volunteers
increases the broader impacts of the research we support. Citizen scientists return home with a deeper
understanding of what is at stake and greater commitment to address conservation challenges.

To fit our citizen science model, all proposed projects must:
- Have a 3-year or longer duration (longer-term research may receive priority support);
- Incorporate field-based research;
- Have data gathered primarily by citizen scientist volunteers recruited by Earthwatch;
- Field 4 to 10 teams per year that span 7 to 14 days, each accommodating from 4 up to 20 volunteers
per team;
- Provide housing for volunteers within a reasonable distance from the research site;
- Be open to graduate, college, and/or high school student participation;
- Be run in English, with all communications and supporting documents in English;
- Have a strong interest in engaging with citizen science volunteers and educating each team of
Earthwatch volunteers about the project's science and its relevance.
- Projects that integrate ecological research, sustainable agriculture and forestry with local K-12
STEM education, citizen science, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge programs are encouraged.

Annual grants cover project expenses while in the field including: equipment (limited), tools, and
supplies; research permits; scientist transport to the field; support staff; food and housing for
principal investigators, staff, and Earthwatch participants. Grants do not cover scientist salaries,
student tuition, overhead, capital equipment, or post-expedition data analysis.

For successful proposals, the Principal Investigator (PI) will negotiate a budget in partnership with
Earthwatch. Typical budgets range between
$20,000-$60,000 USD per year, with approximately half the grant covering volunteer expenses while on
the project. Final grants received are based on the number of volunteers participating. Research
projects are tenable for three years and potentially renewable beyond that period. All projects are
subject to an annual performance review.

All proposals must be submitted by the PI. All PIs must have a PhD and an affiliation with a
university, government agency, or NGO. All PIs must have experience conducting research in Cuba. We
strongly encourage graduate student participation in projects as co-PIs. We particularly are interested
in helping support emerging scientists from Cuban universities or NGOs.

All pre-proposals and supporting documents must be in English. Earthwatch will select pre- proposals
for development into full research proposals. Criteria for selection are: quality and relevance of the
project proposed, PI qualifications, and fit for citizen science. To download a PDF of this request for
proposals, or to submit a pre-proposal, please visit:


Please direct inquiries to: research@earthwatch.org

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