Tropical Ecology Scholarships

Well-Funded Plant Study Programs for Undergrads and Grads

Tropical ecology means not just study of how species interact in rainforests, but examining the biotic structure of any tropical environment. There is a wide range of environments to choose from: the Antillean tropics, for example, have rainforests, spiny shrubwoods, and mountains (the highest peak is over 3,000 meters in altitude). You can imagine the great variety in comparative ecology in those different regions.

Consequently, there are a large number of exciting opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students to participate in specialized tropical ecology research programs. Some projects are tied to universities and private research institutes, while others can be applied to any course of study deemed acceptable by the entity funding the scholarship.

tropical ecology scholarships

Scholarship Opportunities

Short-Term Fellowship Program, Ernst Mayr Fellowship

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a division of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is located in Panama. STRI offers the Short-Term Fellowship Program to introduce graduate students to tropical research. Panama is a perfect location for such study, because of its tropical location and the vast diversity of its flora and fauna.

The Ernst Mayr Fellowship, an annual award, goes to the most outstanding performer in the Short-Term Fellowship Program. The maximum length of your project is three months, and you will learn by working under STRI scientists with STRI research associates. You may submit application materials here.

Sara Glanzer Scholarship Fund

The Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC) is a Florida nonprofit organization that operates the Bocas del Toro Biological Station in Panama, where students take field ecology courses and learn how to conduct biological research. The Sara Glanzer Scholarship pays the full tuition for any ITEC tropical ecology course. The award is given to students who can prove financial need, and special situations like working while attending school or single parenthood should be explained in your application.

Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center Scholarships

The Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri (St. Louis) administers the John Denver Memorial Scholarship in Tropical Ecology, named for the acclaimed folksinger who was committed to environmental conservation. The Harris Center also offers other similar scholarships to graduate students working with tropical plants and animals, and lists them all on this page. You can find application guidelines here.

For undergraduates, there are the Thomas F. George Undergraduate Ecology Research Fund ($300-500 awards) and the Marcelle Kranzberg Undergraduate Research Scholarships ($1,000-2,500 awards).

Miami University, Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica

Miami University in Ohio offers a field course called Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica, for which a few scholarships are available. You must contact the course’s instructor (whose information appears on the course listing page) for details.

Center for Tropical Research in Ecology, Agriculture, and Development Study Grants

The mission of the University of California (Santa Cruz)’s Center for Tropical Research in Ecology, Agriculture, and Development (CenTREAD) is to support studies of tropical environments and the issues confronting them today. CenTREAD provides grants to UCSC graduate students in disciplines related to tropical ecology who wish to study tropical ecology at the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica or do original research in the field.

The CenTREAD Tropical Research Grant page gives a history of recent awards, to help you see what type of projects they fund. CenTREAD grants are an excellent source of funding for the early stages of your fieldwork, a time when your work draws less attention from traditional grant sources.

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation

The School for International Training (SIT) has an extensive study-abroad program, and one of the courses it offers is called Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation. There’s a strong environmental movement in Panama, encouraging student involvement in the study and preservation of local ecology. The program of field study lasts for seven weeks, and SIT offers a wide range of funding options for its programs.

SIT scholarships range from $500 to $5,000, you can find one for any school term, and when you apply for a SIT scholarship you are automatically considered for a list of other scholarships. Examples of those suited to tropical ecology studies are:

  • The Compton Fund, which supports students in environmental studies courses;

  • The SIT Pell Grant Match Award, a program in which SIT will match the amount of a student’s Pell Grant beginning in the spring semester of 2013;

  • The Workum Fund, intended for students enrolled in programs on the Indian subcontinent (India and Nepal).


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