Funding opportunities

Soon after you start your PhD research, you realise two things:

  1. it costs money to do stuff
  2. as a researcher it is now (and forevermore) your job to find money to do said stuff

While I was in the middle of putting this page together, the crew at Fish Thinkers released their equally spectacular list which you should definitely check out. Regular readers will remember this happened last time I tried to write about grants, when Tim Doherty published his great list. So between the three of us, you should be able to find something that suits your project.

I’ve written about grant applications before, so I won’t go into it again in too much detail here. I will say though, that this is about much more than money for your project. Applying for a grant forces you to think about the best way to communicate the importance of your research to people who aren’t specialists in your field. It can give you some great contacts for future work. And, for many of us it gives us our first practice at being rejected, so we can learn quickly to get over it and get back to work!

Some tips…

  • Follow their guidelines. To the letter. If they ask for the application written double-spaced, in windings font with a picture of Jeff Goldblum on the front cover, do it!
  • If you can, try and ask for funding for discrete parts of your project e.g. specific bits of equipment or a single field season. It’s easier to see how the money will be spent.
  • Ditch the jargon. Some of the people assessing your work might not be experts in your field. Write for an intelligent, general audience.
  • Be prepared! Applications often require written references, letters from supervisors or heads of school, and academic transcripts. These can take a while to organise, so don’t wait until the last-minute.


So, here is the list of funding opportunities for PhD students and early-career researchers in ecology in Australia. It will have a slight bias towards post-grad students, terrestrial wildlife, Victoria and in some cases,  Melbourne University. Head over to Fish Thinkers list for a fix of aquatic-themed, New South Wales-based grants, or Tim’s list for more on birds and reptile. I hope to keep this updated and add to it over time, so if you have any suggestions let me know! Check out the websites for more up-to-date details on eligibility and application deadlines.

Don’t forget to find out what’s on offer within your own university. Many departments offer travel scholarships and awards to their students each year. Conferences and any academic societies you are a member will also often offer travel scholarships and student awards, so keep your eye out for the opportunities.

ABRS Travel Bursaries
Up to $1,500 for domestic or international travel

Australian Academy of Science
The academy offers a huge range of awards and travel scholarships for researchers at all stages of their career. Dig around their website for more.

Australian Geographic
Offers a range of grants and scholarships for scientific, conservation and adventure projects.
Application rounds: April and November each year
Amount up for grabs: up to $15,000

Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour
Grants supporting students conducting behavioural research
Application rounds: October
Amount up for grabs: up to $1,000
Special criteria: Must be a member of ASSAB at the time of application

Australia and Pacific Science Foundation
Supports high quality work in biological sciences, particularly those that will improve management and nature conservation.
Application rounds: March
Amount up for grabs: up to $15,000 a year for 3 years
Special criteria: Applications with students as project leaders are not accepted.

Australian Museum Research Institute
A range of awards and fellowships for students and early-career researchers to work with the museum and their collections. There are special fellowships for biodiversity research and herpetology.
Application rounds: variable
Amount up for grabs: up to $8,000
Special criteria: Some must be in collaboration with or supported by museum researchers.

Australasian Bat Conservation Fund
Support for activities that promote bat conservation in Australasia.
Application rounds: November
Amount up for grabs: $1,000
Special criteria: Must be a member of the Australasian Bat Society

Bill Borthwick Student Scholarships
For research relating to public land in Victoria (land, streams or sea)
Application rounds: March
Amount up for grabs: $500–$2,500
Special criteria: Victorian based

Christine Fifields Scholarship Fund
Top-up scholarships for PhD, Masters or Honours research on restoration, protection and management of natural resources, particularly those that collaborate with community groups.
Application rounds: October
Amount up for grabs: $5,000 per annum
Special criteria: Must be from Australian National University, Charles Sturt University of the University of Canberra for work in the Capital Region.

Citizen Science Grants
As part of the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Program, awards in excess of $50,000 available for Australian researchers whose projects “directly involve the public”.
Application rounds: February

Earthwatch Research Funding
“Annual budgets range between US $20,000–$80,000, with most of this covering participant expenses. We follow a per-capita model of funding, with final field grants provided based on the number of participants fielding on the project. We provide funding for 3 years, subject to passing an annual performance review. Funding is renewable, upon submitting a research renewal proposal.  ”

Ecological Consultant Association of New South Wales
Offer three grants to assist with ecological research across Australia.
Application rounds: March
Amount up for grabs: $2,000 per grant
Special criteria: Only available for students (undergrad or postgrad) or researchers undertaking voluntary (unpaid) projects. After completion provide them with a scientific paper to be published in Consulting Ecology.

Ecological Society of Australia
ESA offers a range of awards and scholarships opportunities for students and early career researchers.
Application rounds: variable. See the website for details.
Amount up for grabs: up to $9,000
Special criteria: Must be a member of the society

Ethel Mary Research Grant
Supports short-term research projects in zoology
Application rounds: April
Amount up for grabs: $1,500
Special criteria: Must be a member of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales

Field Naturalists Society of South Australia, Liarbenda Endowment Fund Research Grants
Covers field expenses for research into South Australian biota. Available to students are researchers at South Australian institutions.
Application rounds: December
Amount up for grabs: $3,000
Special criteria: Signed original copy of application must be posted by the due date. See application form for extensive list

Fresh Science Fame Lab
More of a great opportunity than a grant. Compete to share your science with a wide audience and get some great media training. They’ll also arrange great media coverage for your project.
Application rounds: January

Genetics Society of AustralAsia
A range of prizes on offer for students, early and mid-career researchers for outstanding projects involving genetic researcher
Application rounds: February

Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment
Supports research in ecology, wildlife management and natural history.
Application rounds: April and August
Amount up for grabs: Up to $7,500 a year for up to 3 years

M.A. Ingram Trust
Priority given to applications for research equipment.
Application rounds: April
Amount up for grabs: Up to $5,000, with most grants around $1,000-$2000

Dame Margaret Blackwood Soroptomist Scholarship
Supports living expenses to enable postgraduate study at the University of Melbourne.
Application rounds: February
Amount up for grabs: $6,500
Special criteria: For female students in science at Melbourne University

Margaret Middleton Fund for Endangered Australian Vertebrate Animals
Supports field-based ecological research
Application rounds: June
Amount up for grabs: Up to $15,000
Special criteria: The specific title sums it up!

Museum Victoria 1854 Scholarship
Supports research in natural sciences, history and indigenous cultures
Application rounds: March
Amount up for grabs: Up to $1,500
Special criteria: Must be related to museum collections

Norman Wettenhall Foundation
Funds academic research in conjunction with community groups
Application rounds: Several rounds throughout the year
Amount up for grabs: Up to $10,000
Special criteria: Very detailed guide on website!

The Nature Foundation South Australia
They have a range of grants for students, community groups and early career researchers with projects relating to biodiversity conservation.
Application rounds: September
Amount up for grabs: $1,000–$10,000
Special criteria: South Australian based research

The Nature Conservation Society of South Australia Conservation Biology Grant
For honours and post-grad students in conservation biology
Application rounds: unclear on website.
Amount up for grabs: up to $1,000
Special criteria: South Australian based

Paddy Pallin Science Grant 
Supports high-quality, field-based research in conservation and ecology
Application rounds: August
Amount up for grabs: Up to $7,000
Special criteria: Must be a member of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales

Royal Society of Victoria – Young Scientist Research Prize
Awarded to post-doctoral researchers in biological, biomedical and physical sciences
Application rounds: July
Amount up for grabs: $1,000
Special criteria: Must be a member of the society and in 3rd-4th year of PhD

RSPCA Alan White Scholarship
For research that benefits the welfare of our wildlife.
Application rounds: August
Amount up for grabs: Up to ~$9,000

UNESCO/Loreal International Fellowship for young women
Funds a two-year research project conducted outside your home country. See website for further details.

Victoria Fellowships
Research in physical or life sciences. Travel grant to go on short-term overseas study mission
Application rounds: June
Special criteria: Must be at Victorian University

Wentworth Group Science Program Scholarships 
Leadership program to help postgrad students bridge the gap between science and policy
Application rounds: December

Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia
Offers a range of grants for students and community groups. Awardees will feature in the society magazine.
Application rounds: February and May
Amount up for grabs: Up to $5,000

Special criteria: Must be a member of the society