Travel Awards

NSF Coastal Critical Zone Network Research Travel Awards Application Guidelines Application Deadline: Evaluation of applications will be done on a rolling basis. Overview: In September 2020, the National Science Foundation funded the Coastal Critical Zone (CZ) Network Cluster, one of eight thematic clusters across the U.S. focused on research in the critical zone, the near-surface environment from the tops of the tree canopy to the bedrock, the zone that sustains most terrestrial life. Applications are invited for research travel awards for on-site research visits to the NSF Coastal Critical Zone Network Cluster, located on the Delmarva Peninsula, at six agricultural and forested sites in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Beginning in summer 2022, the project will host researchers for one-week to one-month research visits. This document outlines the application process, and provides background information to assist those who may be interested in applying. Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis. Goals of the Research Travel Awards Program: Two important goals of the research travel awards program are 1) to serve as a resource for other scientists, thereby expanding critical zone research and encouraging new collaborations; and 2) to engage researchers and students who have not been involved in critical zone research before, including members of historically underrepresented groups. Travel award applicants are asked to describe their research objectives and research facilities needs in proposals. Research proposed by travel award applicants may complement work already underway in the Coastal Critical Zone project, or can make use of field sites and resources relevant to other, parallel projects and research questions. Before applying, we ask researchers to discuss their ideas with potential research hosts, a step outlined in more detail on page two. (See How to Apply.) Research travel awards provide basic financial support for travel, housing and food. Scientific Context of the Coastal Critical Zone Network Cluster: Coastal marshes are essential environments that preserve a fragile and highly valuable ecosystem. They are an integral part of the Critical Zone that regulates the conditions at the Earth’s surface and helps sustain life. Coastal marshes provide crucial services such as carbon storage and removal of nutrients and contaminants that would otherwise make their way to the ocean. Rising sea level is expanding these environments, but saltwater is also moving in, destroying woodlands, and damaging farm fields. Ghost forests and salt-damaged farm fields are stark indicators of these ecological changes along world coastlines that can adversely affect land use and economies. Less apparent, and perhaps even more important, are the concurrent changes in water and chemical cycling that are altering the functioning of the coastal Critical Zone. This research project is quantifying the processes that occur in the changing coastal Critical Zone and associated alterations in cycling, fluxes, and storage of elements at the land-sea margin. The project addresses important questions about how sea-level rise may alter the natural “plumbing” that occurs at the land-sea boundary and its implications with respect to coastal ecosystems and biogeochemistry. The results will assist decision-makers and stakeholders in planning for future environmental changes. When visiting with support from a travel award, site visits and a review of  techniques used by research teams will be available. Eligibility: Faculty, professionals/postdoctoral scientists and graduate students at U.S. institutions of higher education are eligible to apply. Advisors to postdoctoral scientists and graduate students will need to supply a letter of support for the research visit. How to Apply:
  • Potential applicants are encouraged to visit the Coastal Critical Zone Network website for an overview of research currently underway.
  • Contact us by email ( with a brief description of your research interests. We willschedule a Zoom call with a researcher in your area of interest to discuss research visit ideas. If you and the potential faculty host agree on a project and timeframe, please proceed to step three below.
  • Write a brief research visit proposal, and email to
    1. Name, title, contact information, home institution, department
    2. Coastal CZ faculty host name
    3. Proposed research title
    4. Summary of research goals, including resources and facilities needed
    5. Proposed start and end dates
    6. Advisor support letter – Postdoctoral scientists and graduate students should include a letter in support of the research visit from the
  • Research visits will be considered on a rolling basis..
Postdoctoral Research Associates – Coastal Hydrology, Biogeochemistry, and Ecology The Coastal Critical Zone Cluster ( invites applications for three postdoctoral research associates – one in coastal hydrology, one in coastal biogeochemistry, and one in landscape ecology.  The Hydrology postdoc will be housed primarily at the University of Delaware and work with Dr. Holly Michael in close collaboration with Sergio Fagherazzi (Boston University), Matthew Kirwan (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), Keryn Gedan (George Washington University), and Stephanie Stotts (University of Maryland Eastern Shore). The Biogeochemistry postdoc will be housed primarily at the University of Maryland and work with Dr. Kate Tully in close collaboration with Dr. Angelia Seyfferth and Dr. Yu-Ping Chin (University of Delaware). In addition, a landscape ecology postdoc position under the direction of Matthew Kirwan (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) will likely open in Fall 2023 or Spring 2024; potential applicants should contact him directly ( The postdocs will collaborate across the interdisciplinary team of PIs, students, and professionals.  The positions will begin in Summer or Fall 2023. Project Description: The coastal critical zone of the Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (Delmarva) Peninsula is experiencing some of the fastest rates of sea-level rise in the world due to low elevation and exposure to Atlantic storm events. Fast (storms and high tides) and slow (sea-level rise) drivers are converting coastal forests and agricultural fields to salt marshes through two hydrologic mechanisms: flooding and salinization.  Both mechanisms involve feedbacks among coupled hydrological, ecological, geomorphological, and biogeochemical processes. The occurrence of these mechanisms and the nature of their feedbacks, which differ between forested and agricultural land, determine the rate and extent of landscape transformation and the associated changes in elemental stores and fluxes in the coastal critical zone.The coastal critical zone is a hotspot of biogeochemical activity, where large quantities of nutrients and Blue Carbon are cycled and stored. Thus, changes to coastal marshes and transformation of coastal landscapes have important implications not only for the global economy, but also for global elemental fluxes. Responsibilities: The postdocs will join a highly collaborative and multi-disciplinary study at a network of sites to understand and predict current and future changes in a coupled hydrological, ecological, geomorphological, and biogeochemical system. Hydrology The primary objective of the position is to develop a numerical groundwater model coupled to a marsh geomorphological model to simulate and predict landscape/ecological evolution and associated changes in hydrology.  The successful applicant will also develop independent research topics consistent with the goals of the Coastal Critical Zone, including opportunities for data collection, time series analysis, and layered mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students. Contracts will be 1-year, renewable for up to 2 years. Biogeochemistry The biogeochemistry postdoc will collaborate with the hydrology postdoc to estimate fluxes of carbon and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) between the land and sea using a combination biogeochemical and hydrologic data. The postdoc will be responsible for synthesizing data on nutrients and carbon in soils, plants, and surface water as well as developing their own experiments to improve our understanding of coupled ecological-hydrological-geomorphological, and biogeochemical feedbacks in the coastal critical zone. We welcome applications from candidates across environmental science disciplines who are excited to work in an interdisciplinary team and work across spatial and temporal scales. Hydrology Qualifications: At the time of hiring, the candidates will hold an earned doctorate (Ph.D.) or equivalent in geology, environmental science, environmental engineering, or related field. Strong quantitative skills and a proven research background, strong writing skills, and the ability to work with a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative team of researchers and students is required. Preference will be given to those candidates with experience in numerical modeling, and other quantitative methods associated with how coastal ecosystems and their landscapes respond to changing hydrodynamics. Biogeochemistry Qualifications: At the time of hiring, the candidates will hold an earned doctorate (Ph.D.) in ecology, soil science, environmental geochemistry, environmental science, or related field. Strong quantitative skills and a proven research background, field and laboratory skills, strong writing skills, and the ability to work with a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative team of researchers and students is also required. Experience with biogeochemical tools and/or synthesis of analytical data and/or transport modeling are desired but not required. Applicants should have received their PhD in the last five years. Requested Application Materials: 1) a one-page cover letter identifying availability for the position and addressing all required and preferred qualifications; 2) a full curriculum vitae; 3) at least 1 peer-reviewed publication with relevance to the position; and 4) the names, addresses (including titles and institutions), e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of 3 professional references. Application materials should be addressed to: Holly Michael, (Hydrology) Kate Tully, (Biogeochemistry)