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Grants for Research in Natural History

The Bell Museum administers three funds that are used to support research by graduate students at the University of Minnesota. In general, the funds are used to support field studies in natural history. However, these funds consider requests for laboratory supplies and equipment related to research that includes a significant field component. However, the research proposed must be directly related to the thesis or dissertation project. We will not consider projects that are basically applied in nature, as there are too many other potential sources of funding relative to those available for basic research in natural history.

Established by Wallace and Mary Dayton, the goal of the Dayton Natural History Fund is to encourage field research by graduate students. The James W. Wilkie Fund for Natural History honors the outstanding accomplishments of James W. Wilkie in wildlife photography and natural history. The McKinney Fund, in honor of Frank McKinney, is used to support research exclusively in avian behavior.

The Rothman (first or second year EEB or Bell Museum students only) and Huempfner (avian biology studies only) funds are administered through EEB, with the same criteria as the Dayton and Wilkie funds.

An online application is used to apply for these funds.

An online application is used to apply for the  Dayton-Wilkie Natural History Funds, Rothman Funds, McKinney Fellowships, and Huempfner Funds. Please follow the guidelines for proposal preparation listed below.  There is a single annual competition.  The deadline for receipt of complete applications (including proposal cover page signed by advisor) will be 4:30 p.m. on February 1, 2016. Awards will be announced in mid-March.  Applications will be judged on the basis of the scientific merit of the proposed study and the qualifications of the student.


For questions, contact:

F. Keith Barker (
Chairperson, Research Funds for Natural History
100 Ecology Building
1987 Upper Buford Circle
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55108-6097

Guidelines for preparing Dayton and Wilkie, Rothman, McKinney and Huempfner Grant Proposals

The following guidelines for preparing proposals are given to facilitate rating. The funds support research by beginning and advanced graduate students. The committee recognizes that the proposals from students at different stages of their programs will vary in quality. Thus, a new project without preliminary data will have an equal chance of funding as one at a more advanced stage. However, requests for funds to cover research already done will not be considered. Also, funds are not provided for travel to meetings, classes, or to assist the work of someone else. The student should make clear how the work proposed fits into the dissertation project. The goal of the following guidelines is to standardize proposals to the highest extent possible, which will ensure that all proposals can be judged fairly.

  1. All proposals must include the advisor approved proposal cover page.  
  2. Length: Maximum 3 pages single-spaced, not including Lit. Cited. In 12 point font. Two tables and two figures maximum. Tables, figures and budget do not count in the 3 page limit.
  3. The proposal should include a general overview of the research, and why it is significant. This must be clear to a general reader. Have a graduate student colleague in a different field read your proposal to determine that it makes sense and is clear to a scientist outside of your immediate area.
  4. Emphasize the specific hypotheses, or observations you will make. Even if your proposal is an exploratory one, you should have carefully thought through the research so that the committee can see that it is a solid scientific project. Stress the feasibility and demonstrate that you have thought about how you will actually do the research. Is your project high risk or are you fairly certain that you can do it? Consult with your advisor during the development and writing of the proposal.
  5. Exactly what is the nature of the data to be gathered, and how will they be analyzed? What sample sizes are needed to answer the questions posed? Imagine that you have gathered your data. How will you analyze them? What statistical tests are to be used? Can you actually falsify your hypotheses with your study design?
  6. What have you done on this project to date? How is it relevant to this proposal?
  7. If your work involves specimens, state that you have or will have proper collecting permits, and where your voucher specimens will be deposited. We expect students in all fields to preserve voucher specimens in the appropriate U of MN repository.
  8. Provide a list (not included in 3-page limit) of past awards (including amounts) and the titles of the proposals. What publications have resulted (if any)? What equipment was purchased with Dayton and Wilkie funds? If you purchase equipment on Dayton and Wilkie money for amounts of $100 or more, it becomes property of the Bell Museum upon completion of your project. (The committee might not request return of some items of equipment.) If reports from previous awards have not been submitted, your application will not be considered.
  9. Budget: Include an explicit budget, one with totals in all relevant columns. Awards will likely not exceed $1500.00; make clear what your total budget is, and what your request to Dayton-Wilkie is. Field travel will be funded at the rate of 35 cents per mile. Funds cannot be used for student stipends and money for field assistants is very unlikely to be awarded; we have only funds to support direct research by students. Any equipment requests (binoculars, expensive field keys) might be funded from equipment purchased by previous awards. Do not make requests for items such as raincoats or other personal items. If other proposals for the research are pending, list the funding agencies and when you expect to hear; we retain the option to withhold funding until these proposals are acted upon.
  10. Include a current CV and a brief statement of the student's background (not part of the 3 page limit).
  11. Be sure your advisor has signed the proposal cover page.

Click here to apply, once your proposal is ready for submission.