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Itasca Seed-to-Root Grants

Click here to view a pdf version of the Itasca Seed-to-Root Grants 2018-19 Call for Proposals.

2018-19 Call for Proposals

Awards anticipated: 3-5
Budget ceiling: $75,000
Award duration: Up to 2 years
Application deadline: 5:00 PM (CST), January 20, 2019 (online submission – portal link)
Implementation: March award notifications - Summer 2019 start
Eligibility: Current University of Minnesota faculty as Principal Investigators (PIs)

Short-term ‘seed’ grants are a good way to spark science. They facilitate preliminary, higher risk efforts focused in up-and-coming creative spaces (e.g., techniques, emerging theory). Field stations, however, focus on places with particular qualities amenable to sustaining longer-term research. Itasca Station has hosted place-based field biology since 1909, and is uniquely suited for teaching and engagement. Seed-to-Root grants target new investments at IBSL, combining funding, support, and flexibility to encourage science to take root.

Why Itasca?
Itasca Biological Station & Laboratories began in a single lakeside building in 1909 and has grown to accommodate up to 150 overnight users, with 12 staff members. There are up-to-date laboratory and telecommuting facilities, and a new ‘Biome Center’ that houses an auditorium, a library, and modern teaching labs. The Station is also within Itasca State Park, with its own nature-forward programming and amenities.  Itasca is dedicated to field biology and ecosystem science. For over a century, scientists have monitored water quality, studied sediment cores, tracked mammals and birds, and measured forest stands at Itasca. The Station is next to the Mississippi River headwaters, among many wetlands and lakes perched on the terminal moraine, within the largest contiguous old growth forest in Minnesota, and along a thin margin of three major Biomes. This situates Itasca at a ‘bellweather’ location that concentrates biodiversity and that is prone as climate shifts and redefines habitat limits. Nestled in the most visited State Park in Minnesota,Itasca is at a crossroads of nature, people, and science – it is a good place to ask big questions.

Proposal Requirements, Instructions, Review, and Administration
1. Requirements
a. Who – PIs must be current University of Minnesota faculty members. College of Biological Sciences (CBS) PIs are particularly encouraged, but this is not meant to discourage participation by other UofM faculty, including those at coordinate UofM campuses. Collaborations with external co-PIs are also permitted, including those with other Universities, National Laboratories, agencies, and non-profits with a stake in place-based research at Itasca. Note: Faculty can be lead PI on only one grant proposal. Submitting two proposals as PI will disqualify both proposals.

b. What – Grants are intended to support only new, unfunded research. Traditionally, research at Itasca has focused on environmental field biology (aquatic, terrestrial), and proposals for these grants must focus on Itasca as a geographic place, not simply as a space to retreat. IBSL facilities are modernized to enable molecular-based research in biogeochemistry and microbiology, with support to enable classic field research in biology and ecology. The Station, State Park, and regional communities can further enable engagement and work in the human dimensions, to complement field research. The core focus of proposed research, however, should be biological and/or ecological place-based science, with a clear justification to work at Itasca as a geographic place.

c. Where – The research needs to be focused in the Itasca region, focusing the science at IBSL.

d. Why – Sound justification for doing work at IBSL, as opposed to in the Twin Cities, another field station, or a retreat center, is essential.

2. Instructions
a. Summary & Narrative – A 150-word (maximum) Summary is required, to be added directly to a field in the online submission portal. A 4-page (maximum) Narrative, with 11-point font, single-spaced, with 1-inch margins is also required as a separate pdf upload. The 4-page limit includes Figures, Tables, references, etc. The Narrative must also include a timeline of planned activities, clear logic for project management including data and personnel, a relevance statement with a clear justification and plans for investing in Itasca, an engagement plan that outlines how science will be shared, and a transition strategy with a longer-term plan for self-sustaining research beyond the duration of the grant funding, in line with proposed research.

b. Budget & Justification – A 2-page (maximum) budget and justification is required, to be uploaded as a separate PDF. Grants have a ceiling of $75,000 to cover the entire award period (up to 2 years). Smaller grants are welcome, but must have a reasonably broad scope, not a one-time need. Lodging/dining/lab space (link for rates) must be included or otherwise addressed, along with travel to/from the Station (230 miles from Saint Paul to IBSL). No salary for faculty will be supported by these grants. Indirect costs do not apply. New equipment purchased for or brought to IBSL must have maintenance budgeted, or otherwise negotiated – IBSL staff cannot maintain equipment for individual projects. The same is true for other laboratory/field materials.

c. Permits – Work on newly acquired land (63 acres, see Resources section) requires an IBSL permit. Research inside the State Park or other nearby State lands has more restrictions, similar to State Natural Areas. Permits, IACUC approval, advance planning, and feasibility for acquisition must be addressed, deliberately, in timelines.

d. Participation – PIs and their research teams must submit a brief annual/final report and have a kick-off meeting with IBSL staff and others at IBSL upon their first visit.  Team members will also participate in an IBSL Research Symposium, TBD.

e. Additional Docs – Include 2-page CVs for each PI, to be uploaded as separate PDFs to the portal.

f. Submission via Portal – Submit Summary (direct portal entry), Narrative (separate PDF), Budget + Justification (separate PDF), and CVs (separate, non-collated PDFs) by 5:00 pm (CST) January 20, 2019 to the portal. For questions, please send queries to with subject “Seed-to-Root” cc'ing Jonathan Schilling and Lesley Knoll

3. Review
a. Review committee – A faculty review committee will assemble to review proposals.

b. Review criteria – Proposals will be reviewed according to six criteria: 1) quality, 2) relevance to Itasca, 3) feasibility, 4) project management, 5) engagement, and 6) transition strategy.
4. Project Administration
a. Awards – Funding will be administered via internal UofM EFS system accounts. Child accounts, etc. creation is up to the PI and their accounting team. March/April is the target for fund transfer.
b. Reporting – PIs and their research teams must submit a brief annual/final report and have a kick-off meeting with IBSL staff and others at IBSL upon their first visit. Team members will also participate in an IBSL Research Symposium, TBD
Itasca Station has the following facilities, activities, and resources that may enable or leverage proposed research:
Dining: Dining hall (buffet-style meals); In-cabin kitchens in faculty cabins (link for rates)
Lodging: Full-bath and kitchen cabins; Bunkhouses with shared bathhouse facilities; Campsites (link)
Digital connectivity: Telecommuting & Wifi throughout IBSL; video conferencing; land line phones
Collaboration: With adequate planning, IBSL can host gatherings; seminar, writing, meeting spaces.
Year-round facilities: IBSL is open year-round; Many cabins are winterized, and the Biome center and several laboratory spaces remain open all year; July is ‘high season’ at the Station, and advanced planning is always needed to insure space; flexibility is always prerequisite working at remote facilities
Observational field science: Itasca State Park, Iron Springs Bog SNA, White Earth State Forest, etc.
Manipulative field science: 44-acre ‘South Plot’ 0.5 miles north of State Park (see 15+ page guide to maps of the station, land, soils, forest types, waters, etc. at
Demonstration field science: 19-acre ‘North Plot’ Science Demonstration Area (SDA) is slated, with interpretive sites, to enable science demonstration and engagement
Ongoing data collection: Examples
        o Microbial endophyte/pathogen/saprophyte transition in wood decomposition (NSF, DOE)
        o Lakes as sinks/sources of greenhouse gases (water quality buoy monitoring) (NSF)
        o Bird parasitism, sediment coring, weather data on site since 1911, mammal tracking, etc.
Old data: Data archiving and digitization efforts; library specific to Itasca (link)
Literature: Itasca Station has over 1000 publications focused locally (link)
Environmental history: The Station (est. 1909) and State Park (est. 1891) are among the oldest in the United States; IBSL has an ongoing history collaboration with State Park Naturalists
Kiosk space: Highly-visible interpretive kiosk spaces at headwaters and at Brower Visitor Center
Student/postdoc engagement ‘plug-ins’: MarketSci at Bemidji & Park Rapids farmers markets; Wet-n-wild headwater weekends; Station tours; Station-led hikes; Park programming on/off campus
Teaching: IBSL hosts Field Biology classes that may synergize with faculty/student research (link)
Beyond the IBSL campus, the following facilities, activities and resources are available to enable research:
⋅ Itasca State Park (link) & MN DNR (link) NW Region Office (link); data collection for 100+ years
⋅ Clearwater County Land & Forestry (link); Soil & Water
⋅ Hubbard, Becker, Beltrami, Mahnomen, Polk, Cass, Wadena County offices for Itasca Regional
⋅ White Earth, Red Lake, Leech Lake tribes (annual Wild Rice workshop hosted at IBSL each Sept.)
⋅ State Forest lands (link); State Natural Areas (SNAs) (link): Iron Springs Bog (link), LaSalle Lake (link)

For questions, please send queries to with subject “Seed-to-Root” cc'ing Jonathan Schilling and Lesley Knoll