Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Biodiversity Research Challenge Fund

A Call for Research and Teaching Proposals

The High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) is pleased to announce a call for innovative research and teaching proposals on behalf of the Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Biodiversity Research Challenge Fund (Biodiversity Challenge)  — a long-term research and teaching cooperative under the flagship Grand Challenges Program[i].  The goal is to encourage research, teaching and mentorship that (1) enhances understanding of biodiversity; (2) examines the effects of environmental change on biodiversity; and (3) explores what can be done to stem the loss of biodiversity, now and in the future.

The Biodiversity Challenge recognizes that the great variety of life on Earth — from genes to ecosystems — is the defining feature of our planet. Biodiversity sustains humanity by underpinning our food-production systems, stabilizing the climate, and producing clean air and water. Biodiversity also enriches our lives through its beauty and majesty. Yet, today, our use and abuse of biodiversity has reached the point at which our health, wealth and emotional wellbeing are at risk. This crisis is manifested in the growing roster of extinct and endangered species, the decreasing acreage of tropical forests and other relatively undisturbed ecosystems, and the degradation of important ecosystem services in places around the world.

This initiative aims to catalyze new scholarship and teaching around biodiversity across the full breadth of academic disciplines at Princeton, including the natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and engineering. Multi-disciplinary work is encouraged because solutions to the biodiversity crisis must ultimately be scientifically based, economically feasible, socially acceptable, and, above all, something that people desire.

Priority in the selection process will be given to proposals that allow faculty and senior research staff to move into a new area of research and/or produce collaborations involving two or more faculty from different academic disciplines and with potential to attract larger extramural grants and other sources of support. We especially encourage proposals that focus on research that addresses the challenge of conserving biodiversity in a rapidly changing world. Like other Grand Challenges, research projects must include significant undergraduate-focused educational activities, such as courses and/or immersive experiences for undergraduates (e.g., multi-year sequences of assignments culminating in senior independent work, publishable research, or other forms of creative work). Proposals will be evaluated on how well they address both the teaching and research missions of the Grand Challenges Program.

Several awards of up to $200,000 in funding/project will be made for expenditure over a two year period.


Proposal Guidelines

Proposals should be submitted using the on-line application form, should be no more than four pages in length, and should include the following:

  • A project abstract or summary statement (not to exceed 200 words);
  • A description of the research plan, including how the proposed venture relates to the biodiversity theme and how advances realized by the research will advance understanding of biodiversity and contribute to its protection;
  • The narrative should articulate the novelty and significance of the research in the context of recent work in relevant disciplines and should define milestones or benchmarks for the research objectives; where applicable, applicants should describe how funds will be leveraged to draw in larger sponsored research grants;
  • A description of teaching and mentoring elements that the faculty will create, such as specific internships, opportunities for independent study, or undergraduate courses that will be developed or significantly modified;
  • A project budget. Project budgets may include any reasonable research and teaching expense, such as materials and supplies; travel; and support of postdoctoral researchers, research assistants and visiting collaborators.
  • A list of current and pending support for all PIs and/or senior personnel that indicates how the proposed effort is distinct from earlier or ongoing funding to the investigators involved.

The deadline for written proposals is November 27, 2023. A selection committee will review proposal submissions, and awards will be announced in December.

Additional details regarding the overall Grand Challenges initiative and the Biodiversity Challenge are provided on the Grand Challenges website.

Questions about the call for proposals should be directed to


[i] The Grand Challenges Program was launched in 2007 to address complex global environmental challenges including scientific, technological and policy dimensions. A critical component of the Grand Challenges program is the integration of research with innovative undergraduate research supervision and undergraduate teaching, with outcomes including undergraduate research fellowships, mentoring of independent projects, and the introduction of new courses to the curriculum. Well over 130 members of the Princeton faculty from 25 academic departments have been supported by the Grand Challenges Program on research projects and 2,500 undergraduates have been mentored on internships and independent work related to the focal themes.