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Graduate Awards & Fellowships

Advancing our understanding of the natural world

The Bell Museum promotes graduate student research at the University of Minnesota to examine biological diversity and advance our understanding of the natural world. Natural History awards in the amount of $2,500 per student support projects related to the study of field biology, whole organisms, museum collections, and science education. Graduate Fellowships provide stipend, tuition and fringe benefits for students pursuing advanced degrees in programs related to the study of natural history.

Fellowships are commensurate with the stipend, tuition and benefits of the applicant’s graduate program. Depending on availability of funds, fellowships may provide 12-month, 9-month, single semester, or summer support. Awards and fellowships are highly competitive and current offerings are described below. Applicants are encouraged to carefully consider the following guidelines, consult with academic advisors when preparing proposals, and indicate the awards for which they wish to be considered.

Natural History Awards

Wallace and Mary Lee Dayton Fund supports graduate research projects in natural history. Awards generally support dissertation research but additional scholarly activity related to natural history may be considered.

James W. Wilkie Fund supports field biology research in honor of the outstanding accomplishments of James W. Wilkie in wildlife photography and natural history.

McKinney Fund supports the study of whole organisms with a preference for avian behavior in honor of Professor Frank McKinney.

Davenport Fund supports graduate student projects that involve collaboration with Bell Museum curators.

Zoological Society Fund provides support to graduate students pursuing environmental education for projects related to natural history and to students advised by Bell Museum curators. Educators are encouraged to follow these guidelines for curriculum development.


The annual deadline for natural history award applications is noon February 28. Applications are reviewed by a committee consisting of Bell Museum curators and a faculty member from another academic unit. Award decisions are announced in mid-March. Questions about the application process may be directed to Caitlin Frey,

Applications for natural history awards will be evaluated on the basis of the following requirements and guidelines:

  • Curriculum vitae including degrees awarded, grants and fellowships received, amounts of funding, titles of funded proposals, and publications.
  • Two page proposal describing the research to be performed. Single-spaced in 12 point font with one inch margins. Literature cited and a maximum of two tables and two figures are included in the proposal but are not included in the page limit.
  • If the proposed project is associated with a Ph.D. dissertation or Master’s thesis, the proposal should indicate how the project relates to the larger body of work as a whole.
  • Proposals should concisely place the research in a broad context and explain why it is significant in terms that can be understood by readers who are not specialists in the field of inquiry.
  • Proposals should clearly explain what observations will be made, what hypotheses will be tested, and outline how data will be analyzed.
  • If the project involves collection of new specimens, plans for obtaining permits and depositing voucher specimens in the museum should be clearly described.
  • Budget justification of less than one page should describe how the award will be used. Funds are available for research or off-campus training opportunities in support of research, but not for travel to conferences. Describe other available or potential sources of funds if they are needed to complete the proposed activity.
  • Name and email address of the academic advisor who has been consulted during preparation of the proposal. The committee may request a statement of support from academic advisors when evaluating applications.

Request a Natural History Award Application