Delta Science Fellowship

Application Deadline: September 25, 2017

Delta Science Fellows Program 2018

The Delta Science Fellows Program was established to bring together graduate students and postdoctoral researchers with Bay-Delta agency scientists and senior research mentors. Fellows work on collaborative data analysis and research projects applicable to the California Bay-Delta system. The goal of funding this research is to invest in knowledge that will fundamentally advance the understanding of the complex environments and systems within the Bay-Delta system to aid policy-makers and managers, and to train the next generation of research scientists for water issues in California.

A combined total of approximately six postdoctoral and graduate fellowships are anticipated to be awarded for proposals addressing the 2018 priority research topics (see Appendix B).

Application Deadline: September 25, 2017, 4:00 p.m. PST


NOTE: CA Sea Grant and the Delta Stewarship Council - Delta Science Program hosted an optional informational webinar to review the fellowship program and application logistics on August 17, 2017 from 10 to 11am.  


Webinar Recording:


  • Delta Stewardship Council
  • Delta Science Program
  • Delta Agency Science Workgroup
  • Delta Science Fellows Program
  • Goals
  • Fellowship Opportunities

Fellowship Program

  • Award
  • Mentorship Program
  • 2018 Priority Topic Areas
  • Guiding Documents
  • Research Mentors
  • Community Mentors
  • Communication of Information

Fellowship Selection and Application Process

  • Eligibility
  • Selection Criteria
  • Selection Procedure
  • Permits
  • Timetable
  • Application Process and Contents
  • Information Contact

Attachments & Appendices

  • Appendix A: The Delta (map)
  • Appendix B: Delta Science Fellows 2018 Priority Research Topics
  • Appendix C: The Delta Watershed (map)
  • Appendix D: Sample Fellow Mentoring Plan

Please read this solicitation carefully as there have been changes from previous announcements.

Delta Stewardship Council

On February 3, 2010, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009 took effect creating the Delta Stewardship Council (Council) as an independent state agency with the mission to achieve the coequal goals. As stated in the California Water Code section 85054, “Coequal goals means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place.”  Under the same legislation, the Delta Science Program replaced and became the successor to the CALFED Science Program, and the Delta Independent Science Board replaced the CALFED Independent Science Board; the latter reports to the Council.

Delta Science Program

The mission of the Delta Science Program (Science Program) is to provide the best possible unbiased scientific information to inform water and environmental decision-making in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Bay-Delta (Delta) (Appendix A) to support achieving the coequal goals. This body of knowledge must be unbiased, relevant, authoritative, integrated across program elements, and communicated to the scientific community, agency managers, stakeholders, and the public.

The Science Program’s mission is carried out through funding research, synthesizing and communicating scientific information to policy- and decision-makers, promoting independent scientific peer review, and coordinating with Delta agencies to promote science-based adaptive management. As part of the Council, the Science Program assists with the development and periodic updates of the Delta Plan’s adaptive management program.

In December 2013, the Delta Science Program released the Delta Science Plan (Plan) which lays the foundation for achieving a shared vision for Delta science: ‘One Delta, One Science’ – an open Delta science community that works collaboratively to build a shared body of scientific knowledge with the capacity to adapt and inform future water and environmental decisions. The Delta Science Plan was developed with contributors from across the diverse science community engaged in improving understanding of the complex Bay-Delta system and structuring scientific findings to inform policy and management actions.  The Science Plan is composed of a three-part planning, implementation, and reporting strategy and includes the Delta Science Plan, the Science Action Agenda, and the State of Bay-Delta Science.

Delta Agency Science Workgroup

The 2009 legislation that created the Delta Stewardship Council also required that the Council “…establish and oversee a committee of agencies responsible for implementing the Delta Plan.” In December, 2013, the Council identified a core group of state and federal agencies to compose the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee (DPIIC). The DPIIC held its first meeting on April 9, 2014. In November, 2014, the DPIIC was asked to accept an Interim Science Action Agenda (ISAA) as the foundational document to guide regional science actions. At that time, DPIIC members expressed a collective interest in taking the next steps toward prioritizing and implementing the ISAA. In response, a Delta Agency Science Workgroup (Workgroup) of key policy and science managers representing the DPIIC member agencies was formed. The subsequent efforts of the Workgroup resulted in the identification of a list of high impact science actions that were incorporated into the ISAA.  This list was then refined based on feedback from other interested parties.

The Science Action Agenda

The ISAA was intended to guide research in the Delta until a Science Action Agenda was developed. The 2017-2021 Science Action Agenda (SAA) is a four-year science agenda for the Delta that prioritizes and aligns science actions to inform management decisions, fills gaps in knowledge, promotes collaborative science, builds the science infrastructure, and achieves the objectives of the Delta Science Plan. The SAA will advance scientific knowledge needed for Delta management and policy decision-making, and, inform Delta-related science work plans and projects. The SAA was developed by reviewing existing plans and documents, and building upon the ISSA and high impact science action efforts to identify priority management needs and associated science actions. Development of the SAA included input and review from numerous entities including the Delta Science Program’s Science Advisory Committee, the Independent Science Board, the Delta Agency Science Workgroup, the Interagency Ecological Program, and the general public. The 2018 Delta Science Fellowship priority topic areas are based on the Science Action Agenda (refer to Appendix B).

Delta Science Fellows Program

Since 2003, the Science Program and the California Sea Grant College Program have sponsored a fellows program for pre-doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers. The aim of the program is to bring together junior scientists with Delta agency scientists and senior research mentors in collaborative data analysis and research projects relevant to Delta policy and management, including analyses of the immense monitoring database collected and maintained by the implementing agencies. The Science Program is again seeking applications from qualified individuals to compete for fellowship opportunities. California Sea Grant will administer and manage the fellowship program on behalf of the Science Program. Fellowships will be awarded based on the intellectual merit of the application and the expected contribution to the priority issues identified by the SAA that address emerging challenges (refer to Appendix B).


The goals of the Delta Science Fellows Program are to:

(1) Engage highly qualified scientific talent to help advance the state of scientific knowledge on the Delta Plan policy areas and high priority science actions identified by the SAA. The Delta Plan covers the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Marsh (Appendix A) and may include areas outside the Delta and Suisun Marsh that affect achievement of the coequal goals including the Delta watershed and critical linkages with San Francisco Bay (Appendix C);

(2) Provide support for the training and development of scientists able to work in multidisciplinary, field-oriented and modeling-based research intended to support resource management in the Delta; and

(3) Promote scientific partnerships across agencies, research institutions, and non-profit organizations.

To be eligible research teams must include a community mentor, usually an agency scientist, who has direct experience in the collection of the data to be analyzed and how the science may contribute to management issues or fundamental understanding of the Delta system. During the fellowship, the fellow, community mentor (more than one is acceptable), and research mentor will collaborate on the approved project, and together they will provide updated progress information and drafts of any manuscripts intended for publication to the Science Program. The research mentor will be in charge of the project, providing broad oversight and review of the fellow’s research and products.  A mentoring plan between the fellow, the research mentor, and the community mentor(s) will be required within one month after the fellowship is initiated (see Appendix D).

Fellowship Opportunities

To achieve these goals, the Delta Science Program and agency partners are expected to sponsor at least 6 fellows total at the pre-doctoral and postdoctoral levels in disciplines that address the 2018 research topics as described in Appendix B.


The fellowship will provide up to two (2) years of support based on scope/type of projects and contingent upon the availability of funds, for both postdoctoral and pre-doctoral fellows, in the form of a grant/award that includes funds for a stipend and for research-related expenses. Once the funds are awarded by California Sea Grant through a cooperative agreement with the Science Program, the fellow’s stipend and research related expenses will be administered by the university, college, or research institution with which the fellow and/or research mentors are affiliated.

Postdoctoral fellows will receive up to $52,000 per year stipend and pre-doctoral fellows will receive up to $33,000 per year stipend, for a maximum duration of two years. In addition, each fellow may request funds (up to $36,925 per year for postdoctoral fellows and $25,265 per year for pre-doctoral fellows) for research supplies/equipment, travel and other expenses necessary for carrying out the proposed research, and attending scientific meetings including the Bay-Delta Science Conference or State of the Estuary Conference (see “Communication of Information”).

The funds for research-related costs and benefits are subject to a maximum indirect cost rate limit of 29.95%, in accordance with rates determined/set by the cooperative agreement between the Science Program and California Sea Grant. The maximum amount requested for the stipend and research and/or education-related expenses (including tuition or health benefits) should not exceed $115,558/year for postdoctoral fellows and $75,715/year for pre-doctoral fellows, including indirect costs.

For pre-doctoral fellows, the portion of the award provided to each fellow for tuition (unless waived), health insurance, and other university fees will be determined by each university in accordance with its guidelines. The portion of the award for living expenses will be distributed as a monthly stipend, not as salaries, wages, and benefits, by the academic or research institution affiliated with the fellow.

Continued support after the first year will be contingent on satisfactory performance of the fellow and on the availability of funds.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to use existing data sets to the maximum extent feasible. If collection of new data is part of the proposed research, the prospective Fellow should clearly explain how these new data will supplement available data, what existing data will also be used, and provide a clear rationale of why new data are essential to the research objectives.

Mentorship Program

A formal mentoring plan will be required to be submitted within one month after funds are awarded and the fellowship is initiated. The purpose of the mentoring plan is to ensure a quality experience for the Fellow that provides a springboard to a career in scientific research and/or program implementation.

A sample mentoring plan is provided in Appendix D.

2018 Priority Topic Areas

For 2018, the Delta Science Fellows Program is requesting submission of research proposals that address one or more of the priority science actions identified in the 2017-2021 Science Action Agenda (Refer to Appendix B for details on each topic).

2017-2021 Science Action Agenda Priority Science Actions:

  1. Invest in assessing the human dimensions of natural resource management decisions
  2. Capitalize on existing data through increasing science synthesis
  3. Develop tools and methods to support and evaluate habitat restoration
  4. Improve understanding of interactions between stressors and managed species and their communities
  5. Modernize monitoring, data management, and modeling

Guiding Documents

Additional documents that may be helpful to applicants wishing to familiarize themselves with broad and specific Delta Science Program issues include:

Research Mentors

Fellowship applicants must include a letter of support from the research mentor they plan to work with on the proposed effort. Research mentors must be scientists actively engaged in environmental science, social science, policy, or economics as the primary focus of their position, with a publication record in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Research mentors working at academic institutions must be employed at the tenure-track level of Assistant Professor or higher (academics holding non-teaching, research faculty positions and/or those permitted by their institution to serve as principal investigators on grants are also eligible to be research mentors).

Applicants for the pre-doctoral fellowship should be working with a research mentor from the academic institution at which (s)he is enrolled. Applicants for the postdoctoral fellowship may work with mentors from any academic or research institution.

Community Mentors

In addition to working with research mentors, fellows are required to collaborate with at least one community mentor(s) familiar with existing data and resource issues central to the proposed research. Community mentors must have scientific and/or engineering training. Current involvement with the Delta programs or agencies working on Delta issues is preferred. Community mentors may be agency scientists (who are interested in analyzing, interpreting and/or expanding data not currently published in peer reviewed journals), restoration program managers, engineers or scientific/technical staff in environmental organizations, or stakeholder associations. In many cases, people involved in generating and/or providing existing data will be the most appropriate community mentors.

Fellows will work closely with community mentors, sharing ideas and progress throughout the project. Fellows may also communicate their findings and request feedback from an appropriate scientific/technical group focused on the Delta system. Examples include, but are not limited to, Interagency Ecological Program project work teams, Ecosystem Restoration Program, California Water Plan, Central Valley Flood Management Planning Program, Delta Protection Commission, Delta Conservancy, and California Water and Environmental Modeling Forum.

As part of the application, applicants must identify at least one community mentor and include a corresponding letter of support from that community mentor. The apparent or demonstrated depth of collaboration with mentors is an important factor in the selection process and applicants are encouraged to enlist the community mentor during the proposal development stage. Applicants may have more than one community mentor.

Please contact Nir Oksenberg for additional information regarding potential community mentors.

Communication of Information

  • Bay-Delta Science Conference
    Fellows will be required to present the results of their research at a Bay-Delta Science Conference (2018 or 2020) or State of the Estuary Conference (2019), either as a poster or oral presentation. The conferences are held between September and November in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area, respectively. Fellows should budget for travel to at least one conference in their application. Fellows are also encouraged to present their research at other national and international professional meetings.
  • Peer-Reviewed Publications
    Fellows are encouraged to publish results from this fellowship in the journal San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science, or in other open-access online journals.
  • Delta Stewardship Council Meetings
    Fellows may be asked to give a limited number of briefings to Council technical groups or agency managers in Sacramento, California. In these cases, California Sea Grant will fund additional travel costs, if needed.
  • Early Career Leadership Workshop
    If offered during the fellowship, fellows will be expected to attend a 2-3-day Early Career Leadership Workshop, which includes a Delta Stewardship Council meeting, during their fellowship. This workshop helps to put research in the context of management challenges, provides training in communicating science, provides advice on how to build a successful science career, and advice on career opportunities.
  • Annual Reports
    All fellows must prepare annual progress reports to be submitted to the California Sea Grant Office, which will deliver these to the Science Program. The progress report will detail the grantee’s research activities, provide retrospective and prospective revision of the research plan, and report expenditures. Additionally, a copy (may be electronic) of any poster/other professional submissions to that year’s science conference/s or scientific journals will be required at the end of each year.  Additional metrics specified in the Mentoring Plan should be reported.
  • Final Completion Reports
    • Each fellow must produce and submit to the California Sea Grant Office a final research report, deliverable to the Delta Science Program, at the end of the respective fellowship agreement period. The final report will summarize results and accomplishments of the research project, including all publications since the fellowship’s inception. Additional metrics specified in the Mentoring Plan should be reported.

    • This is a prestigious fellowship program with past recipients going on to successful careers in agencies, universities and other organizations.  Fellows are actively encouraged to maintain contact with Sea Grant as they are frequently invited to participate in review panels and other activities, wherever they may eventually reside.


  • Pre-Doctoral (Graduate Doctoral) Fellowships
    Prospective Pre-doctoral Science Fellows must, at the time of application, be in or have recently been admitted to a Ph.D. degree program in natural resources, environmental sciences, environmental policy and management, engineering, social sciences, or coastal, aquatic, or related sciences at any accredited U.S. institution of higher education. Candidates must remain associated with an accredited U.S. institution of higher learning for the duration of the award.
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships
    Prospective Postdoctoral Science Fellows must hold a Ph.D. or complete a Ph.D. before the starting date of the fellowship, in a Doctoral degree program in the environmental sciences, engineering, social sciences, or in a related field appropriate for disciplines identified under “Fellowship Opportunities.” Any postdoctoral researcher may apply who is associated with an accredited U.S. institution of higher learning for the duration of the grant. Postdoctoral fellowships will not be awarded unless and until the prospective fellow has fully completed the Ph.D. degree.

Selection Criteria

The fellowships will be awarded in a competitive process to highly qualified researchers.

The selection criteria will include:

  • The quality of the research proposal including appropriateness of the approach to be used.
  • The research mentor’s demonstrated abilities in the general area of questions addressed by the proposal.
  • The strength of academic performance and relevant academic achievement, experience, and the quality of applicant’s career goal statement.
  • The importance of the proposed research to science needs identified in Appendix B.
  • The expected quality and strength of interaction that will be developed between the research institution, the community mentor and her/his organization.

Selection Procedure

Selection is highly competitive. Applications must be submitted to the California Sea Grant College Program Office no later than 4:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time, September 25, 2017. A review panel consisting of outside, independent expert reviewers, Delta Science Program leadership, and California Sea Grant leadership will be convened in late Fall 2017 to review and recommend selection of finalists to the Delta Science Program Lead Scientist, using the criteria outlined above. We anticipate awarding a combined total of approximately 6 postdoctoral and graduate fellowships for 2018. All applicants will be notified of the selection decision early to mid-January 2018.


For scientists proposing the collection of new samples - the proposer is required to provide documentation in the project narrative of the proposal that any permit(s) (for example, the proposed take of a threatened or endangered species under the federal or State Endangered Species Acts, a geophysical survey permit from the California State Lands Commission for all waters of the Delta if proposing the use of acoustic generating equipment) required for the collection of those samples is (or will be) in hand by the start date of the project. Surveying permits and other types of permits may also be required, and should be documented in the project narrative. If no such permits are required, we ask that this be stated in the proposal text. Ensuring that all permits are properly obtained before research commences is the responsibility of the applicant. Additional Information


  • September 25, 2017 (4 p.m.) - Applications due at California Sea Grant College Program
  • Early to mid-January 2018 (approximate) - Applicants notified of selection results
  • February 2018 (approximate) – Start date: Funds awarded to the selected Delta Science pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellows
  • February 2020 (approximate) – 2-year fellowship awards end.

Please note that due to the constraints inherent to the funding source, no time extensions beyond dates specified in the award will be possible.

Application Process and Contents

Electronic Submission

A fellowship application is required to be submitted using eSeagrant:

If the Principal Investigator (PI; research mentor) has not set up an account within the past year, the PI will need to register.  Please click on the “Register” tab to get set up in the system.

Application must be made by a qualified Principal Investigator (PI) at the academic institution at which the Fellow will work as a post-doc or is enrolled as a graduate student.  Typically, this will be the Research Mentor.  The applicant (PI) should use the above link to register as an Investigator.  As part of registration the PI will be asked to upload a CV.  Please limit the CV to two (2) pages maximum.

eSeaGrant provides separate pages to fill out names of investigators, key personnel, a project summary, budget and budget justifications, referee names for academic letters of recommendation, and requesting letters of recommendation. These pages may require additional calculations and pop-up pages, so please allow your browser to display pop-up windows and enable JavaScript.

 eSeaGrant provides sections to upload a signed (endorsed) title page, names and CV’s for the principal investigator and any co-PIs, project narrative, letters of support and commitment (from applicant’s Research and Community mentors), and transcripts. These pages must be converted to PDFs before uploading to eSeaGrant.

Please use these instructions as a guide to fill out your proposal using eSeaGrant.

For questions regarding use of eSeaGrant, please contact Miho Ligare (858-534-1160)


Contents of a Complete Application

Listed below are the requirements for a complete application package. Please use this as an inventory checklist to aid you in preparing the application.

1) Title or Cover Page
A signed title page must be included with the proposal.  A blank copy downloadable in Excel format, labeled “DSF-2018.Cover-Page”, can be found here.  Please provide all requested information and obtain the required signatures. If you are applying from an academic institution, send your original proposal to your campus research office for local campus approval. The completed and signed title page must be converted to a PDF and uploaded.

2) Project Summary
The Project Summary is fillable on-line in eSeaGrant.  Applicants will need to prepare separate, brief sections for objectives, methodology and rationale (referring to relevance to high priority Delta science actions [Appendix B]) to complete the Project Summary form. The project summary presents a concise description of the proposed research in a form useful to a variety of readers not requiring detailed information. The project summary is the most widely consulted description of your project. 

3) Project Narrative
The Project Narrative will be a single pdf file including multiple components.  The format may vary; however, applications should include the information listed below. The Proposed Research section of the Project Narrative file MUST not exceed 12 pages (INCLUDING illustrations, charts, tables, and figures).  

3a) Proposed Research (12-page limit, not including literature citations, using 12-pt font and 1” margins, top, bottom, left and right).  The format is flexible but please address the following:

  1. Introduction/Question/Objectives: What is the question/problem being addressed? What are the goals and objectives of the proposed research? These should be well defined and clearly stated.
  2. Approach/Plan of Work: What is the anticipated approach to the proposed research? The application should present evidence that there has been thoughtful consideration of the approach to the question(s) under study, with a timeline for meeting objectives during the requested period of support.  Sufficient detail of the methodologies should be provided to facilitate an assessment of the adequacy of the approach to achieve the stated objectives.
  3. Output/Anticipated Products and/or Benefits: Upon commencement of the fellowship, what are the anticipated benefits to the fellow, the research mentor, community mentor(s), and the relevance of the research to policy or management of the Delta.  What can be expected after year 1, or year 2? Please describe anticipated per year outcomes.
  4. References and Literature Citations: Should be included but will not be counted toward the 12-page limit for the proposed research.

3b) Explanation of how the proposed research links to the high priority actions identified in Appendix B (1 page limit).

3c) Personal Statement from the fellowship candidate that describes how this research fits into the fellow’s career plans and summarizes experiences that specifically prepared the applicant for this research task (not to exceed 2 pages).

3d) Curriculum vitae from the fellowship candidate (not to exceed 2 pages). This does not count towards your 12-page limit.

4) Budget and Budget Justification

Pay careful attention to the annual budget limits noted above (see section titled Fellowship Program – Award).  Budget worksheets will need to be created in eSeaGrant. A budget workbook available in Excel (called DSF-2018.Budget) may help in planning your budget for manual entry in eSeagrant. However, please remember that your budget submission and justification must be completed using the online form in eSeaGrant.  Do not submit the Excel file as your final budget.

In eSeaGrant the fellow’s stipend should be listed under “Section G-Other costs” and not under salaries and wages. Also, as applicable, indicate expected costs for expendable supplies, publication costs, and travel (please clearly identify any travel proposed outside of California).

This fellowship does not require matching funds so “Grantee Mos. Effort” and “Grantee Share” should be left blank.

The funds for research-related costs and benefits are subject to a maximum indirect cost rate of 29.95%, in accordance with rates determined/set by the cooperative agreement between Delta Science Program and California Sea Grant.

All budget sections will require justification. The budget justification should explain all budget items in sufficient detail to enable reviewers to evaluate the appropriateness of the research-related funds being requested.

For any questions regarding your budget, please contact Rose Madson (858-534-4601).

5) Letters of Support

The fellowship application requires that two letters of support be included.  These should be collected, converted to a PDF, and uploaded in eSeaGrant.

5a) Letter of support from prospective community mentor(s) (1-2 pages): A community mentor must be identified and contacted early in the project development phase and a letter of support from the community mentor(s) must be included. For questions regarding community mentors, please contact Nir Oksenberg (, 916.445.0715). A list of potential community mentors that indicate a willingness to work with a fellow is available upon request.

5b) Letter of commitment from the research mentor: The application must include a letter from the research mentor indicating a willingness to be a mentor for the applicant, and expressing support of the proposed research project (not to exceed 2 pages). If the fellow is selected, a mentoring plan similar to the sample in Appendix D will be required within a month of starting the fellowship.

6) Copies of graduate and undergraduate transcripts (undergraduate transcripts are required from pre-doctoral fellowship applicants only):  Transcripts are required and should be uploaded as PDFs into eSeaGrant.

7) Three signed letters of academic recommendation:  It is the responsibility of the prospective fellow to arrange to have three letters of recommendation sent directly to Sea Grant by the application deadline.  Referees should be aware of the academic qualifications and performance of the candidate fellow. A letter of academic recommendation can come from your research mentor; however, the content must be different than the letter of support.  Please identify the three referees that will be submitting a letter of academic recommendation in eSeaGrant. Letters can be set via eSeaGrant or as an attachment to an email to

IMPORTANT: To maintain confidentiality, letters of recommendation may be submitted directly from the referee to CASG through eSeaGrant and must be submitted by the application deadline to be considered.  Alternatively, letters (PDF or Word document) may be emailed directly to by the referee.