California Deep Ocean DDT+ Research: Call for Proposals 2023

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"California Deep Ocean DDT+ Research Call for Proposals 2023" shown over the surface of the ocean.
Funding Category
Grants and Funding
Application Deadline
Proposal Budget Help: sgbudget@ucsd.edu
Proposal Contact: sgproposal@ucsd.edu
Focus Area(s)
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies

Important Dates

February 1, 2023, 10:00 - 11:15AM PT: Optional Informational Webinar and Researcher Mixer

February 14, 2023, 5:00PM PT: Letter of intent due in eSeaGrant

March 28, 2023, 5:00PM PT: Full proposals due in eSeaGrant

Only applicants who submitted a letter of intent are eligible to submit a full proposal.


Program Overview

The Southern California Bight contains some of the most productive coastal ecosystems in the United States, while also home to more than 20 million people and a legacy of DDT pollution. DDT waste associated with local production of DDT was disposed in high volumes for decades both in the nearshore ocean environment (see US EPA Montrose Superfund Site) and offshore deep ocean environment (see US EPA Southern California Ocean Disposal Site #2 Investigation). Recent field surveys have renewed interest in research to understand the extent, impacts, and risks of deep ocean DDT in the Southern California Bight, particularly as new methodologies have revealed a greater diversity of DDT breakdown compounds and related byproducts (hereafter referred to as “DDT+”) of unknown impacts and extent. 

Improving understanding of DDT+ pollution in the Southern California Bight will aid the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), as the state regulatory agency responsible for managing protection and cleanup of the state’s water resources. The goal of this funding opportunity is principally to improve regulatory outcomes through greater understanding of the human health risk and ecological risk due to deep ocean DDT+ deposits (i.e., ocean disposal sites, other coastal sources, and DDT processes) in the Southern California Bight.  Thus, the funding priorities outlined below are driven both by State Water Board management needs and the findings of the recently released Deep Ocean DDT+ Research Needs Assessment for the Southern California Bight report. The report, led by University of Southern California Sea Grant (USCSG) and California Sea Grant (CASG), collectively referred to here as Sea Grant, presents a community-driven agenda for needed investments in DDT+ research, including addressing site characterization, environmental and ecological health, and human health and well-being. The geographic scope of relevancy for all funded research projects will be limited to the Southern California Bight (i.e., coastal San Diego to Conception Point, including the Channel Islands).

The State Water Board and Sea Grant are jointly soliciting applications for awards of up to 18-months in duration, and will fund up to $5,200,000 worth of projects. Applicants are recommended to propose budgets that do not exceed $2,000,000 (to include indirect costs, if any); budgets may exceed $2,000,000 if good cause is provided and the DWQ Deputy Director approves the exceedance. Multi-institution/highly collaborative proposals are encouraged. Projects are expected to start on June 1, 2023, and end by November 30, 2024. There is no guarantee that any application will be selected for funding. 

Successful applicants will be expected to stay in communication with the funding agencies concerning project delays and other issues due to the time-sensitive nature of the funds. Every six months, funded Principle Investigators (PI) will submit a detailed progress report and a final report at the conclusion of the project. Each funded project team is expected to present their research progress in up to three DDT+ community engagement meetings facilitated by Sea Grant with relevant regulatory agencies, DDT+ researchers, and interested community members. PI’s must upload all water quality data at the conclusion of the project to the California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN). Guidance for submitting data, including required minimum data elements and data formats, is available at http://www.ceden.org

CALIFORNIA STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD

The mission of the State Water Board is to preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations. The State Water Board works in coordination with the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Water Boards), collectively referred to as the Water Boards. Regional boundaries are based on watersheds and water quality requirements are based on the unique differences in climate, topography, geology, and hydrology for each watershed. The Water Boards monitor and report on the quality of surface water and groundwater, develop and implement standards and regulations to protect and restore water quality, and fund research, restoration, and capital improvement projects aimed at protecting public health and the environment. Together with the Regional Water Boards, the State Water Board is authorized to implement the federal Clean Water Act and the state and federal Safe Drinking Water Acts in California.

CALIFORNIA SEA GRANT

The mission of CASG is to provide the information, tools, training, and relationships needed to help California conserve and sustainably prosper from our coastal and marine environments. CASG accomplishes this by collaborating with a range of local, state, regional, national, and international partners to further the co-production and application of relevant evidence-based knowledge. 

CASG’s Strategic Plan prioritizes opportunities that benefit society through building and maintaining 1) Healthy Coastal Ecosystems (HCE), 2) Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture (SFA), and 3) Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies (RCE). Specifically, the planned solicitation will meet California Sea Grant’s 2024-2027 Strategic Plan HCE Goal 1: California’s coastal and marine ecosystems, including the biodiversity, functioning, and services they provide, are better understood, protected, enhanced, and restored through the facilitation of partnerships and the (co-) production of knowledge; and address HCE priority topics within pollution in water, sediment, and organisms (e.g., marine debris, land-based sources of trash, and chemical contaminants). The planned solicitation also addresses RCE Goal 2: California’s coastal communities have the information, partnerships, and tools needed to support planning, policy, and actions for emerging marine and coastal industries and resource management that ensure an equitable and resilient path forward; and address RCE priority topics to understand coastal hazards and risks (e.g., water quality hazards, compound risks to coastal habitats, communities and economies). 

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SEA GRANT

The mission of USCSG is to contribute to solving the problems of the Urban Ocean; foster the public’s understanding of coastal, ocean, and social science; recognize opportunities for the blue economy, coastal commerce, and recreation; solicit and fund relevant, innovative science to inform better decision-making, and improve the quality of life in coastal regions across Southern California.

USCSG’s Strategic Plan responds to Southern California’s most urgent coastal and ocean needs through building and maintaining  1) Healthy Coastal Ecosystems (HCE), 2) Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture (SFA), and 3) Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies (RCE). Specifically, the planned solicitation will meet USCSG’s 2024-2027 Strategic Plan RCE Goal 2: Water resources are enhanced, sustained, and protected to meet existing and emerging needs of the communities and economies, and biodiverse ecosystems that depend on them. The planned solicitation also addresses HCE Goal 1: Coastal and watershed habitats, ecosystems, and the services they provide are protected, enhanced, and/or restored.


Award Information
Eligibility
Funding Priorities 
Timeline
Webinar
Proposal Instructions
Review Process
Contacts

Award Information

The State Water Board, CASG, and USCSG are jointly soliciting a request for proposals (RFP) for awards of up to 18-months in duration, and will fund up to $5,200,000 worth of projects. Applicants are recommended to propose budgets that do not exceed $2,000,000 (to include indirect costs, if any); budgets may exceed $2,000,000 if good cause is provided and the DWQ Deputy Director approves the exceedance. Multi-institution/highly collaborative proposals are encouraged. Projects are expected to start on June 1, 2023 and end by November 30, 2024. There is no guarantee that any application will be selected for funding. 

Note: No-cost extensions will not be granted for awarded projects due to restrictions of the funding source.

Eligibility

Proposals must be submitted by a researcher or faculty employed at a California-based research institution. All lead PIs must have Principal Investigator (PI) status at their institution to be eligible to apply. Submissions from diverse teams led by early career researchers, women, nonbinary, Black, Indigenous, Latine, and other individuals with underrepresented identities are strongly encouraged. 

Sea Grant is committed to increasing the diversity of the workforce we fund and of the communities we serve. We embrace individuals of all ages, races, ethnicities, national origins, gender identities, sexual orientations, disabilities, cultures, religions, marital statuses, job classifications, veteran status types, as well as income and socioeconomic status types. Further, Sea Grant is committed to building inclusive research, extension, communication, and education programs that serve people with unique knowledge, backgrounds, life experiences, needs, perspectives, and ways of thinking. 

Funding Priorities 

This research will be funded by Senate Bill 154, Budget Act of 2022, to support DDT cleanup near Southern California. Priority research objectives are those that address State Water Board management priorities and relevant research needs described in Sea Grant’s A Deep Ocean DDT+ Research Needs Assessment for the Southern California Bight report. Proposals must address one or more of the priority research objectives outlined below. Due to the limited availability of funds, researchers are highly encouraged to collaborate on proposals and to utilize archived samples as appropriate. 

Research Objectives for the 2023-2024 California Deep Ocean DDT+ Projects:

  • Improve understanding of DDT breakdown compounds and related byproducts in the Southern California Bight environment, particularly projects that include a focus on:
    • Characterization of DDT+ chemicals (presence, concentration, bioavailability) in wildlife living in and/or migrating through the deep ocean basins; and/or 
    • Implications of monitoring the broader suite of DDT+ chemicals, including impurities, and how that alters our understanding of the extent and distribution of DDT+ chemicals in the Southern California Bight
  • Assess the risk of deep ocean DDT+ chemicals to public health (particularly via local seafood consumption) and/or wildlife, including aquatic organisms and fish-eating birds. Preference given to projects that include a focus on:
    • Clarifying the potential DDT+ exposure based on source type (e.g., dumpsites, offshore deposits, onshore loading, regional background); and/or geographic contributions (e.g., urban centers, agricultural areas, north versus south)
    • Characterizing the concentration of DDT+ chemicals in local marine organisms that are frequently consumed by humans using standard protocols** to inform updated, location-specific fish advisories; and evaluating the toxicity of DDT+ chemicals identified in local organisms
    • Understanding which Southern California Bight human populations (as defined geographically, socioeconomically, by local fish consumption level, and/or by existing health burdens) are most likely to be impacted by DDT+ exposure 
    • Examining whether co-factors (e.g., warming temperatures, ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, co-contaminant exposure) increase the potential DDT+ exposure to marine life and/or human consumers of fish

**Note: Research in support of fish consumption advisories should utilize methods outlined in OEHHA 2022, “Protocol for Fish Sampling and Analysis to Support the Development of Fish Advisories in California.”

Timeline

February 1, 2023, 10:00 - 11:15AM PT: Optional Informational Webinar and Researcher Mixer

February 14, 2023, 5:00PM PT: Required Letter of Intent due in eSeaGrant

March 28, 2023, 5:00PM PT: Full proposals due in eSeaGrant
[Only applicants who submitted a letter of intent may submit a full proposal]

May 2023: Notification of funding status (expected)

June 1, 2023: Projects begin

November 30, 2024: Projects end

December 31, 2024: All project invoicing must be completed

February 28, 2025: All water quality data must be uploaded to CEDEN

Webinar

The State Water Board, CASG, and USCSG will host an optional webinar to provide an overview of this funding opportunity and answer questions on February 1, 2023, 10:00 - 11:15AM PT. There will also be a mixer activity to encourage prospective applicants to meet one another to foster collaborations. 

To register for the RFP informational webinar, click the link below:

Register for Webinar

This presentation will be recorded and made available on the Sea Grant websites.

*If this is your first time using Zoom, we encourage you to log in at least five minutes before the webinar starts, as you may need to download software.

PROPOSAL INSTRUCTIONS

eSeaGrant

We use the eSeagrant online system (https://eseagrant2.ucsd.edu/) for submission of letters of intent and full proposals. If applicants have not registered in eSeaGrant, you will need to register via the online submission “portal.” Once you log in, you can change your password if you would like. To change your password, click on your name in the upper-right corner of the screen, and select “My Profile.”

To start a proposal, or revisit/edit an existing proposal, click on “Current Tasks” in the left-hand menu. To start a new proposal, click on “Add Proposal” under “California Deep Ocean DDT+ Research 2023.” If you have already started a proposal and wish to edit it, click on the hyperlink for that proposal. Only applicants who have submitted a letter of intent will receive an invitation to eSeaGrant to submit their full proposals. 

In order to submit a proposal, you must work down the sequence of sections listed on the left side of the proposal window. eSeaGrant provides sections to input or upload all application components. Files to upload must be converted to PDFs before uploading to eSeaGrant. You may add collaborators (e.g., co-PIs, sponsored project office staff, etc.) as appropriate to assist in completing the proposal using the “Manage Collaborators” button in the upper right corner of your screen. Collaborators must also have accounts on eSeaGrant in order to be added to your proposal.

We recommend that eSeaGrant users access the system, make an account, review submission requirements within it, and start to upload necessary documents well in advance of the submission deadline. This will give users the opportunity to obtain any necessary clarification or assistance before the deadline (contact sgproposal@ucsd.edu with any questions regarding eSeaGrant submissions). The submission deadline will not be extended.

Apply Now!

Proposal Formatting

Please follow the following formatting guidelines in formatting your letters of intent and full proposal:

  • Type Fonts: 12 point Arial or Helvetica preferred
  • Margins: Side, top and bottom margins should be approximately 1 inch each
  • Line Spacing: The narrative of the proposal should be single-spaced
  • Graphics: Any tables, figures and illustrations must be submitted in final form and appended to or embedded within the narrative. Graphics and tables count toward the 12-page limit of the proposal narrative.

Letters of Intent

Letters of intent are due February 14, 2023, 5:00PM PT, submitted through eSeaGrant (submission instructions below).  

Letters of intent (2-page limit) will allow Sea Grant to gauge interest and topics that may be submitted. The letter must provide the following basic information:

  • Names of key personnel (PIs, co-PIs) and contact information
  • Title of project
  • Brief discussion of the proposed research project topic and approach, including:
    • RFP priorities that will be addressed
    • Project goals
    • Project design and methodology
    • Relevance to DDT+ management needs 
  • Approximate total funding amount to be requested
  • A list of three suggested reviewers (without conflict of interest) with expertise to review your proposal

A response acknowledging receipt of the letter of intent will be sent and letters of intent will be screened for applicability to the funding priorities of this RFP. Applicants should assume they are eligible to write full proposals unless otherwise notified by Sea Grant and/or State Water Board.

Full Proposals

Format requirements are used to provide guidelines to applicants that increase fairness in the review of applications. Applications not meeting the format requirements may be rejected without review. Pages exceeding page limits will not be reviewed. Only the requested materials should be submitted; additional documents will not be reviewed. All proposals will be submitted via eSeaGrant. Only applicants who have submitted a letter of intent may submit a full proposal.

Proposal Components:

  1. Signed Institutional Cover Page: A signed cover page (the template is included in the RFP Excel Workbook downloadable from eSeaGrant) must be included with the proposal. Please provide all requested information and obtain the required signatures from your campus’ sponsored projects office. The completed and signed cover page must be converted to a PDF and uploaded.
  2. Project Summary: The Project Summary is the most widely consulted description of your project, and includes brief sections on objectives, methodology, and rationale (not to exceed 1000 characters). The Project Summary presents a concise description of the proposed research in a form useful to a variety of readers, and may be used for future communications with the general public. The Project Summary is entered directly into a form on eSeaGrant.
  3. Project Narrative: The project narrative is a single PDF file including multiple components. Proposals must include the information listed below. The project narrative MUST NOT exceed 12 pages (INCLUDING illustrations, charts, tables and figures, EXCLUDING references). Proposal pages exceeding this size limit will be redacted and not reviewed.
    1. Introduction and Background
      • Provide the background and rationale for your project (a well-defined problem or important opportunity) based on gaps in the existing literature and data. Include a clear, concise statement of how results from the proposed activity may support the needs of relevant state and regional constituencies pertinent to DDT+ contamination.  
    2. Project objectives
      • Provide a list of clearly defined objectives. For each objective, provide a concise statement explaining how it is aligned with the goals and priorities of this funding opportunity.
    3. Project details
      • Provide an explanation of the methods you will use to address your project objectives. Present the scientific/technical approach, experiments, procedures, etc. Applicants are encouraged to incorporate social science and environmental justice focused research methods as appropriate. Please make clear what other sources of support (fiscal, personnel, or logistical), if any, will be used to help support the work proposed. 
    4. Anticipated outcomes and deliverables
      • Project outcomes should be measurable, as well as clearly related to the project objectives and relevant DDT+ management needs as described in this funding opportunity. Applicants should highlight which group(s) of stakeholders will benefit from the work performed. 
    5. Project timeline
      • Please provide a timeline for accomplishing the proposed work, which covers the entire duration of the project. Include approximate dates for key milestones related to the proposed work, including the accomplishment of anticipated outcomes and release of deliverables. An example milestone template is included in the RFP Excel Workbook downloadable here
      • Applicants should anticipate participation in three Sea Grant-facilitated webinars (anticipated Summer 2023, Summer 2024, February 2025) to share project updates with the general public.  
    6. Diversity statement
      • Applicants are encouraged to integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and/or accessibility in the scientific project and/or research design. In this section, describe how well the proposed activity broadens the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., based on gender, race and ethnicity, disability, geographic, socio-economic class, etc.) and/or early career researchers and how they benefit from the outcomes of the proposed activity. Guided research experiences and mentorship to students, with the goal of increasing retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and launching careers in coastal science, and supporting research programs within or building research relationships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) are highly encouraged. Partnerships with local community-based organizations, tribes, and impacted communities are also highly encouraged, where applicable, to inform the proposed research design and/or location(s). 
    7. References
      • The list of references does NOT count toward the 12-page limit of the narrative, but must be included in the narrative PDF file.
  4. Curriculum Vitae(s): Curriculum Vitaes (CVs) of all key personnel (PIs, co-PIs, Associate PIs) must be included in the submission (2 page limit per CV). Please upload each CV as a PDF. If CVs longer than 2 pages are submitted, reviewers will only be provided with the first 2 pages of the CV. 
  5. Budget Narrative (Budget and Budget Justification): The Budget Narrative comprising eSeaGrant Budget Worksheets and associated budget justification must be included in the submission. In addition to the specific guidance below, general guidance on preparing budgets and budget justification can be found here. A fillable template is included in the RFP Excel Workbook, which can be used to prepare your budget, but all final budgets must be submitted using the eSeaGrant budget worksheets.  
    • Enter salaries, wages, and fringe benefits for all personnel associated with the project. Also, if applicable, indicate expected costs for expendable supplies, publication costs, and travel. All budget sections will require justification. 
    • The maximum budget is $2,000,000 (unless well-justified) over the course of 18-months, to include indirect costs. 
    • When completing your budget, please use the state indirect cost rate of 30% Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC). Sea Grant may ask for revisions to the proposed budget to ensure that the project budget, indirect costs, match, etc. are correct. 
    • Direct any questions regarding indirect cost rates, employee benefit rates, percent of time, etc., to your campus research or sponsored projects office.
  6. Current and Pending Support: Describe any current or pending sources of support if applicable. An example template is included in the RFP Excel Workbook downloadable here.
  7. Letters of Support: Support letters are optional, but encouraged, for projects involving multiple institutions or community partners. If included in the application, please consolidate all letters into one PDF for uploading to eSeaGrant.
  8. Data Management Plan
    • All applications must include a Data Management Plan that should not exceed 2 pages. The Data Management Plan should include descriptions of the types of metadata and data expected to be created during the course of the project, plans for disseminating the metadata and data to the broader community, and plans for long-term archiving of the metadata and data.
    • All water quality data must be uploaded at the conclusion of the project and no later than the specified date (February 28, 2025) to CEDEN. Guidance for submitting data, including required minimum data elements and data formats, is available at http://www.ceden.org. 
  9. California Environmental Quality Act Compliance
    • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) summary is a fillable online form in eSeaGrant. The State Water Board must determine whether the project is in compliance with CEQA prior to the issuance of funding awards. Please include information on the project’s CEQA compliance. In your statement, provide information about the species and habitat(s) that could be affected in the project location(s), and if there will be any ground disturbance (digging, planting, etc.). If any type of cleanup is involved, identify any equipment that will be used. If you believe the project to be exempt from CEQA, please identify which exemption the project falls under. The definition of activities that are “projects” under CEQA is available here, and the list of activities that are categorically exempt from CEQA is available here.  

REVIEW PROCESS

Proposals will undergo a structured review process coordinated by Sea Grant. Each proposal will be subjected to at least three external written reviews. Reviewers/panelists will all be external to CASG and USCSG, and all reviewers will be asked to complete a Conflict of Interest form prior to conducting their review. The review panel(s) will include subject matter experts, scientists, educators, and agency representatives. At their discretion, CASG and USCSG may request additional review by likely user groups of the research findings or suggest coordination of complementary proposals.  

Evaluation Criteria

To be funded, research must be consistent with the funding goals of this RFP. Evaluation of proposals will be based on the following criteria:

  • Technical/Scientific Merit (30%): The degree to which the activity will advance scientific understanding and whether the approach is technically sound, including clearly stated goals and measurable outcomes; project technical feasibility and use of appropriate methods; appropriate mechanisms to evaluate the success of the project; and likelihood of meeting milestones and achieving anticipated results in the time proposed.
  • Project Rationale (25%): The degree to which the proposed activity addresses the research priorities of this funding opportunity and fills existing research gaps as outlined in the Deep Ocean DDT+ Research Needs Assessment for the Southern California Bight report. The degree to which the proposed activity addresses the needs of important state and regional constituencies pertinent to deep ocean DDT+ contamination. 
  • Management Relevance (15%): The degree to which the proposed project has a direct linkage to information that is relevant to a manager, decision-maker, or other applicable users.
  • Qualifications of Investigators (15%): The degree to which investigators are qualified by education, training and/or experience to execute the proposed project. Evidence of any record of achievement with previous funding.
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (10%): The degree to which the proposed activity broadens the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., based on gender, race and ethnicity, disability, geographic, socio-economic class, etc.) and early career researchers in STEM; and/or incorporates strategies to create/foster research-based partnerships with MSIs, community-based organizations, Indigenous peoples, and disadvantaged communities.
  • Project costs and justification (5%)

Selection Criteria

Sea Grant and the State Water Board shall award in the rank order unless the proposal is justified to be selected out of rank order based on one or more of the following factors:

  1. Availability of funding.
  2. Balance/distribution of funds: 
    • Geographically 
    • By type of institution 
    • By type of partners 
    • By research priority 
    • By project types 
  3. Duplication of other projects funded or considered for funding.
  4. Program priorities and policy factors.
  5. Applicant’s prior award performance.
  6. Addressing the goals of the Diversity Statement outlined in the Project Narrative Requirements (see Section 3f), including applicants that come from and/or foster partnerships with early career researchers, Indigenous, underserved, and/or underrepresented peoples.

Contacts

Budget Questions: sgbudget@ucsd.edu 

Rose Madson, Assistant Director, California Sea Grant

Ruth Dudas, Contracts & Grants Coordinator, USC Sea Grant

Proposal and eSeaGrant Submission Questions: sgproposal@ucsd.edu

Lian Guo, Research Coordinator, California Sea Grant

Amalia Aruda Almada, Science, Research & Policy Specialist, USC Sea Grant 

 

Application Resources