Kelp Recovery Research Program: Request for Proposals

Funding Category
Grants and Funding
Application Deadline
Proposal Contact:


*Note: In light of recent developments related to COVID-19, California Sea Grant has extended the Kelp Recovery Research Program full proposal deadline to Monday, May 18, 2020. Only applicants who submitted a letter of intent by March 23 may submit a full proposal. 

California’s north coast has recently been impacted by unprecedented declines in bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). This decline has been attributed to a “perfect storm” of changing ocean conditions, including persistent warm water temperatures, sea star wasting disease, and an explosion in purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) populations, which have all contributed to the conversion from healthy bull kelp forests to the bare rock of classic “urchin barrens.” Bull kelp is a foundational species for northern California marine ecosystems, and this shift from forests to barrens has caused significant loss of kelp forest ecosystem services on the north coast, including the collapse of the recreational red abalone and commercial red sea urchin fisheries.

California’s central and south coasts have been similarly affected by severe declines in giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), another foundational kelp species, but these declines have been  patchier than those on the north coast. For example, certain reefs off the Monterey Peninsula have transitioned to urchin barrens, while others remain kelp forests. Improved understanding of potential restoration strategies and the dynamics and mechanisms underlying them through systematic experimentation in the field and in field-relevant laboratory trials, is needed to  improve our ability to curb and hopefully reverse ongoing declines in both kelp species that are anticipated to have negative, cascading effects statewide.

California Sea Grant and the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC), in coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), are now soliciting proposals for projects that will directly inform the efforts of resource managers to protect and restore kelp ecosystems statewide. California Sea Grant and OPC will only consider funding “solutions-oriented” research through this call -- in other words, projects that will directly contribute to the recovery of kelp ecosystems and coastal communities.

California Sea Grant’s mission is to provide integrated research, extension, outreach, and education to help Californians balance diverse interests that intersect with the coastal and marine environments, and adapt to changing conditions and needs. California Sea Grant accomplishes this by collaborating with a range of local, state, regional, national, and international partners to further the acquisition and application of relevant scientific knowledge.

The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) was established to improve the management and protection of ocean and coastal resources and ecosystems. One of the many ways the OPC achieves this purpose is by supporting innovative research that directly informs and improves the stewardship of ocean and coastal resources. 

CDFW has historically conducted annual aerial surveys of kelp canopy, tracks commercial harvest records, and provides management recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission on kelp harvest plans, kelp bed lease requests, and potential regulation changes.

Proposed research must be solutions-oriented, i.e. research findings MUST directly inform management approaches for protecting and restoring California kelp ecosystems.

In addition, proposed research should be in line with the following strategic goals and guiding documents: 

California Sea Grant extended the deadline for letters of intent until 5:00 p.m. PT on March 23, 2020. The deadline for full proposals has also been extended to 5:00 p.m. PT on May 18, 2020 via eSeaGrant.

Only applicants who have submitted a letter of intent may submit a full proposal.

Award Information
Criteria for Proposal Evaluation
Contents of a LOI
Contents of a Full Proposal
Proposal Review Process


California Sea Grant, OPC, and CDFW hosted an optional webinar to review the request for proposals and application logistics on Wednesday, March 11th from 1:00-2:30 PM PST.

Watch a recording of the webinar here


View a pdf of the slides here 


The following timetable lists firm, and approximate, event dates that will lead to the establishment of research awards under this call:

March 23, 2020 – 5:00pm PT: LOI due 
May 18, 2020 – 5:00pm PT: Full proposals due
May 2020: Proposal review
June 19, 2020: OPC consideration of approval for project funding
June 22, 2020 (approximate): Awards begin


Eligible applicants for this competitive grant program include public agencies, nonprofit corporations, or private entities subject to Public Resources Code Section 35650, as stated in OPC's Proposition 68 Grant Funding Procedures. Projects must benefit the state of California. If you have questions about your institution’s eligibility to apply to this call, please contact Catherine Courtier ( | (858) 822-2167) or Mike Esgro ( | (916) 651-2497).

California Sea Grant is the final arbiter of decisions regarding eligibility.

Award Information

There is a total of $900,000 available for this research solicitation. California Sea Grant will fund $600,000 worth of projects and OPC will provide an additional $300,000. We anticipate funding two to four projects, with a maximum project budget of $450,000 per year.  The anticipated start date of these projects is approximately June 22, 2020. The duration of a project request is typically two years, though requests for a one-year award will also be considered. 

We anticipate funding two to four projects and project budgets should be less than $450,000 per year.  The duration of a project request is typically two years, though requests for a one-year award will also be considered. California Sea Grant, OPC, and CDFW encourage solution oriented projects that are likely to yield measurable impacts to the local economy, community, and environment.

Research projects are required to provide 25% in non-federal matching funds from the PI's home institution or primary project partners. Continuation of a project beyond the first year is subject to demonstration of satisfactory progress by the project investigator. 

Criteria for Proposal Evaluation

To be funded, research must be consistent with the missions of California Sea Grant, OPC, and CDFW, be consistent with this request for proposals, and be a solution based research project pertaining to kelp.

In addition, evaluation of proposals will be based on the following criteria: 

  • Project Rationale and Relevance: The degree to which the proposed project addresses an important issue, scientific problem, information gap, or opportunity in the health, development, use or management of marine or coastal resources and ecosystems, as stated in the list of priority topic areas. The degree to which the proposed project will help the recovery of kelp populations in California. 
  • Research/Scientific Merit: The degree to which the proposed project will provide possible solutions aimed at protecting and restoring California kelp ecosystems or discipline through use of state-of-the-art robust methods.  
  • Innovativeness: The degree to which new approaches to solving problems and exploiting opportunities in resource management or development will be employed in the proposed project 
  • User Relationships: The degree to which the users or potential users of the proposed project’s results have been brought into the planning of the proposed project, will be brought into the execution of the proposed project or will be kept appraised of progress and results. 
  • Qualifications of Investigators: 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. 

Contents of a LOI

Letters of intent are due by 5:00 p.m. PT on March 23, 2020 to Letters of intent (2-page limit) will allow California Sea Grant, OPC, and CDFW to gauge interest and topics that may be submitted.  

In the letter of intent, please provide the following basic information: 

  • Name of applicant and contact information 
  • Title of project
  • Brief discussion of the focal topic and approach
  • Permits/CEQA - If permits are required, we ask that this be stated. Ensuring that all permits are properly obtained before research commences is the responsibility of the applicant.
  • Approximate funding to be requested
  • After the review of your LOI, do you give permission to share your contact info (but not proposal idea) with the PIs of other project(s) that California Sea Grant, OPC, and/or CDFW think might mutually benefit from collaboration? (Y/N)

Contents of a Full Proposal

Proposal requirements and size limits are as follows: 

  1. Cover page - The cover page provides basic summary information regarding the project and identifies which broad focus area(s) the project addresses. Proposers should download and use the fillable Excel spreadsheet to enter this information and upload this document as a PDF in eSeaGrant. *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. 
  2. Project Narrative - The project narrative format and contents may vary; however, proposals should include the information listed below. The project narrative MUST not exceed 12 pages (INCLUDING, Project Summary, Introduction, Objectives, Approach, illustrations, charts, tables, and figures). Proposals exceeding this size limit will not be reviewed. 
    • Project Summary – Briefly summarize the rationale for and objectives of this study, as well as the overall approach to be undertaken to achieve the objectives.

    • Introduction and Background – Provide the rationale for your project (a well-defined problem or important opportunity). Show a clear relationship between the problem statement and the project objectives. Merit, rationale, innovativeness and utilization for the research proposed are criteria by which proposals are evaluated. Thus, a clear, concise statement of the “real world” need for your research (rationale), a description of who might use the results and how they might use them (utilization) should be addressed. The project should be solution based.

    • Objectives – In number or “bullet” format, list the Objectives or Goals of the research program.

    • Approach (Plan of Work) – Present the scientific/technical approach, experiments, procedures, timeline, etc. Identify and discuss any new approaches (innovativeness) to solving problems and exploiting opportunities in resource management or development, including public outreach. Please make clear what other sources of support (fiscal, personnel or logistical), if any, will be used to help support the work proposed. A project timeline in a chart or table format depicting deliverables and milestones is required.

    • Permits/CEQA - If 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.

    • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance - If needed, please include information on the project’s CEQA compliance. The Ocean Protection Council and CDFW will have to determine whether the project is in compliance with CEQA prior to issuing funding awards. 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

    • Outcomes and Deliverables – Project outcomes should be clearly related to the project objectives and should be briefly described. Any planned interactions with relevant management personnel should be described. Within the design of the project, applicants should identify which group(s) of stakeholders will benefit from the work performed. Each proposal should clearly describe how users of information will be engaged before work begins, during the project, and how results will be disseminated to  the targeted stakeholder.

    • References – List all included references alphabetically. The list of References does NOT  count toward the 12-page limit of the narrative but must be included in the narrative pdf file. 

  3. Data Management Access - Describe how data and other information generated by the project will be handled, stored, and shared, i.e., disseminated to the public, participants, stakeholders, and the State.

  4. Budgets and Budget Justification 

    • Eligible proposing institutions are welcome to propose research lasting up to two years in duration and requesting a maximum of $450,000/year (sum of Direct Costs plus Indirect Costs). Shorter duration research projects and/or those requesting above the minimum allowable funds but less than the maximum allowable funds are welcomed.

    • Be prepared to enter any salaries, wages, and fringe benefits for all personnel associated with the project. Also, if applicable, indicate expected costs for equipment, expendable supplies, publication costs, and travel. 

    • All budget entries will require justification. See the “Instructions” worksheet, and example budget worksheet “Budget Just Y1 EXAMPLE”, enclosed in the Excel budget file to guide you in preparing the budget.

    • If recommended for funding, California Sea Grant may ask you to work with staff to revise your budget to make sure that the project budget, indirect costs, match, etc. is correct. Note that both federal and state funds will be used to support projects approved for funding, so please use your institution’s federally negotiated rate when completing your budget, and if your project is approved for funding using state funds, you will be asked to revise your budget to the state’s IDC rate of 30%.

  5. CVs and Additional Personnel
    • CVs (maximum 3 pages for each person) of all key personnel (PIs, co-PIs, Associate PIs) must be included in the submission. Each investigator (PI or co-PI) record created in eSeaGrant should have a CV associated with it.

    • Listing “Additional Personnel” is optional and this section is to be used at your discretion. You might include all additional personnel who are NOT listed as investigators (e.g. Postdoc, key graduate student). If there are additional personnel who are not the PI or co-PI’s their CV’s should be attached to the Project Narrative file. These will not count toward the 12-page limit. 

    • Note: If a CV that is longer than 3 pages is submitted, Sea Grant will provide reviewers only with the first 3 pages of CV for each PI and co-PI. 

  6. Current and Pending Support - Using the section online in eSeaGrant, please list other current and pending projects associated with investigators.  
  7. Support Letters - Support letters are optional. However, if they are to be included in the application, please consolidate all letters into one PDF for uploading to eSeaGrant.
  8. Proposed Reviewers - Please enter information of at least five potential reviewers and any names of people that you would not want to have your proposal reviewed by.
    • *Proposers may include a list of suggested reviewers who they believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal. Proposers also may designate persons they would prefer not review the proposal, indicating why. These suggestions are optional.

Proposals must be submitted using eSeaGrant:

Instructions on how to submit via eSeaGrant: 

Proposal Review Process

Proposals will undergo a structured review process led by California Sea Grant, OPC, and CDFW. Review panels will include subject matter experts, scientists, and agency representatives. At its discretion, the CA Sea Grant, OPC, and/or CDFW may request additional review by likely user groups of the research findings or suggest coordination of complementary proposals. Projects recommended for funding through this review process will be presented at an Ocean Protection Council meeting on June 19, 2020 for consideration of final approval of awards. 


Proposal Content Questions:

Shauna Oh, California Sea Grant - Director
(858) 534 – 4440

Mike Esgro, Ocean Protection Council - Marine Ecosystems Program Manager
(916) 651-2497

James Ray, California Department of Fish and Wildlife - Biologist 
(707) 441 5755

Proposal Format & eSeaGrant Questions:

Catherine Courtier, Extension & Program Analyst
(858) 822-2167

Carol Bailey-Sumber, Grants Analyst
(858) 534-7855

Budget Questions/Matching Funds Questions:

Rose Madson, Assistant Director
(858) 534-4601