Papahānaumokuākea Research and Conservation Fund 2018 Request for Proposals

Pre-proposal Due Date: Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 by 11:59 PM ET (5:59PM HT)
Full Proposal Due Date: Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 by 11:59 PM ET (5:59PM HT)


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals to conduct management driven research at French Frigate Shoals in the summer of 2018.  A successful proposal will include a collaborative team of experts or scientists who will propose a body of research to address priority needs for management of key species such as sea turtles, monk seals, seabirds and coral in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (MNM) that will inform the management of these species both in the Monument and in the main Hawaiian chain. The goal of the Hawaii Conservation Program is to protect and conserve threatened and endemic species of Hawaii, from the slopes of Mauna Kea to the deep sea waters of Kure Atoll. This program builds on investments made since the early 1990s to support the conservation of Hawaiian forest birds, coral reefs and seabirds and expands to include other species like sea turtles, reef fish and monk seals across the main and northwest Hawaiian Islands to capture the full range for these populations across the archipelago. 

This Request for Proposals, one of the initial grant solicitations of the Hawaii Conservation Program, seeks proposals to characterize current food web/trophic dynamics and model potential impacts of environmental stressors on species across terrestrial and marine (priority on mid-zone to deep-zone) habitats. Increased understanding of these systems in a natural setting will help management of the focal species in the Monument and inform conservation investments in the main Hawaiian chain. 

Under this solicitation, NFWF will award up to $900,000 for a single collaborative proposal that best meets the research needs described in this RFP. The proposal package should include all elements of the research cruise such as ship time, research and analysis. Major funding for this initial research opportunity is provided by Marc & Lynne Benioff and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Matching funds are not required, but are strongly encouraged.

To consolidate investments for greater impact, proposals should describe how multi-disciplinary approaches will be incorporated to address management needs across one or both of two key research themes that have been identified by a joint science and management Advisory Committee:

  1. Understanding the potential impacts of predicted environmental stressors on wildlife and their habitats: Collect physical and biological data to create predictive models that will help managers understand potential impacts to wildlife under different global scenarios of sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification to wildlife and coral reef species in this area and implications for management in areas that are less pristine.
  2. Increasing understanding of the mesophotic zone: Increase understanding on how habitats and species at water depths of approximately 30 to 150 meters support the productivity and energy dynamics for the complex web of species that thrive at this location, to foster continued recovery of priority populations.


Funding under this solicitation is for activities that occur in or around the French Frigate Shoals ̶ in the northwest Hawaiian archipelago depicted in Map 1.  If the proposed project is part of a broader research geography with other funding, please make note of it in the matching funds section and in the proposal narrative. Due to the importance of the environmental and cultural resources of this area, strict attention will be given to biosecurity and culturally significant places and traditions.

Hawaiian Archipelago
Map 1: Priority geography for the 2018 summer research cruise is French Frigate Shoals (Lalo) within the Papahānaumokuākea MNM. Map provided by the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Office.


All proposals must explain how research will directly support one (or more) of the two overall themes for this solicitation and are strongly encouraged to describe proposed research and activities in the context of actionable management opportunities based on results.  Direct management action such as translocation is also an eligible activity, provided it is consistent with the overall scope of work and priority geography. Priority research projects and management questions that have already been identified under these themes are listed below; other activities and research topics are eligible provided they support the overall themes:

  1. ​Understanding the potenti​al impacts of predicted environmental stressors on priority species. 
  • ​Historical reconstruction of beach erosion and accretion during the recent Holocene.  Low-lying sand islands in Papahānaumokuākea are critical nesting and pupping habitat for threatened green sea turtles, seabirds, and critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals.  Environmental stressors and rising sea levels threaten to erode this important habitat.  As recently as 3,000-5,000 years ago, sea levels in Hawaii were 1-2 meters higher than at present, comparable to scenarios predicted for the next 100-200 years with expected sea level rise.  Coring and sediment analyses on beach deposits in Papahānaumokuākea can inform management on whether beaches were able to persist through this recent high sea level, or whether they gradually (or rapidly) eroded away, and were re-deposited as sea levels dropped.  This information will allow natural resource managers to plan appropriate mitigation or adaptation measures to meet this challenge. 
  • Predictive modeling of environmental stressors impacts to nesting and foraging habitats for sea turtles, monk seals and birds in Papahānaumokuākea. Coupled with the work to understand the erosion and accretion rates is the need to understand these changes and additional stressors like thermal dynamics on islands that are critical nesting/pupping habitat for protected species (green sea turtle, Hawaiian monk seal, sea and land birds). Managers need to understand the depth and rates of temperature change and where tipping points for organisms like sea turtles that are temperature dependent are likely to be reached given current predictions.
  • 3D photogrammetry and modeling of structural changes in the wake of mass coral bleaching events in Papahānaumokuākea.  The MNM has experienced four mass bleaching events in the past 15 years.  NOAA Coral Reef Watch products and bleaching forecasts predict a 60 to 90% chance of additional coral bleaching during 2017.  The managers of Papahānaumokuākea would like to document and understand loss and eventual recovery of three-dimensional structure and compare these changes at depth. Extensions to this research would also compare the recovery to areas on the main Hawaiian chain to this pristine environment to inform management of thresholds in important fish complexes, etc.  
  1. Increasing understanding of the mesophotic zone: 
  • Characterize abiotic features of the mesophotic zone. Characterization of the habitat features of the mesophotic zone is needed to understand how this zone differs and interacts with the shallower depths and the extent to which it may serve as a refuge for corals and other species during periods of high environmental stress. Research under this priority should be coupled with other efforts and include water quality sampling and research on the impacts of seawater acidification and pH on calcifying organisms along the vertical profile, bathymetry mapping to inform biological characterization efforts and current and flow data at varying depths.  It is essential that research under this priority have strong collaboration and data sharing with the other research components.
  • Study trophic dynamics and the flow of energy and nutrients between shallow and mesophotic coral reef habitats. The coral reefs of Papahānaumokuākea are characterized by some of the highest abundances of large predatory fishes known in any coastal ecosystem and support a local monk sea population.  These wide-ranging carnivores may be the trophic link between shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems.  Projects under this research priority will use state-of-the-art acoustic tagging hardware, stable isotope analyses and surveys of the vertical profile of primary producers, prey species, and apex predators, to produce a more complete understanding of the trophic dynamics connecting or separating shallow and deep coral reef habitats.  Research under this priority should seek to answer the question of how to most effectively manage shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems - as tropically distinct ecosystems, or together as a single unified coral reef ecosystem.  
  • Fill gaps in taxonomic research of the mesophotic zone. Efforts are needed to complete taxonomic analysis of existing specimens collected from mesophotic coral ecosystems in Papahānaumokuākea and to fill gaps in species categories that have inadequate numbers of specimens to complete taxonomic analyses.  Over 75 undescribed species of algae and numerous undescribed species of fishes are currently held in museum and University of Hawaii collections. Priority projects under this category will engage taxonomic experts to complete published descriptions of these fish and algal specimens as new species and inform or participate in collection of additional specimens needed to complete analysis of key taxonomic groups. 


Eligible Entities

  • ​Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, U.S. Federal government agencies, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes, educational institutions, businesses, and unincorporated individuals. 
  • Applicants must be prepared to secure their own transportation to the study area and coordinate with communications and cultural leads that are part of the overall effort. 

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds 

  • ​NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
  • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts. 


Up to $900,000 is available to support a collaborative proposals to conduct priority research with the following considerations:

  • ​The applicant is responsible for securing their own transportation and all logistics around the scope of work. Due to the short time frame, NFWF has identified the University of Hawaii’s research vessel Ka’imikai-O-Kanaloa (KOK) as being available for Summer 2018 as a potential platform. Applicants interested in this option should reach out to Alexander Shor​ for more information.
  • Applicants should allow for 1 to 2 berth spaces to accommodate Educational and Cultural components. These components and team members can either be part of the collaborative proposal or will be identified once a block grant is chosen in partnership with the NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Papahānaumokuākea MNM Communications Office. 
  • Matching funds are not required, but are strongly encouraged and expected to meet the research scope of work.  Matching funds can be federal or non-federal and will be considered in application review.
  • The selected project team will need to secure all necessary permits and submit a permit application package no later than February 1, 2018 to the appropriate agencies. Participants must also gain all necessary approvals and abide by all cultural and ecological/biosecurity requirements.
  • Researchers must agree to participate in preliminary workshops/webinars to abide by permit requirements for this culturally and environmentally sensitive area and to collaborate with communications teams.
  • A successful collaborative project will include collaborative data collection and analysis across science and management disciplines and produce a coordinated product targeting key management questions that will be greater than the sum of its individual research parts. 


All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Proposals will then be evaluated based on the extent to which they meet the following criteria.

Program Goals and Priorities – Project contributes to the Program’s overall conservation goals to transfer knowledge of management strategies for Hawaii’s unique fish and wildlife. Project addresses one or more of the key themes and demonstrates a clear understanding of the management questions and how proposed research will contribute to addressing those questions. 

Past Success - Investigators should have a proven track record of conducting similar work to that proposed, either in the Hawaiian Archipelago or similar island systems.

Technical Merit – Project is technically sound and feasible, and the proposal sets forth a clear, logical and achievable work plan and timeline. Project engages appropriate technical experts throughout project planning, design and implementation to ensure activities are technically-sound and feasible. 

Partnership –The project is supported by a strong local partnership that leverages additional funds and will sustain it after the life of the grant. Identify proposed partners, if known, the roles they will play in implementing the project, and how this project will build new or enhance existing partnerships. 

Transferability – Project has potential to transfer lessons learned in the target geography to other areas within the Monument and across the Hawaiian chain and/or to be integrated into government programs and policies.

Progress to Management Needs – Scope of work is designed to address management questions and needs and to establish actionable conclusions within one year of the cruise. Projects will be evaluated on the progress anticipated within one year of the cruise on pending questions within the theme and whether further data collection is likely needed to draw conclusions. The project advances an existing research priority or management action called for in the Papahānaumokuākea MNM management plan.

Long-term Sustainability – Projects that serve as ‘baseline’ or require continuous monitoring to draw actionable conclusions will be evaluated based on likelihood of future funding for necessary long-term monitoring and maintenance activities.


Budget – Costs are allowable, reasonable and budgeted in accordance with NFWF’s Budget Instructions cost categories.  Federally-funded projects must be in compliance with OMB Uniform Guidance​ as applicable.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not necessarily constitute NFWF’s express written authorization for the applicant to procure such specific services noncompetitively.  When procuring goods and services, NFWF recipients must follow documented procurement procedures which reflect applicable laws and regulations.  

Publicity and Acknowledgement of Support – Award recipients will be required to grant NFWF the right and authority to publicize the project and NFWF’s financial support for the grant in press releases, publications and other public communications.  Recipients may also be asked by NFWF to provide high-resolution (minimum 300 dpi) photographs depicting the project.

Receiving Award Funds – Award payments are primarily reimbursable.  Projects may request funds for reimbursement at any time after completing a signed agreement with NFWF.  A request of an advance of funds must be due to an imminent need of expenditure and must detail how the funds will be used and provide justification and a timeline for expected disbursement of these funds.

Compliance Requirements – Projects selected may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act (state and federal), and National Historic Preservation Act.  Documentation of compliance with these regulations must be approved prior to initiating activities that disturb or alter habitat or other features of the project site(s).  Applicants should budget time and resources to obtain the needed approvals.  As may be applicable, successful applicants may be required to comply with additional Federal, state or local requirements and obtain all necessary permits and clearances.

Permits – The successful applicant will be required to provide sufficient documentation that the project expects to receive or has received all necessary permits and clearances to comply with any Federal, state or local requirements. Permit applications must be submitted by February 1.

Federal Funding – The availability of federal funds estimated in this solicitation is contingent upon the federal appropriations process. Funding decisions will be made based on level of funding and timing of when it is received by NFWF.


Dates of activities are subject to change.  

​October 26, 2017, 5:59 PM, HT
Full Proposal Invitation(s)
​November 10, 2017
Full Proposal Due
​December 17, 2017, 5:59 PM, HT
​​Review Period​​
​​January, 2018
Recommended Project for Permitting
​​ January 24, 2018
Permit Application Package 
​February, 2018
Research Cruise Workshop, HNL
​February/March, 2018
Research Cruise
​July/August, 2018​


All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.

  1. ​Go to​ to register in our Easygrants online system.  New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting the application (if you already are a registered user, use your existing login).  Enter your applicant information. 
  2. Once on your homepage, click the “Apply for Funding” button and select this RFP’s “Funding Opportunity” from the list of options.
  3. Follow the instructions in Easygrants to complete your application.  Once an application has been started, it may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission.


A PDF version of this RFP can be downloaded here​.

A Tip Sheet is available for quick reference while you are working through your application. This document can be downloaded here.  

Additional information to support the application process can be accessed on the NFWF’s Applicant Information webpage.

For more information or questions about this RFP, please contact:
Michelle Pico,

For issues or assistance with our online Easygrants system, please contact:

Easygrants Helpdesk
Voicemail:  202-595-2497
Hours:  9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET, Monday-Friday.
Include:  your name, proposal ID #, e-mail address,  phone number,  program you are applying to,  and a description of the issue.​​​​​​​


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