brina kessel, aos award namesake

AOS is pleased to announce up to three new fellowships of $15,000 each for ornithological research. These fellowships have been made possible through a generous bequest by Dr. Brina Kessel and are directed to early career scientists. The full range of ornithological research currently published in peer-reviewed journals, such as avian biology, ecology, behavior, conservation, genetics, interdisciplinary work, etc. can be supported. Poultry and agricultural research will not be considered.

Kessel Fellowship Eligibility

Updated 1/7/20

  • Kessel Fellowships are open to early-career researchers. This includes current PhD students who will have completed their PhD when the grant is awarded and those who have received their PhD within ten years of the grant submission date (an extra year of eligibility may be granted for parental leave).
  • As early-career researchers, applicants are expected to have significant involvement in an ornithological society. Applicants must be an AOS member at the time of their application if they are citizens of the United States, Canada, Israel, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the following Western European countries: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Applicants who are NOT citizens of the countries listed above nor an AOS member are expected to be an active member of an ornithological society in their country or region.
  • Grants will be awarded to a single Principle Investigator (PI). These are not collaborative grants, although collaborators can be named in grant. AOS will only award grant money to a single person, not multiple PIs listed on the same grant. The grant will be made in full in the first year, with funds sent to the PI’s institution. PIs that transfer to another institution during the period of their research award will need to work out with their institution whether or not the funds may transfer with them or if the institution will continue to administer the grant through its completion.
  • Kessel Fellowships are intended to support PIs for up to a two-year period. Applicants who anticipate completing their research in less than two years are eligible to apply.
  • Applicants may not hold or have held at any time U.S., Canadian, or other federal grant support as a PI, or had university/institutional start-up funds intended for research, in excess of $100,000. Applicants who have been co-PIs are eligible to apply. AOS’s goal is to provide critical funding to early-career ornithologist who do not have access to other significant funds.
  • Applicants may not have received a Kessel Fellowship award previously.
  • Applicants may apply for only one AOS research award (Kessel Fellowship or Student & Postdoc Research Award) in a year and may hold only one award at a time.
  • Applicants who have received research funding from AOS in the past may apply as long as they meet all of the eligibility requirements listed above.

To Apply

Kessel Fellowship applications are currently closed. The next application cycle will open 7 October 2020.

Applications must be submitted through our online Member Portal.

  • Clicking “Apply Now” on the page linked above will direct you to a login screen. If you have previously created an account, your Login ID is your email address. After logging in, you will be redirected to the Kessel Research Fellowship Program application page.
  • If you have not previously created an account, click Create Account at the lower left to set up your profile.
  • You can also navigate to the submission page from the Member Portal homepage under “Open Competitions” in the lower right.

You will be asked to fill out the online submission form in addition to uploading your proposal as a single PDF file. The research proposal must use 12 point font with one-inch margins on all sides. It should include all of the following components:

Research Plan (maximum 2 pages):
Introduction: background and description of the problem
Goals: short and long term goals of the research
Methods: clear, replicable, feasible, and relevant to goals
Timeline: consistent with the goals
Literature Cited (maximum 1 additional page)
PI Biographical Sketch (maximum 1 additional page): Please summarize degrees earned, experience, publications, and other relevant activities (e.g. service and outreach).
Budget & Budget Justification (maximum 2 pages total):
Click here to download a two-year budget spreadsheet template in Excel format (one page).
-Applicants may include travel funds in their budget to attend one AOS meeting where they will present the results of the research supported by this grant (see “Post-Funding Requirements” below).
-Salary for field assistants, lab assistants, or graduate students is permitted. Funding for PI or post-doctoral fellow salaries is not allowed. Overhead or Facilities and Administration costs are not allowed.
-Please limit your budget justification to one additional page.

Kessel Fellowship recipients will be announced in April 2020, and funds will be disbursed no later than June 2020.

Award funds must be spent within two years of their receipt; however, recipients may request a no-cost extension beyond the end of the second year to accommodate field seasons and other defensible considerations.

Post-Funding Requirements

Successful applicants are encouraged to present their research at an AOS meeting and may budget these travel costs in their application if alternative travel funding is not available. Successful applicants are also expected to submit at least one manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal acknowledging the award.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am currently receiving funding for a research project, but not the project I’d like to propose for a Kessel Fellowship. Can I still apply?

You can apply if your current funding for any project is under $100,000. If your current funding exceeds $100,000, you are not eligible to apply. The goal of the Kessel Fellowships is to provide critical funding to early-career ornithologists who do not have access to other significant funds.

I’ve received past federal funding for research as the PI, but don’t have funding now. My research grant did not exceed $100,000. Am I eligible to apply?


I was a co-PI with my advisor on a major grant that exceeded $100,000. I do not have funding now. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes. Since you did not receive the grant as an independent researcher, but instead served as a co-PI under the mentorship of an advisor, you may apply.

Why are applicants from certain countries required to be AOS members, but not others?

AOS is an international professional society and serves ornithologists all over the world. By removing the requirement for AOS membership for applicants in some countries, we hope to eliminate barriers to ornithologists who are active in research and active in their local or regional ornithological society rather than in the AOS, but where there is limited, if any, research funding available. In this way, we hope to make this grant opportunity available for early-career ornithologists⁠ — AOS members and non-members⁠ — who are pursuing research but do not currently have access to research funding. We welcome applications from all postdocs and early professionals who meet the Kessel Fellowship eligibility requirements.

I anticipate moving institutions in the next two years. Will I be able to transfer the Kessel grant funds to my new affiliation?

AOS will pay out the $15,000 grant in full in the first year. Only institutions may receive the grant funds; AOS is unable to send awards directly to individuals. If you move institutions (take an additional post-doc, start a job, etc.) during the two year period of your grant, as PI it will be your responsibility to work out with the institution administering the funds whether they will continue to administer them for you or agree to transfer the funds to another institution. 

What if I am unable to complete my funded research in two years? Will I be required to return any unexpended funds to AOS?  

AOS recognizes that unexpected circumstances may arise during the two-year grant period. While we expect that Kessel Research Fellowships are typically completed and funds are spent within a two-year period after receiving the award, AOS will grant a no-cost extension to accommodate field seasons and other defensible considerations. If such an extension is necessary, the PI must request permission from AOS to receive a no-cost extension.

    From the field

    Another way I participate in outreach is writing newspaper articles to promote public awareness on biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability. I was excited to receive the 2019 Eco-Challenge Award for this work! Thank you for following along this week with my takeover of the AOS Instagram account.  #ornithology #science #conservation #womeninstem #latinainstem #stemeducation #scicomm
[Thanks, Adrianne! If YOU are an AOS member and would like to be featured here for a week, please get in touch.]I collaborate with the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society (SOPI in Spanish) on their education projects, such as giving talks at bird festivals and organizing bird identification workshops. SOPI members will be organizing birding tours for participants of #NAOC2020 in San Juan this summer! #birds #ornithology #science #conservation #womeninstem #latinainstem #stemeducation  #puertorico
[Our thanks to AOS member Adrianne Tossas, a Puerto Rican ornithologist helping plan this summer's #NAOC2020, who's taking over this account for the week!]With support of BirdsCaribbean and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I published a bird book for children. I really enjoy giving presentations to students in schools, clubs, and camps. It is a great experience to share the knowledge with young audiences! #birds #ornithology #science #conservation #womeninstem #latinainstem #caribbean
[Our thanks to AOS member Adrianne Tossas, a Puerto Rican ornithologist helping plan this summer's #NAOC2020, who's taking over this account for the week!]Last year we celebrated the biannual conference of BirdsCaribbean in the French island of Guadeloupe. Delegates from 34 countries participated in a week of presentations, birding, and networking. These meetings are always a lot of fun! #ornithology #science #conservation #womeninstem #latinainstem #caribbean
[Our thanks to AOS member Adrianne Tossas, a Puerto Rican ornithologist helping plan this summer's #NAOC2020, who's taking over this account for the week!]I have been a member of BirdsCaribbean since 1999, when I was a graduate student. As part of this society I have had a chance to meet and work with colleagues from different countries throughout the region. Here I am having good times with Caribbean friends in Cuba in 2017! #ornithology #science #conservation #womeninstem #latinainstem #caribbean
[Our thanks to AOS member Adrianne Tossas, a Puerto Rican ornithologist helping plan this summer's #NAOC2020, who's taking over this account for the week!]In 2017, my students and I initiated waterbird surveys in a small lagoon that lies within a Puerto Rican dairy farm. Interestingly, we have found 33 species, including migratory ducks, shorebirds and a single individual of Caribbean Flamingo. The birds are used to cows getting in the water to freshen up!  #birds #wildlife #ornithology #science #conservation #womeninstem #latinainstem #puertorico
[Our thanks to AOS member Adrianne Tossas, a Puerto Rican ornithologist helping plan this summer's #NAOC2020, who's taking over this account for the week!]My undergraduate research group monitors seabirds in the northwestern part of the island. We focus on the White-tailed Tropicbird, which can only be seen near land when individuals come to nest in cliffs from January to June. This part of the island was designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. The natural beauty of the site is impressive! Video by Raymond Infante. #birds #wildlife #ornithology #science #conservation #womeninstem #latinainstem #puertorico
[Our thanks to AOS member Adrianne Tossas, a Puerto Rican ornithologist helping plan this summer's #NAOC2020, who's taking over this account for the week!]
    Follow us on Instagram