- Get Involved
Historically, the Smithsonian has studied species in a range of ecosystems with the goal of enhancing knowledge of biodiversity and its role in the healthy functioning of ecosystems for a sustainable planet. The Smithsonian will now also foster interdisciplinary research and harness its institutional power to expand its work and find innovative approaches to global problems that stem from biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, climate change and human-biosphere interactions. The Consortium will support projects that combine expertise across scientific units and biodiversity disciplines to investigate natural processes and their responses to change.
Smithsonian Grand Challenges Awards—a competitive, internal granting program—advance cross-disciplinary, integrated scholarly efforts across the Institution which relate to the Smithsonian Grand Challenge Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet. These awards encourage Smithsonian staff to advance research, as well as broaden access, revitalize education, strengthen collections and encourage new ways of thinking that involve emerging technology.
Grand Challenges grants are awarded through the Smithsonian Consortia at two distinct levels:
Level One grants provide seed money to develop groups around promising concepts. Successful proposals at Level One provide the time and incentive for individuals with common interests to meet and crystallize ideas for major interdisciplinary/pan-Institutional projects. These projects are intended to be short in duration (6-12 months) and focused in purpose, such as support for arranging seminars, workshops, meetings, and brown-bag lunches.
Level Two grants are larger and aimed at maturing groups poised to confront relevant issues and prepared to secure external funding. Applicants apply for Level Two funding to conduct preliminary experiments, write a position paper, explore the design of an exhibition, conduct preparatory work for a major project or produce other evidence of scholarly capacity that is deemed essential for external competition. Successful proposals at Level Two provide a group that has defined a common goal with the resources they need to establish themselves as credible competitors for external funding. Applicants for Level Two funding may already have a collaborative history or may be building on the outcome of a successful Level One process.
Pierre Comizzoli, a research biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and leader of the Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative, is the Smithsonian’s consortia director for science. The consortia director and the consortia committee consider proposals for innovative research, exhibitions and programs from around the Smithsonian to determine which ones will receive funding.
Comizzoli holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Veterinary School of Alfort and a doctorate from the University of Tours in France. After working for five years as a research scientist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, he joined SCBI’s Center for Species Survival in 2002 to develop new projects on gamete and tissue cryopreservation for rare and endangered species. He is also in charge of conservation projects on wild carnivores and ungulates in Northern Africa—he is the chair of the Conservation and Scientific Committee of the Sahara Conservation Fund—and in Southeast Asia, where he is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Saola Working Group.
Comizzoli has received several professional awards, including the Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize (2008 and 2012) and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2011).