New Funding Opportunities for Tribes and Tribal Colleges

During a May 7 webinar, representatives of multiple federal agencies shared information about programs supporting student research, climate science and clean energy, among other opportunities

By Melanie Lenart

Students can apply for a 10-week paid internship at a Department of Energy national lab. Photo of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in Batavia, IL courtesy of the Dept. of  Energy.

An upcoming grant program involving collaboration between the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and NASA was among the opportunities surveyed during a May 7 webinar hosted by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The NASA-AIHEC partnership, known as STEM Bridges 2.0, supports students and faculty via grants of $50,000 to $68,000 a year. Applicants seeking support for projects that promote STEM disciplines aligned to the agency’s mission will apply directly through the consortium.

For the upcoming funding cycle, the partnership is focusing on proposals that build capacity in climate science, NASA administrator Caroline Montgomery explained. Priority areas include supporting undergraduate research, equipment purchases, efforts to enhance curriculum, faculty professional development, in-person meetings with NASA researchers and engineers available for collaborative projects, and activities designed to engage students of all ages in STEM. The first of four AIHEC webinars about the opportunity will be held on Wednesday, May 15. Additional webinars will be held in June and July.

The webinar also featured climate change funding opportunities for tribal entities and STEM students and faculty members with tribal colleges and universities. Representatives from various federal agencies spoke briefly to the approximately 70 participants about some funding opportunities to keep in mind.

The Department of Energy offers the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship program, which gives STEM students a chance to work for 10 weeks with one of the agency’s national labs. Students earn $750 (undergraduates) or $850 (graduates) a week, program manager Caleb Woodall said. Those interested for the summer of 2025 can apply this September.

The agency also funds University Training and Research Programs. This past year, the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and Navajo Technical University received two of the 19 awards, which range from $200,000 to $1.5 million. Woodall shared a link that has more details on these programs and other funding opportunities offered by this agency.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy provides tribal entities with funding to support electrification projects or to host a Clean Energy Innovator fellowship. According to a slide shown by tribal nations specialist Stephanie Bostwick, the office invested more than $120 million in tribal nations between 2010 and 2022 for projects that, among other things, help electrify or increase energy efficiency in households and buildings on tribal nations and create microgrids to bolster energy sovereignty. Thanks to $150 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, another $71 million is in the pipeline for tribal electrification projects. 

The National Science Foundation is requesting $10.2 billion to support its activities and numerous funding opportunities in fiscal year 2025. The agency is especially interested in projects that span several disciplines to provide a more systems-oriented approach in upcoming projects. One of its many programs involves recruiting emerging climate and adaptation scientists and helping them transition from undergraduate to graduate programs.

Three programs that supervisory program director Lina C. Patino highlighted were:

  • the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP), which supports social and behavioral sciences and linguists as well as natural sciences and the science, technology, engineering and math programs collectively known as STEM;
  • a new major initiative supporting Regional Innovation Engines; and
  • the Focus on Recruiting Emerging Climate and Adaptation Scientists and Transformers (FORECAST) program, which aims to assist students in conducting science that partners with communities and benefits society.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers a funding opportunity known as Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Events Across Food and Agricultural Systems, division director Rachel Melnick said. Funding of up to $300,000 for a year can be requested within 45 days after an extreme event such as floods, hurricanes, drought damage and other extreme events.

Links to opportunities mentioned during the webinar will be posted on the Native Climate website.

Melanie Lenart is a regular contributor and the News and Opinions editor for Native Science Report.

Story published May 14, 2024

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