Host Eligibility and Project Selection

Note: The Coastal Management Fellowship Program is taking a pause for 2021 and will not be placing a class of fellows this year. The NOAA Office for Coastal Management is committed to this fellowship program and we look forward to being up and running again in 2022. If you have questions, please contact

Hosts must address how the proposed project would address one or more of the specified focus areas listed below. These focus areas will be revised slightly each year to reflect current Office for Coastal Management priorities.


Coastal Management Agency Hosts: All states and U.S. jurisdictions with federally approved coastal zone management programs, and states developing such programs for approval, may submit a project proposal to NOAA to compete for selection as a fellowship host state. Multiple state agencies or organizations with partnered implementation of the state's coastal management program are also eligible. States that currently host a first-year fellow are not eligible to apply for a second fellow. Six project proposals are typically selected each year.

Digital Coast Hosts: All eight Digital Coast Partnership organizations may submit one project proposal to the NOAA Office for Coastal Management to compete for selection as a fellowship host. Organizations may partner with each other to develop a proposal, but one main host organization and mentor must be specified. Three project proposals are typically selected every other year, in the even years.

Proposal Requirements

Applicants must submit a six-to-eight-page proposal that addresses the following:

  1. Background and Introduction – Define the problem and the need for the project.
  2. Goals and Objectives – Provide project goals and quantifiable objectives. Find more information on writing SMART objectives here.
  3. Milestones and Outcomes – Highlight specific target milestones, timelines, and products or services to be completed within the two years of the fellowship. If travel is anticipated, it should be included on the timeline. Note that costs for any travel related to the fellows’ project, including attending the host organization’s annual conference (if applicable), should be covered by the host. Travel costs covered by NOAA are included in the “Cost Share” section.
  4. Project Description – Detail the specifics of the project (no more than three pages).
  5. Fellow Mentoring – Discuss how the host agency will incorporate the fellow into staff activities and encourage the fellow's professional development. Discuss how the mentor will provide day-to-day supervision and on-the-job education to the fellow. The mentor should be identified by name in the proposal. If two organizations partner to develop a proposal, a single organization must be specified as the lead, and a mentor must be identified at that organization. If the fellow is shared or located someone other than the organization’s headquarters, a communication plan among the partners must be included.
  6. Project Partners – Provide a summary of existing efforts and how the project will integrate these efforts.
  7. Cost Share Description – Discuss how the host will provide in-kind support (office equipment, supplies, specialized software and hardware needed for the project, and training) and the $15,000 nonfederal fellowship match.
  8. Strategic Focus Area – Discuss how the proposed project addresses one or more of the following strategic focus areas:
    Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
    • Build innovative natural and social science research capacity, products, and applications that reflect user-driven science, and synthesize, visualize, communicate, and transfer research results to strengthen policies and decisions, and effectively manage coastal and ocean resources.
    • Increase and enhance opportunities for the public, students, and teachers to experience, understand, and appreciate coastal resources and make informed environmental decisions.
    • Support coastal and ocean resource managers through cooperative funding, data, information, tools, training, technical assistance, analysis, and exchange of best practices to strengthen ecosystem policies, build capacity, and implement prioritized management efforts.
    • Enable conservation and restoration of critical coastal ecosystems and habitat by integrating priorities and interests across agencies and partner organizations using geospatial applications to align interests, communicate priorities, and pool resources.
    • Develop and support coastal observing networks and provide integrated data, tools, and information to decision makers for understanding, visualizing, and communicating the state of the nation’s coastal and ocean natural resources, including thresholds at which ecosystem values and the services provided become reduced or lost.
    Resilient Coastal Communities
    • Foster user-driven science and assessment efforts to enhance understanding of natural, social, and economic impacts of coastal hazards and climate change, and the approaches needed to adapt to and communicate about these threats.
    • Increase public awareness of coastal hazards and actions that can be taken to reduce the loss of life and property.
    • Build capacity to pursue strategies such as hazard preparedness, mitigation, and post-hazard redevelopment planning by providing an integrated suite of data, information, training, technical assistance, cooperative funding, and policy tools to coastal communities.
    • Identify and engage partners in maximizing the understanding, visualization, and application of risk-wise strategies.
    Vibrant and Sustainable Coastal Economies
    • Promote policies and practices that foster trust, transparency, predictability, and efficiency in government decision-making for coastal and ocean uses.
    • Assist coastal decision makers in conserving active and passive recreational uses and in preparing for existing and emerging coastal and ocean uses by providing socioeconomic data, information, visualizations, technical assistance, funding, and tools.
    • Build capacity of coastal states and communities to foster ecologically sustainable economic development and activities.
    • Understand, quantify, visualize, and communicate ecosystem services of key natural areas along the coasts to inform decision-making.

Selection Criteria

Projects will be selected using the following criteria:

  1. Project Value – Identify how the project will add value to the host organization. Digital Coast projects must also identify how the project will add value to the partnership group.
  2. Project Design – Identify goals and deliverables.
  3. Value to Fellow – Describe how the host will contribute to the fellow's professional development and educational experience.
  4. Organization’s commitment to the project – Identify needed resources, describe how the resources will be provided, and describe how the mentor will support the fellow.
  5. Strategic Focus Area – Identify how the project addresses one or more of the strategic focus areas listed in the application requirements section above. Digital Coast priorities will also be considered when selecting Digital Coast Fellowship projects.

Project Selection

Up to six state projects and up to three Digital Coast projects (in even years) will be selected from the proposals submitted to NOAA by a selection panel made up of program partners, current and former fellows, and current and former mentors. In addition to the review criteria, certain program policy factors may be considered when selecting projects. An attempt will be made to disperse the state projects geographically, and technical experts may be brought in to evaluate the technical content of the proposals. The selection panel will make its recommendation to the division chief of the Learning Service Division at NOAA, who will make the final decision.

Cost Share

All organizations selected to host a fellow will be required to provide $15,000 in nonfederal funds to cover a portion of the fellow's salary ($7,500 for each year of the fellowship). This money cannot be in-kind support and cannot come from federal dollars. The $15,000 cost sharing must be defined and must be a nonfederal source; if the source of this funding is not defined, the proposal will not be considered.

Over the two-year fellowship, fellows will be provided with funding to attend Coastal GeoTools, the Social Coast Forum, and a fellowship meeting in Charleston. Digital Coast Fellows will also be provided with funding to attend two Digital Coast partnership meetings. Fellows are also provided up to $1,000 of professional development funds each year to use at their discretion to attend conferences, workshops, or trainings (prior approval from NOAA and their host organization is required). Any travel requested by the fellowship host, such as travel required to complete the fellowship project and travel to the host organization’s annual conference, must be covered by the host and should be considered when budgeting for hosting a fellow.

Placement of Fellows

A workshop to match hosts with fellows will take place in Charleston, South Carolina, in late April/early May. Of the finalists selected, six will be placed with a state coastal program and three will be placed with a Digital Coast partner organization (in even years). Each of the selected hosts will send the fellow mentor to the placement workshop. The workshop includes program orientation, project presentations given by the hosts, finalist presentations, finalist and host interviews, and fellow matching. If a host does not find a suitable candidate during the workshop, it will be given the option to defer fellow placement for one year. Hosts will only be allowed one deferment before they have to reapply. No contact between prospective hosts and finalists should be made before the placement workshop.

How to Apply

One signed electronic copy of the proposal can be emailed to by the specified date (see timeline for the 2020-2022 program).

Examples of Coastal Management Fellowship projects selected in 2020

Examples of Digital Coast Fellowship projects selected in 2020