.I recently retired after a quarter century in administration in an engineering research center at a large research university. In the last 10 years or so, my primary work was in assisting faculty to prepare and submit research grant proposals to federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), as well as to state governments. As far as I could tell, agencies such as these have no place, and no funding, for small research projects outside of the university mainstream. (Our unit was applying for grants of $100 thousand to $20 million.)
When I first learned about Prairie Biotic a couple of years ago, I saw that the organization was filling a specialized and essential niche -- providing small grants to researchers studying any aspect of our vanishing prairies, special places and their flora and fauna which were so integral to our history and which contribute to, and reflect, the state of health of our planet.
Just this past week, I received the funding report for the last cycle of grants made. I was very impressed with the variety of topics funded and the demographics of the researchers, from individuals unaffiliated with large institutions, to young faculty, post-doctoral scholars, graduate students, undergraduates, a high school student, and a high-school teacher and his students!
As I understand it, all the time for organizing and administering the proposal solicitations and reviews as well as ongoing grant administration is given on a volunteer basis and expenses are kept to the bare minimum. It proves that a small group of dedicated people can made a big impact.
PBR is a great organization that helps fund researchers from a variety of backgrounds. PBR is a non-profit run by volunteers, so the money that is raised to fund research goes to do just that. The grants cover non-academic as well as academic researchers, which I think is unique. The grant proposal form is extremely reasonable for what you can get in return and so I encourage others to apply. My interactions with the organization have been very pleasant and I hope it can continue funding interesting research well into the future.
As founder and President of Prairie Biotic Research, I can reveal some aspects of this all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) public charity that others cannot.
PBR was established in 2000 with the mission of fostering basic field biological research by individuals studying any species in prairies and savannas anywhere in the USA. No other nonprofit does what PBR does; PBR is unique. We offer grants up to $1000 in a competitive, annual Small Grants Program, have already been through nine grant cycles, and this whole program runs like a well-oiled machine, beginning each October and wrapping up the following March. We've funded 100 such grants, amounting to $94,849, to researchers in 24 states. More than half of these grants have supported graduate students. Before another month passes, we will fund roughly another 17 proposals.
All 14 PBR board members and scientific advisors themselves engage in just the sort of basic field biological research we seek to fund through our Small Grants Program, though we ourselves are ineligible for this funding. Grant proposals are evaluated and ranked by our scientific advisors, while the board members, though ultimately responsible for funding decisions, actually have little input in the process, instead spending their time running this charity. PBR provides a rare avenue of funding for individuals, especially those with expert knowledge but who are outside the organizational framework of academia, government, and nonprofit agencies. PBR supports natural history (observational science) as well as experimental science. Funding for natural history is essentially unavailable in our culture today.
What maked this enterprise so urgent and important is that our prairies and savannas are disappearing under the tsunami of development pressure, and as the habitats vanish so too do their many beautiful and interesting species. We are gathering information that may slow this terrible erosion of our natural heritage, while fostering the development of these researchers, thereby sustaining our cultural heritage. And for some of us, our ability to study the natural world around us is what makes life itself so precious! It all gets more interesting the more one knows, and the beauty we encounter in wild places is a balm to our souls.
Our overhead is very low as we are an all-volunteer enterprise. Foundation grants generally go ENTIRELY TO PROGRAM, which very few nonprofits can claim. Operating expenses are covered almost entirely through gifts from individuals. PBR seeks and receives no funding from any government agency. PBR has never been in debt, and our net worth continues to slowly grow as we build our research endowment, which supports our Small Grants Program.
The 14 of us who volunteer to make this charity run smoothly and effectively take great satisfaction in fostering the curiosity of those whose research we help to make possible. Never yet have we had enough money to fund all those proposals in a given year that we would like to fund. This year we had 108 proposals submitted and will fund roughly 17 of them. Ours is a labor of love and of service, not just to the people we fund but also to these habitats and their many species we appreciate.
I received a grant from this organization to conduct research on native bees in prairie remnants. The process was the most efficient and transparent grant process that I've ever been involved with and I hold Prairie Biotic in the highest regard. They fill an important niche, funding both students and established researchers for experimental and descriptive natural history research. These grants are important and are delivered in a straightforward manner by an all volunteer organization with virtually no overhead. This is a terrific group -- highly recommended.
This is a great organization that dedicates itself to funding research to learn more about a truly globally imperiled ecosystem known as prairie. I live in Iowa and over 99% of the millions of acres of prairie that once existed here are now gone. This is not only a once prolific ecosystem, but a national historical monument that is quickly fading. It is absolutely essential that we continue to study this biome in order to better understand, preserve, and appreciate it. Prairie Biotic Research Inc. provides requisite funding for the study of prairies in order that we can do exactly that. If only we had more organizations like this one we might be able to actually preserve all of what's left of this national treasure.
Prairie Biotic Research is willing to take risks to fund research by individuals who are often just beginning or are outside dominant research institutions.
These research funds, which often are directed towards natural history studies, are critical to maintain species populations in the prairie environment, which is increasingly threatened by contemporary agricultural and developmental paradigms. That Prairie Biotic Society is concerned with conservation of the environment and long-term sustainability is therefore obvious from their diverse portfolio of vested research grants.
As a recipient of research funds from Prairie Biotic Research, I can say that my investigations would not be possible without support from the organization. No other agency has funded my research, which concerns life history of an unstudied prairie insect, as it is not immediately applicable to human uses or needs.
Throughout my application process, I have always found the staff at Prairie Biotic Research to be helpful, timely, and insightful. Applying was thought-provoking and hassle-free, and administration has been very fair.
Funding for my project was very quick, and I was able to begin research on time, without waiting (essential for field season biology). Annual reports written to the nonprofit are not onerous and give me a chance to describe my work.
I would highly recommend Prairie Biotic Research to any scientist wanting to contribute to knowledge and conservation of the prairie ecosystem.
Prairie Biotic Research Inc. (PBR) is a rare non-profit organization funding original research in grassland and savanna ecosystems. There is no other program that I know of that serves research needs specifically for these ecosystem types. PBR's funding is so critical because grasslands are one of the world's most threatened ecosystems. Many species of grassland-dependent wildlife have seen declines over the last 50-60 years because of habitat loss due to conversion of native prairie to cropland, urban and ex-urban development, and livestock management practices that primarily serve the livestock producer. Further, very few organizations offer these types of resources, which are not constrained to on-the-ground conservation projects or academia alone.
PBR has provided support for my grassland research on two occasions, and without their support my investigations would have suffered. I felt PBR had a genuine interest in the success of my projects. They promptly notified me of my award, and followed up at the end of my projects to find out about outcomes. My overall impression of this organization is that it values quality scientific inquiry, and its first priority is facilitating the conservation of prairie ecosystems.
Prairie Biotic is one of those rare non-profits that is interested in promoting original research in furtherance of a broader mission: to conserve and better manage Tallgrass prairies. This organization is vital to prairie restoration and conservation and is becoming a critical knowledge source for land managers, wildlife professions, and research ecologists.