Marine Mammal Commission

Grants and Research

Research Program

humpback whale tails

Three humpback whale tails dive together. (Shutterstock)

The Marine Mammal Commission carries out a small grant program that supports projects aimed at meeting the conservation and protection goals of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The Commission’s Research Program includes all relevant activities including basic and applied research, workshops, literature reviews, compilations of expert opinion, and drafting manuscripts or reports. The Research Program is administered by the Commission’s Scientific Program staff in consultation with the Commissioners and the Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals.

The research program awards grants based on proposals submitted in response to an annual call for proposals which may include specific research topics identified by the Commission in a given year. The amount of funds available varies from year to year, depending on the overall congressional appropriations for the Commission. Since the Commission was established in 1972, we have supported more than 1,000 projects. Final reports of most Commission-sponsored studies are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) or directly from the Commission, and many studies have led to publications in books or scientific journals.

Adult male northern elephant seal considers his future feeding opportunities in the north pacific ocean.

Adult male northern elephant seal considers his future feeding opportunities in the North Pacific Ocean. Picture taken under NMFS permit #87-1743. (Sam Simmons, Marine Mammal Commission)

Learn more about projects recently sponsored by the Commission and find a summary of reports and publications from Commission-sponsored projects. The Commission is proud of its support of highly successful projects in past years and highlights a few of them on our “highlights from previous research grants” page.

The Commission encourages the submission of proposals for innovative and well-designed projects that address conservation and research issues for marine mammals or the ecosystems they depend on. On occasion, we provide start-up or seed money for promising projects that, once proven feasible, may be supported later by other sources. We encourage applicants to obtain additional support by collaborating with, or soliciting funds from, other institutions, organizations, or agencies.

Learn more about current funding opportunities.

Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research and Conservation

Manatees in Crystal River, Florida (Guillaume Bauch)

Manatees in Crystal River, Florida. (Guillaume Bauch)

The Marine Mammal Commission, as part of its duties under the MMPA, conducts the Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research and Conservation to determine the nature of the marine mammal research and conservation these agencies conduct and fund. The survey asks agencies to describe their marine mammal-related activities, including information on the nature of the research, the species and areas studied, the threats and issues addressed, and the funding expended. The results of the survey are used to inform the advice we provide to federal agencies, Congress, and the Administration. The results also have the potential to be a valuable resource for federal agencies as they plan their research and management strategies, work to avoid duplication of effort or leverage existing resources and expertise, and strive to identify opportunities for partnering and sharing data with other agencies. The survey provides a basis for a more cost-effective and coherent national strategy for studying and conserving marine mammals, and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The most recent report, for Fiscal Year 2015, was released on 16 June 2017 and can be downloaded here. To see the report for Fiscal Year 2014, click here. The survey design is being assessed, and the next will survey will be announced when a redesign is completed.

Learn more about the survey.