NGS/Waitt Grants Program

Providing seed funding for exploratory fieldwork in the natural and cultural sciences…


Quintana Roo Underwater Cave Project ~ Beneath the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula, Sam Meacham, Explorer and NGS/Waitt grantee, and his team are exploring and mapping the longest underwater cave system in the world.


Grant Recipient: National Geographic Society

Funded by the Waitt Foundation, the NGS/Waitt Grants Program targets projects around the world in the cultural and social sciences at the cutting edge of technology and exploratory research. The program helps qualified individuals launch what is often the most difficult stage of a project to secure funding—the search—and awards grants for exploratory fieldwork with the potential for new breakthroughs. NGS/Waitt Grants place a special emphasis on expedited award processing and is able to fund “proof of concept” research for applicants at an earlier stage in their careers.

Administered by National Geographic Mission Programs, the NGS/Waitt Grants Program makes grants between $5,000 and $15,000. Proposals are considered as they are received then those meeting the guidelines are evaluated by a committee that convenes monthly. Generally, awards are made within 8 to 12 weeks of application submission. To date, the program has granted nearly $3.5 million and has funded close to 300 field projects in sciences such as anthropology, archaeology, nautical archaeology, biology, geography, geology, oceanography and paleontology.


Owl Monkeys


Hongu Valley


Artists of Angkor


Whale Sharks

Field Research Highlights


Deep-sea camera, Medusa

Deep-Sea Environments of the Coral Sea - Research Scientist Adrian Flynn is part of a team effort in the deployment of benthic and midwater autonomous camera systems in the Coral Sea. The University of Queensland’s Deep Ocean Australia Project owns two Medusa deep-sea camera systems. Designed and built by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI), the camera systems will be deployed in water depths of up to 2,000 m in never before sampled deep-sea habitats of the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea has been identified as a globally significant region for biodiversity values, and has been named as a conservation “Hope Spot”. Deployment of these systems will represent an Australian first, adding tremendously to the very small amount of deep-sea observational research carried out to date. In this phase of conservation and protected area management planning for the Coral Sea. This information comes from a small ‘snapshot’ and given the rarity of deep-sea camera work in the entire southern hemisphere, the discovery of new and exciting species and habitats is likely. Adrian was part the Waitt Institute’s expedition scientific research team in the search for Amelia Earhart where three new species were discovered during scientific operations - researchers are currently preparing the speciemens for museums and will publish the finding shortly.


Genghis Khan

Valley of the Kahns Project - Based out of the Center for Interdisciplinary Science in Art, Architecture, and Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin, Principal Investigator, has utilized the most advanced technologies in remote sensing to approach an 800-year-old mystery and discover the truth behind the life, death, and burial of the most influential conqueror of all time, Genghis Khan. The objective of this study is to perform a non-destructive archaeological search for the tomb of Genghis Khan utilizing modern digital tools from a variety of disciplines, including digital imagery, computer vision, non-destructive surveying, and on-site digital archaeology. The goal of the search is to identify the location of the tomb without disturbing it, thus maintaining respect and reverence for local customs while enabling protective measures through organizations such as UNESCO. With the growing trend of rouge mining and looting of antiquities in this region, such protective measures may ensure the preservation of this iconic symbol of world cultural heritage. Dr. Lin was recently named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year.


Underwater field research ~ Photo: Amy Gusick

Sea of Cortez Underwater Archaeology Project - Archaeologist Amy Gusick and her team are going underwater in the Sea of Cortezto search for evidence of the New World’s earliest inhabitants. Traditional theory has been that Clovis culture hunters on the trail of mammoth and bison arrived in North America from Asia across a corridor between retreating ice sheets. Gusick’s team supports the emerging theory that the earliest new world immigrants arrived via the Pacific coast, which would have been ice-free and available for migration beginning about 14,500 years ago. To date, archaeological research into the Pacific coastal migration theory has been largely focused on terrestrial areas along the eastern Pacific coast. However, Gusick’s team believes the proof is located underwater. Isla Espiritu Santo, an island in the Sea of Cortez represents a key piece of this research. The first human migrations into the Americas could have utilized this island for many reasons including the marine life, fresh water sources, rock shelters, coastal location and its close proximity to the mainland. Dr. Gusick just received a $100,000 grant from NOAA to continue her research that started in 2006.


Matchie's Tree Kangaroo

Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program - Under the direction of Dr. Lisa Dabek, a National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program grantee, the program has been working in Papua New Guinea since 1996. The program uses a community-based strategy to document the natural history and conservation status of tree kangaroos through scientific research and interviews with local landowners and villagers. The program identifies and maps critical habitat; expands health care for villagers including vaccinations and midwife training; improves schools through support of teachers and curriculum development; implements and maintains conservation education programs; and empowers local villages to manage natural resources by training Papua New Guinea university students and local landowners as field research assistants and conservation advocates. Papua New Guinea, particularly the Huon Peninsula, is considered a high-priority area for conservation efforts due to the significant amount of intact rain forest, high species endemism and lack of protected areas for wildlife. Destruction of the rain forest by mining, logging, and development threatens the continued existence of Papua New Guinea’s unique fauna and flora, including the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo, a flagship species for Papua New Guinea’s people. For more detailed information, please visit the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program’s website.


Ghost Ship of the Yukon Project


WWII Internment Camp Archaeology


Black Caimans Project


African Bat Biodiversity Project


Shark Mating, Selection & Systems Project


Patagonia Meteorite Impact Field


Amazon Capuchin Monkey Project


Quintana Roo Underwater Cave Project


The Valley of the Khans Project


Sea of Cortez Underwater Archaeology


Central Nicaragua Archaeology Project


Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program

How to Apply

Complete information on eligibility, frequently asked questions and more is available through National Geographic.

About National Geographic

Founded in 1888, National Geographic Society is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world with interests in geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation. National Geographic has a rich history of grant-making that dates back to the Society’s earliest days and over the years, has awarded more than 8,000 grants for exploration, research and conservation efforts.


NGS/Waitt Grants Program