Postdoctoral Scholars Program

Annual Rose Postdoctoral Fellowship Competition

Photo by Diane Tessaglia-Hymes

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology invites applications for our Edward W. Rose Postdoctoral Fellowships. These competitive 2-year awards support innovative, independent research by early career scholars of exceptional promise. Multiple Rose Fellowships are available annually. Awardees join a vibrant community that includes more than 20 concurrent postdocs based at the Lab, and interact with many other scholars and educators across a wide range of disciplines both at the Lab and across Cornell University.

Postdoc Ana Dalziell at work in an Australian rainforest, investigating the effects of extreme temperature events on the birds of the region.
Photo by Johan Larson

Rose Fellows may pursue any area of inquiry related to the Lab’s mission “to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.” Located at the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity in the 220-acre Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a unit within Cornell's University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. More than 200 faculty and staff work at the Lab within our 10 mission-driven programs. Our management and staff are committed to the highest standards of ethics and excellence in all areas of our work.

Potential applicants are encouraged to learn more about the Cornell Lab and its programs in Bioacoustics, Bird Population Studies (avian ecology), Citizen Science, Conservation Science, Communication, Education, Evolutionary Biology, Information Science, Macaulay Library (animal behavior), Multimedia Productions, and Public Engagement in Science. Activities involving research and/or outreach spanning several of these areas are particularly encouraged, and most Rose Fellows are co-mentored by two senior Cornell scholars. Projects that foster links to people and units across Cornell University are welcomed and encouraged. Of special interest are individuals whose independent research brings new ideas and approaches while simultaneously leveraging the Lab’s tools and strengths in science, education, and communication. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact relevant faculty and staff at the Lab to brainstorm about areas of mutual interest and synergistic projects.

Rose Fellowships span up to 24 months via two consecutive year-long appointments at the Lab. Appointments provide a competitive salary, standard Cornell health and other benefits, and access to funds for research and professional travel. Start dates are flexible. The application package consists of a cover letter, CV, two- page research proposal, PDFs of up to three representative publications, and names and contact information for three references. Applicants may apply during their final year as a student, but Postdoctoral Scholars must have received their Ph.D. before beginning their postdoctoral appointment at Cornell. Application materials should be sent as a single PDF file to the attention of Sue Taggart ( Applications for fellowships beginning in in 2018 will be accepted until September 8, 2017. The selection committee is chaired by Dr. Irby Lovette (, Fuller Professor of Ornithology and Associate Director for Academic Affairs at the Lab.

Edward W. Rose, known by family and friends as “Rusty,” joined the Lab’s Administrative Board in 1993 and served as its Chairman from 2004 to 2014. Rusty was a brilliant man who inspired everyone at the Lab, not only through his infectious laugh but even more by asking tough questions, expecting excellence, and seeking global impact. Rusty had a deep conservation ethos which he exemplified both in his own actions and through his support of the Cornell Lab and kindred institutions. He was among the Lab’s most enthusiastic promoters of early career scientists, and he always relished learning about their discoveries and accomplishments. Rusty passed away in January 2016, but his legacy endures in many contexts, including the Edward W. Rose Postdoctoral Program which brings together the Lab’s entire postdoctoral community. Through the generosity of Rusty and his wife Deedie, together with that of fellow board members Larry and Nancy Fuller, Russ and Carol Faucett, and Imogene Powers Johnson, the Lab shall award multiple Edward W. Rose Postdoctoral Fellowships annually, in perpetuity.

Cornell University is an innovative Ivy League university and a great place to work. Our inclusive community of scholars, students and staff imparts an uncommon sense of larger purpose and contributes creative ideas to further the university's mission of teaching, discovery and engagement. Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell's far-flung global presence includes the medical college's campuses on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in Doha, Qatar, as well as the new Cornell Tech campus to be built on Roosevelt Island in the heart of New York City.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who within the Lab can serve as the sponsor for a postdoc?

Any appropriate Lab staff member and/or Cornell faculty can sponsor or co-sponsor a postdoc as part of our Lab-wide competitive program. The Lab’s scholarly community includes a broad and collegial mix of Cornell faculty, Lab Program Directors, Scientific Staff, and other accomplished experts..

Can a faculty member based on the main Cornell campus sponsor a Lab postdoc?

Yes. In fact, dual sponsorships by a Lab-based mentor and a campus-based mentor may foster useful connections among Cornell’s many areas of intellectual leadership. The only caveat is that the postdoc’s project and activities need to have a close and fundamental connection to the Lab of Ornithology. 

How do I identify a potential sponsor at Cornell?

You should network with colleagues and professional contacts, browse our websites, and think about whether there are Cornell people whose work is relevant to your own areas of interest. See a list of Cornell Lab faculty researchers.

Should I contact a potential sponsor in advance of applying?

This is recommended but not required. Each individual sponsor has their own personal style of engagement; some people like to correspond extensively with potential applicants in advance, whereas others prefer to review a range of applications after they are formally submitted.

My project requires fieldwork away from Upstate New York. Is that okay?

Yes. Fieldwork is an important component of the research programs of many Lab postdocs. At the same time, balance is important: we consider the postdoctoral scholars supported through this program to be a very important part of our Lab community, and that internal engagement is harder to accomplish if the person is away from the Lab for the great majority of their time as a postdoc.

I have questions about the specific formatting of the application and associated materials.

The application package consists of a cover letter, CV, two-page research proposal, PDFs of up to three representative publications, and names and contact information for three references. We look at all application packages. Please use these instructions as a guide, but at the same time, please do not be overly concerned about things like margin or font size, adding an additional page to show a critical figure or longer citation list, etc. If your formatting approach seems reasonable and appropriate to you, it likely will to us too.

When do you anticipate the final decisions to be made?

We strive to make offers of these postdoctoral positions by December of each year.

How competitive is the selection process?

In each of the first years of this program we have received about 50 complete applications for the 2 available positions.

What are the expected start dates for these postdoctoral positions?

The most common start date for a postdoc selected in the late Fall of Year 1 is in August or September of Year 2, but we usually have great flexibility in tailoring start dates in consultation with the awardee.

I haven’t finished my Ph.D. yet; should I apply this year?

Candidates in their final Ph.D. year are very welcome to apply. However, by Cornell University rules you must have been awarded your Ph.D. before actually starting here in any postdoctoral position.

I applied last year; can I apply again?

Yes. We welcome repeat applications from strong candidates.

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