2023 COBRA Leadership Master Class and Fellowship

Watch the COBRA webinar about this program

COBRA Master Class and Fellowship Overview

Overview of the COBRA Early Career Master Class and Fellowship

The Crustal Ocean Biosphere Research Accelerator (COBRA) is an international research coordination network funded by the US National Science Foundation. COBRA’s mission is to accelerate research on the structure, function, resilience, and ecosystem services of the crustal ocean biosphere to inform decision making, particularly related to deep-sea mining and subseafloor carbon sequestration. COBRA has four primary activities to achieve this mission, as outlined in the COBRA Logic Model:

  • Coordinate: Bring together diverse stakeholders to prioritize and plan research
  • Accelerate: Leverage opportunities, support research exchanges, and harness data
  • Translate: Bring findings to policy-makers, industry, and the public
  • Educate: Train early career researchers in ocean exploration, science and policy

COBRA is an endorsed action of the United Nations’ Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The centerpiece of the Education activity of COBRA is a “Master Class” that trains early career researchers (ECRs) in deep-sea expedition planning from start to finish. The Master Class – delivered virtually over the course of 13 weeks – is designed to equip participants with the skills and tools to successfully design, propose, execute, and report on deep-sea oceanographic field research with a collaborative, just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive approach. Topics covered include reviewing the types of assets for conducting deep-sea research and exploration, funding and proposal writing tips, developing concepts through respectful and reciprocal engagement with others, cruise preparation how-to, at-sea operations planning, using telepresence for research and outreach, permitting and reporting, data management, and ocean law. See the COBRA Master Class website for examples of training materials. A variety of international subject matters experts provide instruction, broadening the participants’ networks. Participants apply their learning through the design of an independent project. Participants also synthesize learning by contributing to the development of an open-access “how to” manual, for which they receive co-authorship.

For the 2023 Master Class, participants will also have the opportunity to remotely participate in a leveraged “shakedown” expedition of the RV Falkor (too) in June 2023. This expedition is sponsored by the Schmidt Ocean Institute – a COBRA partner – and is intended to explore seamount ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean within Costa Rica’s Exclusive Economic Zone to inform conservation of biodiversity. All Master Class participants are eligible to participate remotely via telepresence in the expedition, and to design a small research project during the virtual Master Class that can be implemented during the expedition.

As an international network, COBRA seeks participation from US-based and international ECRs, with an intention to create a larger, more diverse pool of talent engaged in leading deep-sea research that addresses societal needs. In this context, an ECR is defined as a senior graduate student, postdoctoral scientist, junior faculty less than 10 years from their terminal degree, and/or other junior professionals such as an early career employee of a government, non-governmental organization/non-profit, or company. Given the leveraged expedition opportunity, the 2023 Master Class will seek to advance research related to seamount ecosystems, translating science to inform conservation management policy, and capacity development in the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries United National regional group.

Participants selected for the virtual Master Class training opportunity are eligible to receive a US$2,000 stipend to support their participation. Participants are also eligible to receive an additional US$1,000 stipend to support their remote participation in the June 2023 cruise telepresence learning opportunity. Previous hands-on experience with deep-sea research, outreach, or policy is not required. Participants are considered COBRA Fellows for the 2023 calendar year and are eligible for additional COBRA leadership training opportunities.

Format and Schedule of the 2023 Master Class

The 2023 Master Class will be held virtually for 13 weeks beginning the week of February 20, 2023 and ending the week of May 15, 2023. Synchronous virtual sessions are held on Tuesdays from 2:00-4:00PM US eastern time using Zoom. Asynchronous learning and networking is supported by the Master Class website intranet and a dedicated Slack channel.

In each week of the virtual Master Class, participants are expected to:

  • invest about 30 minutes of asynchronous time on course preparation “homework” distributed through the COBRA Master Class website and/or Slack channel.
  • participate in a synchronous live training and discussion session held using the Zoom video-conferencing platform. Note: these events will be recorded for internal distribution only, for participants who cannot make a class date or want to refresh learning. Recordings of discussion sections will NOT be made public, to protect vulnerable questions or conversations. 
  • engage in conversation with other participants and instructors using a dedicated Slack channel.

The virtual Master Class content will be offered in the English language, and participants are asked to communicate in English. We will use live transcription to facilitate accessibility and language translation.

Participants are expected to use their own computing devices with microphones, cameras, and internet access to participate in this virtual Master Class. If this is difficult for a participant to implement, accommodations are available for hardware and connectivity support. Participants are also expected to be able to connect to the Master Class using their own Google, Slack, and Zoom accounts, and to be able to access content on YouTube.

Master Class participants are also invited, but not required, to remotely participate via telepresence in the leveraged expedition immediately following the virtual Master Class, for additional training in implementation of a telepresence-enabled expedition. The planned dates of the expedition are 31 May 2023 – 22 June 2023.


  • October 17, 2022 – Application period opens
  • November 7, 2022 – Application period closes
  • December 15, 2022 – Candidates notified of selection<
  • February 21, 2023 – Virtual Master Class begins
  • May 16, 2023 – Virtual Master Class ends
  • May 31, 2023 – Remote participation in expedition begins
  • June 22, 2023 – Remote participation in expedition ends

As an entirely virtual training program, the 2023 COBRA Master Class does not include any travel, housing, or employment by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, which administers COBRA funding.

Application Process

Complete the online application form by November 7, 2022.

Applications are closed

About the application form:

The application form will ask for the following mandatory information:

  • Name and Contact Information
  • Current institution and position
  • Name of supervisor, if applicable
  • A 2-page PDF document with applicant’s current resumé or curriculum vitae including:
    • Education background
    • Professional affiliations
    • Awards or honors
    • Service to or participation in scientific, education, mentoring or policy activities
    • Up to 5 relevant publications or other types of professional activities
    • Note: if you have never created a 2-page CV before, here is some guidance from the NSF: https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/biosketch.jsp
  • Short Answer (300 words or fewer): Describe your career goals, how participating in the Master Class will help you to achieve them, and how they align with COBRA’s mission.
  • Short Answer (300 words or fewer): Describe how you would contribute to COBRA’s goal to create a larger, more diverse global pool of talent engaged in leading deep-sea research that addresses societal needs.
  • Short Answer (300 words or fewer): Describe how your career goals align with any of the leveraged expedition goals to advance seamount ecosystem science, translate science for conservation policy, and/or capacity development in the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries.
  • Multiple choice: Are you available to participate in the virtual Master Class held on Tuesdays from 2-4PM US eastern time between February 20 – May 16, 2023?
  • Multiple choice: Are you interested to remotely participate in the leveraged expedition planned for May 31 – June 22, 2023?

The application form will also ask for the following voluntary information:

  1. How do you currently describe your gender identity?
  2. How do you describe your race and/or ethnicity?
  3. What is your country of citizenship?
  4. What is your current country of residence?
  5. What services can COBRA provide to make the virtual Master Class accessible to you? (for example, if you lack access to internet connectivity, or would benefit from a language translation service)

Why do we ask for this information? Applicants are asked to provide some personal identity information to help the evaluation committee to understand the demographics of the applicant pool and assess how different dimensions of diversity are maintained through the selection process, and if our efforts to recruit diverse audiences are effective. In particular, COBRA strives to increase representation of diverse genders, races and ethnicities, and nations in deep-sea research. Provision of this demographic information is voluntary. Demographic data will be summarized and reported to the evaluation committee in aggregate, without personally identifying any applicant. Demographic data will only be available to the COBRA Director and Managing Director, who are not part of the evaluation committee. Aggregated and anonymized demographic data may also be used in COBRA’s annual reports. We also request voluntary information about ways we can enable accessibility of the virtual training program to best accommodate all potential participants.

Selection Criteria and Process

To intentionally limit implicit bias in the selection process, COBRA does not use ranking for selection. Instead, candidates are randomly selected from a pool of eligible candidates, with aggregated demographic data used to ensure that the randomly selected candidate pool maintains demographic diversity that reflects the diversity of the applicant pool and is greater than the current race, ethnicity, and gender diversity of early career researchers in ocean science in the US. Eligibility is determined by the COBRA Executive Committee based on the following criteria:

  • Be an advanced graduate (Ph.D.) student, Postdoctoral scientist/researcher, untenured faculty, or an early career employee of a government, NGO, or industry.
  • Have sufficient experience (academic/industry/other) to benefit from and contribute to the 2023 COBRA Master Class. 
  • Demonstrate a strong interest in deep-sea exploration and research, at sea and/or from shore.
  • Provide compelling reasons for wanting to take part in the COBRA Master Class and alignment of goals with COBRA’s mission.
  • Provide compelling reasons for wanting to contribute to COBRA’s goal to create a more diverse pool of talent engaged in leading deep-sea research that addresses societal needs.
  • Provide compelling reasons that career goals align with goals of the leveraged expedition.
  • Be available to participate in the synchronous sessions of the virtual Master Class. 

Candidates will be notified by email of their selection status. Selected candidates will have 14 days to confirm acceptance to participate in the program by completing an online acceptance form. Where applicable, selected candidates must provide proof of supervisor approval to participate in the Master Class. All candidates must agree to abide by COBRA’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for acceptance into the program.

Application Form

Applications are closed

Share this post