Fritz L. Knopf Fellowship Program

The Fritz L. Knopf Doctoral Fellowship Program


–Dr. Fritz L. Knopf was an inspirational avian ecologist. He began his career as an Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University, and later held research scientist positions with the U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey (CV). His research career focused largely on understanding how biophysical changes on landscapes influence migratory bird populations, and on ways to translate that research into conservation management and policy. He accomplished this by actively engaging with academics, resource managers, and landowners.  Dr Knopf’s collaborations were characterized by mutual trust and respect for the people and native bird populations that occupy the landscapes he studied.

Among the most lasting impacts of his work with the Geological Survey was his dedication to building the careers of young biologists. The desire to carry on this legacy inspired the establishment of the Fritz L. Knopf Doctoral Fellowships in Avian Conservation. The intent of the fund is to support the doctoral training of promising students who have demonstrated an intellectual talent and strong work ethic for bird research and conservation.  He proclaims “I was never the smartest one in the arena—just tried to keep a clear mind and work harder.”

Knopf’s approach was to work across larger geographic ranges with an eye toward identifying localized similarities rather than differences.  This began with studies of riparian avifaunas across an elevational gradient (First North American Riparian Conference.  U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report RM-120.  523pp. 1985).  He then conducted a focused cross-region study of Brewer’s Sparrows and Green-tailed Towhees (Condor 92:45-55, 1990.) and carried a rangewide approach into his almost 20 years of Mountain Plover studies.


–Dr. Knopf donated the funds to establish doctoral fellowships in PhD programs at University of Colorado Denver, Utah State University, Oklahoma State University, and Iowa State University.  The intent of this funding is to provide doctoral fellows with the opportunity to develop illustrious careers in avian ecology and/or conservation; it provides a stipend for up to 4 years and may be used to cover additional costs associated with tuition, publication, travel to present at professional conferences, and for short-term research residencies in the research labs where other Knopf fellows are based.

Knopf’s career was strongly focused by his faculty mentors and student peers within the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University. A decade after graduating, his graduate advisors/professional references were gone. He then realized it was his graduate student peers who comprised the foundation of his professional network, as they were those now employed across the continent. The Fritz L. Knopf Fellowship Program is intended to facilitate the formation of a network of peers that is anchored by the Fellows at each of the four institutions. The research residency exchange program is intended to enhance network development for each doctoral student by providing students with the opportunity to collaborate with research labs at each of the partnering institutions, and by actively sharing research findings at professional international meetings.

After graduation, peer network development continues primarily by assuming leadership roles in professional societies; candidates are expected to regularly attend professional meetings and to become increasingly active in at least one professional society. Active leadership roles include serving as editors for professional journals, serving as officers of a society, hosting and organizing conferences, etc. 



Each Principal Investigator will define an independent research vision and pursue fellow selection for his/her own project.  Dr. Mike Wunder (University of Colorado Denver) will facilitate communications among the institutions and work with the PIs and Fellows to characterize and evaluate annual progress among projects within the program.


Follow this link to make an online contribution to the Fritz L. Knopf Doctoral Fellowship in Avian Conservation. Alternately, checks made payable to “CU Foundation” and referencing “Fritz L. Knopf Doctoral Fellowship in Avian Conservation” can be mailed to:

Office of Advancement
University of Colorado Denver
1380 Lawrence Street, Suite 1325
Denver, CO 80204

Contact Jessica Webb, Director of Development, at 303-315-2052 or with any questions.