The Lerner-Gray Fund for Marine Research

Full-size model of a blue whale is suspended from the ceiling, other ocean life dioramas in view surrounding it.
No trip to the Museum is complete without a visit to see the blue whale model.
D. Finnin/© AMNH

Over the course of many decades, three distinguished businessmen and passionate anglers and naturalists, Arthur Gray, Sr., his brother-in-law Michael Lerner, and Arthur Gray, Jr., made invaluable contributions to research programs in marine biology. In addition, each served as a Trustee of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

Today, their dedication to the Museum and to marine science carries on. Since the establishment of the Lerner-Gray Fund for Marine Research in 1977, the AMNH has provided funding for young scientists through Research GrantsPostdoctoral Fellowships and Graduate Student Fellowships, thanks to generous initial gifts and the ongoing support of the Lerner-Gray Foundation and individual donors. A standing committee of the AMNH’s Richard Gilder Graduate School (RGGS), including distinguished Curators and representatives of the Lerner-Gray Foundation, recommend the awardees each year from among applicants reviewed and nominated by AMNH academic staff.

The Lerner-Gray Grants Program

The Lerner-Gray Grants for Marine Research provide financial assistance to highly qualified persons starting careers in marine zoology. Support goes to projects dealing with systematics, evolution, ecology and field-oriented behavioral studies of marine animals. The grants made from this program are generally between $1000 and $2,500. They are meant to act as seed money for new researchers. Research may be conducted at the AMNH or in the field. In 2015, 38 grants were awarded. Since the inception of the program, over 1700 Grants, totaling close to $2 million, have been awarded to doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and other early career scientists from around the world.

Examples of recent research projects supported by the Lerner-Gray Fund grants include: 

  • Habitat modeling and genetic signatures of postglacial recolonization of estuarine fishes through the Gulf of California
  • The repeated evolution of bioluminescence across the evolution of pelagic lizardfishes (Aulopiformes: Alepisauroidei)
  • Sand dollars (Dendraster excentricus) as ecosystem engineers, interactions with invasive seagrass, and resulting spatial patterns
  • Examining the effects of ocean warming and invasive species on native marine fouling community assembling
  • Reconstructing the trophic ecologies of ammonites from the cretaceous pierre shale
  • Influence of ecology on genomic divergence in a highly mobile marine animal
  • From reefs to hatchlings: Investigating the links between coral reef health and hawksbill sea turtle fitness

AMNH Postdoctoral and Graduate Fellows Supported by the Lerner-Gray Fund

Lerner-Gray Fellowships also may be awarded to AMNH-affiliated postdoctoral fellows and graduate fellows supported by the Lerner-Gray Committee upon recommendation of the AMNH Science divisions, RGGS faculty and the RGGS Academic Affairs and Fellowships Committee. Find more information about Graduate Fellowships and Postdoctoral Fellowships.

Recent Highlights

James Witts (2016-2018 Lerner-Gray Postdoctoral Fellow) recently published a very high profile article titled, "Rapid ocean acidification and protracted Earth system recovery followed the end-Cretaceous Chicxulub impact"

Recent Lerner-Gray Postdoctoral Fellows, American Museum of Natural History


Benjamin Titus, Lerner-Gray Postdoctoral Fellow

Ben Titus pic

Research Advisor: Dr. Estefania Rodriguez, Ph.D., Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Evolution of tropical sea anemone symbioses: systematics, species delimitation, comparative phylogeography, genomics, coalescent modelling.

Ph.D. The Ohio State University, Evolution, Ecology, & Organismal Biology; “Comparative phylogeography of a multi-level sea anemone symbiosis: effects of host specificity on patterns of co-diversification and genetic biodiversity”, 2017


James Witts, Lerner-Gray Postdoctoral Fellow

Research Advisor: Dr. Neil Landman, Ph.D., Division of Invertebrate Paleontology

Research Interests: Study of how organisms affected by ancient biotic crises can act as a natural ‘test case’ for how marine ecosystems are likely to respond to the current period of environmental stress.

Ph.D. University of Leeds, UK; “Marine biodiversity during the latest Cretaceous of Antartica and the nature of the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction”, 2016

Past Lerner-Gray Postdoctoral Fellows, American Museum of Natural History

James Lamsdell 2016-2016
Christopher Martinez 2014-2016
Aaron Heiss 2013-2015
Joanna Wolfe 2012 - 2014
Isabelle Kruta 2012 - 2014
Isabella Kappner 2008 - 2010
William Leo Smith 2005 - 2007
Stefan Richter 2004 - 2005
Claudia Arango 2002 - 2004
Kevin Tang 2002 - 2004
Kirsten Jensen 2002 - 2004
Gonzalo Giribet 1997 - 1999
Marta de Maintenon 1998 - 1999
Daniel Janies 1996 - 1998
Diane Bridge 1994 - 1995
Anthony Gill 1992 - 1993