Center Fellows are established scientists who come to NCEAS to carry out synthetic projects based on the use of existing information. Many, but not all, Fellows are on sabbatical leave from academic positions, and remain in residence at NCEAS for 3 to 12 months. Fellows interact with other resident scientists in an intellectually stimulating and pleasant environment, in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. NCEAS strongly encourages Center Fellows to interact with other resident scientists and Working Groups  when appropriate. NCEAS provides up to one-half of a Fellow's salary (depending on the Fellow's arrangement with her or his home institution), a housing allowance, and travel costs to Santa Barbara.
During residence at NCEAS, Center Fellows can participate in the Center’s various outreach and education activities  to inform the public and the local community about ecology and its relevance to society. In particular, NCEAS’ Kids Do Ecology  program provides an opportunity for Center Fellows to adopt a local 5th grade classroom and offer hands-on, experiential learning in the scientific method as applied to ecology questions.