Five Yale professors were among 200 professionals selected for this year’s prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship.

Awarded annually by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, each Fellowship provides an average grant of $36,685 intended to assist scholarly research or creative arts. Competition for the fellowship, which sees between 3,000 and 3,500 applicants each year, is fierce.

Yale winners include English professor Langdon Hammer, physics professor Subir Sachdev, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies professor David Skelly, French and African-American studies professor Christopher Miller and School of Music professor Martin Bresnick.

Hammer said he will use the grant to continue his work on the first biography of poet James Merrill. Hammer, who teaches an undergraduate seminar on the poet, recalled his becoming interested in Merrill.

“I was a Yale student and I read Merrill’s poetry in the 1970s,” Hammer said. “I met him through my professor.”

English Chairwoman Ruth Yeazell said Hammer will do an excellent job on his book, but was sad to see him leave Yale.

“An unusually fine critic of poetry and an elegant writer, Lanny Hammer is the ideal person to write the first major biography of James Merrill,” Yeazell said in an e-mail. “My only regret is that the fellowship will inevitably be taking him away from us for a year!”

Sachdev, who has been doing research at Yale for over a decade, said he will use the grant to continue his current work.

“I’m studying the properties of the highest temperature superconductors,” Sachdev said. “We are trying to understand the microscopic nature of electrons in the superconducting state.”

Physics professor Steven Girvin praised his colleague, citing his international prestige.

“Subir Sachdev is a world leader in theoretical condensed matter physics,” Girvin said in an e-mail. “He is internationally known for his work on the quantum mechanics of complex systems such as high temperature superconductors and quantum magnets.”

Skelly, who conducts his research in ecology, said he will use the grant to work on a book about amphibian decline and biodiversity conservation.

“I’m trying to understand why populations go extinct,” Skelly said. “The idea is to try to give a readable but science-based account of where and when amphibian populations have been declining and what we should do about it.”

Skelly said he looks forward to writing his first book.

“I’m really excited about working on a book,” Skelly said. “It’s a new thing for me.”

Miller said he will continue work on a book about the French slave trade and its ramifications around the Atlantic. He said the book will focus mainly on the French, Caribbean and African literatures of the time, but will also move beyond the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery to consider the broader question of lingering effects.

“I began from scratch three years ago,” Miller said. “It’s been my main focus and a sort of self reeducation. It’s a subject without limits.”

Bresnick said that he will use the grant to write music. He said he plans to take a semester off to serve as a visiting composer at Oxford University.

“I felt great, it was a terrific thing,” Bresnick said. “It’s great that it carries with it a good deal of prestige. It feels like a validation of years of work.”