The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., has announced a $10 million gift from philanthropists Suzanne and Michael Tennenbaum to launch a long-term study of coastal marine biodiversity and ecosystems around the globe.
The Tennenbaum Marine Observatories project will comprise five coastal ecological field sites — the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland; the institution's marine station at Fort Pierce, Florida; Carrie Bow Cay in Belize; and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's two locations in Panama — where scientists will monitor the diversity and abundance of marine organisms on a regular basis and conduct other observations and experiments. By studying each site using the same methods over time, the scientists will be able to build a comparative database that offers a comprehensive analysis of environmental change with respect to coastal ecosystems.
As the project develops, the Smithsonian will establish additional research sites with collaborators worldwide, with the goal of adding at least ten new sites over the next decade. The project will build on the success of a similar above-water project, the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories, which includes forty-seven land plots around the globe where scientists have been monitoring and comparing dynamics of forested habitats for thirty-five years.
"For years I have watched how standardized observations made around the globe have transformed our understanding of how tropical forests work," said Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. "We will now be able to do the same thing for the ocean with this marine [global earth observatory], taking advantage of the latest technologies that allow us to keep track of everything from microbes to whales."