October 25, 2012

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By Mera McGrew

The Smithsonian Institution has announced a new global long-term project to monitor the ocean’s coastal ecosystems and biodiversity. The project being dubbed the Tennenbaum Marine Observatories, is being made possible by a generous $10 million donation from Suzanne and Michael Tennenbaum who have expressed that a comprehensive study like this is past due. The first project of its kind, the Tennenbaum Marine Observatories initiative will offer long-term data and understanding that promise to be critical in addressing both current and future challenges to sustaining healthy marine ecosystems.

“As our coasts undergo accelerating change due to human activity and the effects of climate change, it is more important than ever to monitor and understand the ocean’s biodiversity,” explained Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough.

The project will offer a worldwide network of coastal ecological field sites and standardizing measurements of biological change over time. Today, five main field sites have been identified: Chesapeake Bay, Md., Fort Pierce, Fla., Carrie Bow Cay, Belize and two locations in Panama. As the project grows, the Smithsonian has reported that additional research sites will be established, with the goal of at least 10 new sites within the next decade.

Biologists, ecologists, anthropologists and geneticists are expected to collaborate in initiative order to produce an unprecedented data set. The results of the global study promise to create a deeper understanding of how marine biodiversity is affected by local and global threats such as human activities and ocean acidification.

“For years I have watched how standardized observations made around the globe have transformed our understanding of how tropical forests work,” said Nancy Knowlton, the 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.”

 

 

Top photo: Near Smithsonian Tropical Research Station in Bocas del Toro, Panama. ©Mera McGrew 2009.

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