The Smithsonian is launching a new initiative to study coastal waters and create the first global network monitoring climate change and human impacts on ocean life with a $10 million gift.
Los Angeles hedge fund manager Michael Tennenbaum is announcing the donation Thursday. He says long-term data is needed to raise the level of dialogue about climate change and biodiversity.
The project will begin with five marine observatories, studying plants and animals in the Chesapeake Bay, Fort Pierce, Fla., and sites in Belize and Panama. The Smithsonian plans to add 10 more stations within a decade, using federal money, partners and fundraising.
Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough says coastal ecosystems are highly affected by humans. He says the Smithsonian will foster long-term study, while universities and others depend on short-term grants.
Tennenbaum Capital Partners senior managing partner Michael Tennenbaum and G. Wayne Clough, the Secretary of the Smithsonian.
$10 million donation launches Smithsonian study of coastal marine biodiversity
Michael Tennenbaum, philanthropist and senior managing partner of Los Angeles-based Tennenbaum Capital Partners, and his wife, Suzanne, have given $10 million to launch a long-term project to study coastal marine biodiversity and global ecosystems, the Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday.
The Smithsonian’s Tennenbaum Marine Observatories aim to monitor the ocean’s coastal ecosystems to study environmental change around the world’s coasts.
“I think it’s way past due,” said Tennenbaum, an avid diver for more than two decades. “As an investment person, I like to deal with relevant information and to have hundreds of billions of dollars affected, and huge discussions around climate change and oceans without long-term, large samples of information is, to me, a bad idea.”
Tennenbaum said that when Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, a longtime friend, called to ask for help, he quickly saw the need. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population live within 100 miles of a coastline, but long-term ocean data are scarce. “The key is having a standardized method for collecting data and a wide spatial area so scientists can see the big picture over a long period of time,” Clough said.
The project will have three sites within a year and a total of five shortly thereafter — Edgewater, Md.; Fort Pierce, Fla.; Carrie Bow Cay, Belize; and two Panama locations. It will feature biology, ecology and anthropology experts and use technologies such as DNA sequencing. It will gauge how coastal biodiversity is affected by human activities and global changes including ocean warming, acidification and rising sea levels. It’s modeled after the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories, which include 47 global land plots that have been studied for more than three decades.
Tennenbaum has spent a career working with numbers, but “I’m a water guy, too,” he said. He has scuba-dived “with sharks and whales and rays, and it’s a great adventure.”
“I want others to share in that pleasure and excitement,” he said. “I’m more concerned that the ocean’s food and climate be studied in a very intensive way, and the effort deserves big scale, and a quick ramp-up, instead of a lot of talk about the problems.”