Filling a Critical Need

The ocean’s diverse marine life provides us with food, livelihoods, recreation, and inspiration. But our seas are changing rapidly, and we don’t fully understand the consequences. In many regions we don’t even know what we have or what we’re losing.

MarineGEO is pioneering a collaborative network of worldwide coastal research partners to catalog the world’s coastal marine life, understand how and why it’s changing, and the consequences of change for people. TMON directs and coordinates these research efforts and recruits new partners around the world.

Most previous ocean observation efforts have focused on the open ocean and on physical and chemical characteristics. The MarineGEO initiative fills a critical void with its unique focus on:

  • Biodiversity as the heart of healthy, functioning ecosystems
  • The coastal zone, where people and marine life are concentrated
  • Systematic collection and sharing of long-term data using standard protocols
  • Coordinated experiments—the gold standard for diagnosing cause and effect in nature
  • Integration of multiple scientific disciplines to understand biodiversity and ecosystem function

The initiative is building the first comprehensive, standard database on the coastal ocean’s wealth of biological diversity, embedded in rich ecological understanding, catalyzing new scientific discoveries and solutions.

To address this critical need and data gap, a generous gift from Smithsonian National Board Member Michael E. Tennenbaum and his wife, Suzanne, helped the Smithsonian launch the central infrastructure and the core sites of the network.