By Shelly Leachman, UC Santa Barbara
Determined to improve and protect the health of our oceans through science and technology, Marc and Lynne Benioff have donated $60 million to UC Santa Barbara, one of the world’s largest marine research centers. important in the world.
The new gift is the largest ever given to ocean science at UC Santa Barbara – and one of the largest known gifts in the world to support ocean research.
The gift builds on the Benioffs’ legacy of supporting the campus in solving ocean problems and advancing scientific solutions and establishes the new Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory. They have already invested more than $28 million in ocean programs and collaborative partnerships at UC Santa Barbara.
“We are deeply grateful to Marc and Lynne Benioff for their extraordinary generosity,” said UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang. “This transformative gift establishing the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory underscores the Benioffs’ continued commitment to marine science research that seeks to solve the most pressing ocean environmental issues of our time. The laboratory builds on the achievements of the Benioff Ocean Initiative, whose groundbreaking research under the leadership of Professor Douglas McCauley has expanded our knowledge and understanding of marine ecosystems and promoted innovative solutions to the problems facing our world’s oceans.
“We greatly appreciate Marc and Lynne’s unwavering dedication to environmental conservation, and we are honored by their partnership with UC Santa Barbara on the Benioff Ocean Initiative and the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory,” Yang continued. “It’s a testament to the faith and trust they have in our campus.”
The bulk of this transformative philanthropy, $50 million, will go towards expanding the important work of the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory (formerly Benioff Ocean Initiative). The remaining $10 million will be invested to upgrade and renovate the university’s Marine Biotechnology Laboratory, a premier ocean research facility overlooking Campus Point. The building will be renamed for the Benioffs, to honor their commitment to ocean science.
Douglas McCauley (Photo: UCSB)
“Around the world, our ocean and the millions of species that inhabit it, as well as the billions of people who depend on a healthy ocean, are at risk. The increasing damage to our ocean caused by climate change and d Other threats cannot be the legacy we pass on to future generations,” said Marc Benioff. “Lynne and I are so grateful to be able to support the incredible marine science community at UC Santa Barbara and the collaborations that ‘they have forged with ocean scientists around the world to develop the innovative solutions needed to help restore the health of our oceans and our planet.”
With a donation of $10 million, the Benioffs in 2016 established the Benioff Ocean Initiative at UC Santa Barbara – an effort that has since become a globally respected model of using science to collaboratively solve the world’s most pressing ocean problems and replicate those successes.
And there have been successes.
The new Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory group has partnered with researchers around the world to whale safe, California’s first automated whale detection system. Intended to prevent collisions between whales and ships – a major threat to the recovery of endangered whale populations – the system is powered by artificial intelligence, whale occurrence data and satellite data. Whale Safe was tested in the Santa Barbara Channel. The Benioff Oceans team today announcement the launch of an expansion system off San Francisco to help reduce whale mortality in the Bay Area.
Additionally, scientists have teamed up with communities around the world in the Clean Currents Coalition to pioneer new methods to stop plastic pollution in the ocean by first capturing it in rivers. Teams in Ecuador, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Panama, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia have developed technologies to intercept more than 2 million pounds of plastic waste and divert the majority for reuse or disposal. to recycle. A semi-autonomous interceptor known as the “trash wheel” has just been launched in Panama – a milestone in the global fight against plastic pollution.
“I applaud the Benioffs’ gift to UC Santa Barbara,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, the UN’s special envoy for the ocean. “It represents a great contribution in support of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science. I look forward to the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory providing the good science we need for the healthy ocean we want.
A great white shark is filmed by a drone as part of Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory’s ‘Shark Eye’ project (Courtesy)
The Benioff Oceans group has also developed new shark detection tools using drones to promote the coexistence of humans and sharks; harnessed the power of ocean big data to help establish new ocean protected areas and strategically manage the high seas; and used science to promote awareness of how new industrial activities, such as ocean mining, could negatively affect ocean health.
With a key mandate to promote diversity in ocean science and in creating ocean solutions, the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory offers paid internships to UC Santa Barbara undergraduate students from Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and American communities. other underrepresented communities, partnering on ocean awareness and training programs, and supporting research on environmental justice in the ocean.
The next step ? The lab is in the planning stages of a $10 million challenge to contribute to global efforts to halt the progression of climate change. The official launch of this new climate project, and more details about the effort, will be released next year.
“I am proud of everything our team has been able to accomplish so far at UC Santa Barbara. But the most important work is yet to come,” said McCauley, lab director. “The Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory is excited to bring the full power of science at UC Santa Barbara to bear on the urgent fight against climate change. Not only does the ocean depend on winning the climate battle, but we all do.
Much of this work will surely take place in what is now known as the Marine Biotechnology Lab Building, which for decades served as the epicenter of marine research at UC Santa Barbara and housed researchers and students from across campus. Scientists based there have contributed to major discoveries, including advances in materials science inspired by abalone, squid, and other marine life; conduct research on the carbon and silicon cycle in the ocean; the innovation of new plastics that will degrade at sea; and promising new methods for sucking more CO2 from the air and storing it in the ocean to slow climate change.
Dolphins are captured by a drone camera as part of a Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory project (courtesy photo)
These facilities will be modernized and significantly improved thanks to the Benioffs, whose gift marks an unprecedented investment in the future of ocean science at UC Santa Barbara. In recognition of their commitment to the legacy – and in their honor – the building will also be renamed Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory.
“This transformative gift will build on the existing success of the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory team, support cutting-edge research and technological advancements that will help us both better understand our marine environments and apply real-world solutions to problems. they face,” said Pierre Wiltzius, Susan and Bruce Worster Dean of Science at UC Santa Barbara. “Thanks to the extraordinary vision and generosity of the Benioffs, UC Santa Barbara has cemented its status as the premier marine research institution on the West Coast.”
Delve deeper into the work and accomplishments of the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory here.