$50 million donation from Facebook founder, wife aims to improve Hawaii’s ocean health

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The University of Hawaii at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology is receiving a financial boost to help restore Hawaii’s oceans to health.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, have pledged to give the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology $50 million over seven years. Funds that will support various research groups within the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

“This transformative gift will allow our world-class experts to accelerate conservation research for the benefit of Hawaii and the world.” said University of Hawaii President David Lassner. “Ocean ecosystems that have evolved over the eons now face unprecedented threats from our growing human population and behaviors.”

Lassner added that it is essential to learn from previous generations who have carefully balanced resource use and conservation.

“Time is running out and we need to accelerate not only our understanding of marine ecosystems and the impacts of climate change, but also the actions we need to take to reverse the ongoing devastation,” he said. “There is no better place on Earth than Hawai’i to do this work, and no institution is more capable than UH. We couldn’t be more grateful for Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg’s investment in a better future for us all and our planet.

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The $50 million donation will fund research and programs that document changing ocean conditions, explore solutions to support healthier ocean ecosystems, improve coastal resilience in the face of storms and sea level rise and tackle the challenges of marine organisms ranging from the smallest corals to the largest predators.

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Hawaii is home to a rich diversity of marine life, including many threatened and endangered species. The accelerating rate of climate change and ocean acidification has altered environmental conditions faster than expected. Many species are struggling to adapt to the rapid changes taking place and scientists are seeing increasing impacts on marine ecosystems.

The donation funds research on the impact of climate change on Hawaii’s coastal waters, including areas of particular concern or natural refuges from the effects of ocean acidification. It will also support research into methods to more accurately predict future ocean conditions, as well as efforts to study marine organisms such as coral reefs, sharks and other species.

“Hawaiʻi has one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world – and having a deeper understanding of this ecosystem is key to preserving and protecting it,” Zuckerberg and Chan said. “We are honored to support the University of Hawaii’s conservation efforts, including their pioneering research on coral reef restoration, the impact of climate change on coastal waters, and other areas related to the health of our oceans.”

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The seven-year commitment funds research that supports healthier coral reef ecosystems that are more resilient to climate change. For example, scaling up coral reef restoration strategies. It also leverages efforts to develop community partnerships and support indigenous resource management practices. Additionally, it supports the training of the next generation of coral scientists and conservationists.

“In addition to the research funded by this donation, we will improve support for local students to overcome barriers to higher education,” said Chip Fletcher, acting dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “Through internships, mentorship, community engagement efforts, and postgraduate research fellowships, we will expand our pool of scholars, policymakers, and conservationists from underrepresented communities across our state. .”

This donation also funds vital efforts to inform the public, policy makers and resource managers about ocean acidification and vulnerabilities to global warming.

“This generous gift is a wonderful opportunity to support much-needed interdisciplinary work that will help us better understand ocean systems and indigenous management strategies and develop effective approaches to ocean conservation,” said Eleanor Sterling, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. “We aim to make meaningful progress in ensuring healthy and diverse oceans as well as meeting the needs of local communities.”

University of Hawaii Foundation CEO Tim Dolan said the university is grateful for the generous donation from Zuckerberg and his wife.

“Thanks to their visionary generosity, our researchers and partners at UH will have the critical funding needed to gain new knowledge and ultimately help our world’s oceans,” Dolan said. “The timing of this incredible investment will generate tremendous momentum for UH’s ambitious fundraising campaign.”

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