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Smithsonian at COP28

Our Sustainable Planet

Smithsonian Under Secretary for Science and Research, Ellen Stofan, will lead a group of scientists to COP28 in Dubai, reflecting the Institution’s ongoing commitment to Our Shared Future: Life on a Sustainable Planet.

Dedicated to fostering harmony between humanity and nature, the Smithsonian partners with local communities worldwide to deepen the collective understanding of and advocate for nature-based solutions to enhance Earth’s sustainability.

Partner with the Smithsonian on these priorities as introduced by our most amazing resource—our people—who bring optimism, passion, and purpose to Our Shared Future.

Socio Ecological Research

“I see a lot of movement toward place-based conservation research. This is a bottom-up approach that focuses on protecting and preserving natural resources within specific geographic areas while recognizing the importance of local communities in safeguarding ecosystems and biodiversity. Place-based conservation encompasses endeavors such as collaborative landscape stewardship, climate change adaptation, ecosystem management, conservation legislation and community development. It strives to recognize all people as essential participants in shaping our collective future on Earth.”

—  Hila Shamon, Research Ecologist, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

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Measuring Biodiversity

Discussing the relevance of research to conservation efforts:

“I would say everything we do is relevant to conservation, and we work very hard on figuring out how we translate it. It’s one thing to do the research. But if that research then isn’t translated into actions or policies or other things, then it’s useless.”

Peter Leimgruber, Acting Director, Conservation and Science National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

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“The ForestGEO network tracks the growth and survival of about 7 million trees at 76 study sites in 29 countries, both in tropical and temperate forests. Some of its long-term study sites in the tropics will be selected for the first phase of the GEO-TREES project, which will initiate with 30 plots in the global south and will eventually expand also to include temperate forests.”

Stuart Davies, Director, ForestGEO and Frank H. Levinson Chair, Senior Staff Scientist, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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Global Mangrove Alliance

The alliance aims to accelerate a globally comprehensive, coordinated, and science-based approach to mangrove conservation and restoration under three broad goals: Halting Loss, Restoring Half, and Doubling Protection. Co-development of strategies by a broad range of stakeholders is critical to ensure benefits to people and create long-term solutions at the local, national, regional, and international scales, something we have been part of in the Mesoamerican reef region.

“When we work together, share resources, and common goals, we can make a real impact.”

— Steven Canty, Research Biologist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

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At the March 2023 Our Ocean Conference in Panama, Tewksbury thanked the sectors who come together—”not as one, but as everyone”—to conserve the Eastern Tropical Pacific: civil society, the public sector—the governments, the private sector, the philanthropists, and the scientific community:

“We are honored at STRI to have been a part of every proposal for marine protected areas that Panama put together over the last two decades: now 54% of all territorial waters. But we do not do this work alone, CMAR did not become a reality without all the science coming together across the region. Twenty-five years ago, it was just a theory that underwater mountain ranges connect these four countries, but now we know this is true. Thank you, Héctor Guzmán and others.”

—  Josh Tewskbury, Ira Rubinoff Director, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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“At the heart of our work is the idea that all youth should be given the opportunities to learn about the socio-scientific issues that challenge us. The Smithsonian, through the Smithsonian Science Education Center, plays an active role in sparking students’ and teachers’ interest in STEM to ensure a scientifically literate and sustainable planet.”

—  Carol O’Donnell, Director, Smithsonian Science Education Center

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Educator Support

“The most innovative ideas for solving the challenges we face today and will face tomorrow are likely to come from the students sitting in classrooms right now—if they are given the opportunity to grow their innate curiosity about the world around them. We need to prepare students to be scientifically literate, critical thinkers who take action in their communities to meet the needs of our changing world.”

— Amy D’Amico, Division Director of Professional Services, Smithsonian Science Education Center

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Blue Carbon

Wetlands can store massive amounts of carbon—up to 10 times more than upland forests, according to some estimates. This carbon, known as ‘blue carbon,’ has become a buzzword among those looking to protect the coasts from the more devastating effects of climate change and those looking to sell credits as part of a ‘blue carbon market.’

“Tidal wetlands are incredibly productive. You look at them, and you may not think that they’re storing much carbon, because it doesn’t look like a forest all the time. Sometimes, it just looks like a little salt marsh. It looks like a little prairie out there on the water. But they store a lot of carbon below ground.”

— James Holmquist, Ecologist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

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Coastal Carbon Atlas

“We are growing iteratively with community feedback, facilitating the sharing of open data and analysis products, offering training in data management and analytics, and leading topical working groups aimed at quantitatively reducing uncertainty in coastal greenhouse gas emissions and storage.”

— Patrick Megonigal, Associate Director for Research, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

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“The mangroves of Belize are incredibly important for protection, biodiversity, and livelihoods of coastal communities. Mangroves can also store more carbon belowground than any other environment on Earth. Countries like Belize have committed to massive mangrove protection and restoration goals, as a way to adapt to and fight the effects of climate change. Our team worked with local organizations throughout Belize to complete the first ever national mangrove carbon stock for the country, and the results of the field effort are already being implemented into national inventories and policy.”

Hannah Morrissette, Coastal Wetland Biogeochemist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center 

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