Zuckerberg and Chan donate $50 million to UH for improving Hawaiʻi’s ocean health
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan have committed $50 million over seven years to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology for the support of research groups working to restore Hawaiʻi’s ocean health.
This gift will fund research and programs within the university’s Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology that document changing ocean conditions; explore solutions to support healthier ocean ecosystems; enhance coastal resilience from storms and sea-level rise; and tackle challenges to marine organisms ranging from the tiniest corals to the largest predators.
“This transformative gift will enable our world-class experts to accelerate conservation research for the benefit of Hawaiʻi and the world,” said University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner. “The ocean ecosystems that evolved over eons now face unprecedented threats from our growing human population and our behaviors. It is critical that we learn from previous generations who carefully balanced resource use and conservation.
“The clock is ticking, and we must fast-track not only our understanding of marine ecosystems and the impacts of climate change, but the actions we must take to reverse the devastation underway. There is no place on Earth better than Hawai‘i to do this work, and no institution better able than UH. We could not be more grateful for the investment of Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in a better future for all of us and our planet.”
Hawai‘i is home to a rich diversity of marine life, including many threatened and endangered species. The accelerated pace of climate change and ocean acidification has altered environmental conditions faster than expected. Many species have difficulty adapting to the rapid changes taking place in the oceans and scientists see growing impacts to marine ecosystems.
The donation funds research on the impact of climate change on Hawaiian coastal waters, including areas of particular concern or natural refuges from ocean acidification effects. It will also support research on methods for more accurate forecasting of future ocean conditions, as well as efforts to study marine organisms like 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 the key to preserving and protecting it,” Zuckerberg and Chan said in a press release. “We’re honored to support the University of Hawaiʻi’s conservation efforts, including their trailblazing research on coral reef restoration, the impact of climate change on coastal waters, and other areas related to the health of our oceans.”
The seven-year commitment funds research that supports healthier, more climate change-resilient coral reef ecosystems. For example, scaling up strategies for coral reef restoration. It also leverages efforts to grow community partnerships and support Indigenous resource management practices. Further, it supports training for the next generation of coral scientists and ocean conservationists.
Interim School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Dean Chip Fletcher said the research funded through the donation will improve support for local students in overcoming obstacles to higher education.
“Through internships, mentoring, community engagement efforts and graduate research fellowships we will grow our pool of scholars, policymakers and conservationists from underrepresented communities around our state,” Fletcher said.