June 7, 2022

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Seeks Solutions Amid the Climate Crisis

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Author National Philanthropic Trust

In early 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a warning on the destructive impact of human-induced climate change. Many climate advocates urge the world to act fast to mitigate the worst effects of a warming planet. The Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) sees an unsung hero in this crisis: the world’s oceans.

“As the climate changes and the oceans warm, we see this as a time to act,” says WHOI’s Chief Development Officer, Court Clayton. He says that the team of over 1,000 scientists, engineers and students at Woods Hole is optimistic and that while the oceans are at risk, they also hold the keys to our planet’s survival.

With oceans covering two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, their livelihood is deeply interconnected with the rest of the planet. Climate change causes the oceans to absorb more heat, which raises sea levels and ocean temperatures.

Clayton says that there is “still hope here.” However, it is essential for scientists to lead the way in this ongoing fight: “We must develop the solutions to protect our oceans.” Climate action, conservation and new technology all require scientific knowledge. Much of Woods Hole’s work focuses on intense monitoring and data collection of the oceans.

Today, Woods Hole is focused on 'transforming ocean science for the global good.'

The organization has been studying the oceans for nearly a century. In fact, Woods Hole has been instrumental in major historic events, from the 1985 discovery of the Titanic to critical findings in the wake of 2011’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Founded in 1930, the organization’s vision and work has only been amplified in the face of the climate crisis, with what Clayton describes as “transforming ocean science for the global good.”

WHOI’s dedicated team is doing this through a variety of efforts like deploying floating data collectors called Argo floats to monitor ocean temperature and salinity, research and development on aquaculture and fisheries, coral reef monitoring and restoration and other vital enterprises. Clayton notes that while 85% of WHOI’s funding comes from competitive research grants and government funding, philanthropic funding is especially important when it comes to making strides in new topics or areas with limited funding.

Clayton points out that donor-advised funds (DAFs) allow Woods Hole to “take big risks” and invest time and resources into building expertise in emerging and important research areas—like microplastics pollution in the oceans. With the help of donors, “This is an area where we can make moves,” says Clayton.

Donors seem to be rising to the challenge. “People are hungry to be part of the solution,” Clayton says. Over the past five years, WHOI has seen a noticeable increase in donor-advised fund dollars, more than tripling their DAF donor count from 86 to 270. With long-term and multi-year giving on the rise, Clayton says that “we’ve built the momentum” to continue their ongoing efforts.

He’s not the only one who feels inspired by the efforts of donors in recent years, as WHOI President and Director Dr. Peter de Menocal tells us, “National Philanthropic Trust’s network of donors are an incredibly important resource for our oceans, and the urgent research innovation that is needed to drive the solutions to our planet’s biggest problems.”

About the Author

Aly Semigran is a Content Specialist at National Philanthropic Trust. She has been writing and editing professionally for over 15 years, with articles in Billboard, Well + Good and Mic, among many other notable publications. In addition to her editorial background, Aly is currently getting her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. She resides in Philadelphia with her dog.