Crowdsourcing Sea Change: UC Santa Barbara Receives $10M Gift

Extract from UCSB News Release

Maybe it’s all the plastic you see on the beach where you take your kids. Or that news story you read about shark-finning and can’t quite get it out of your mind. Are you frustrated trying to identify sustainable options on the menu at your favorite seafood restaurant?

These are common concerns, and they all lead back to one place: the ocean. And with climate change acidifying and heating up the seas, global fisheries being overharvested and more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic working their way into marine food webs, they’re the tip of a massive threat to our oceans.

The Benioff Ocean Initiative, a bold new endeavor led by the University of California Santa Barbara, aims to research the root causes of these pervasive ocean problems and use science to solve them, supported by funding from Marc and Lynne Benioff.

Marc Benioff is the co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce, one of the world’s leading software companies, and a leader in changing global attitudes about the social responsibility of businesses. Lynne Benioff is on the board of directors of Hampton Creek, the board of overseers of the University of California San Francisco Foundation, the board of directors of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and the board of directors of Common Sense Media. In 2015, Lynne Benioff was appointed to the board of directors of the Presidio Trust by President Obama.

Known for their extensive philanthropic support of children’s health and education, the couple has gifted UCSB more than $10 million to establish the Benioff Ocean Initiative.

‘A Game-Changing Undertaking’

Cast as an experimental new model for university-driven change, the innovative effort will bring senior ocean scientists together with students to develop science-based solutions that will address problems plaguing the oceans. In an effort to link together the strength of university-powered research with the creativity of global ocean communities, this new initiative will use a crowdsourcing campaign to collect ideas on ocean issues submitted from anyone, anywhere in the world. These ideas will set the agenda for the initiative.

“We cannot stand by and watch our oceans become increasingly sickened and fisheries decimated,” said Marc Benioff. “Just as we have research hospitals seeking cures for devastating illnesses, we need a hospital to heal our oceans. We can bring the brightest minds in marine science and our communities together and empower them to bring our oceans back to health.”

“On behalf of UC Santa Barbara, I wish to express our deep appreciation for the truly inspiring and generous commitment by Marc and Lynne Benioff,” said Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “With this transformative gift, we are proud to establish the Benioff Ocean Initiative, which will enhance the ability of researchers and community stakeholders to address current problems in ocean health through applied environmental science.”

“Building the capacity of the university, including educating our students — future environmental leaders — to investigate and address these challenges in innovative and demonstrable ways is a vital step to strengthening sustainable environmental practices worldwide,” Yang added. “Through their gift, the Benioffs’ visionary leadership sets the stage for tremendous beneficial change.”

“This is a game-changing undertaking that will contribute invaluable research and solutions to ocean issues that will affect the world’s food supply for countless generations,” said UC President Janet Napolitano, who launched the Global Food Initiative to marshal the expertise of researchers across the UC system. “It’s significant, too, that The Benioff Ocean Initiative will bring students together with scientists and collect ideas from people throughout the world.”

‘A Hospital for the Oceans’

Headquartered at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, an internationally recognized center of excellence for interdisciplinary oceans research, the Benioff Ocean Initiative is being directed by noted marine biologist Douglas McCauley, but will be run as a collaboration among ocean scientists worldwide, as well as students. Together they’ll highlight the most pressing threats to ocean health through research, and then use what they learn to address these illnesses in the ocean.

Read the full news release here.