- Get Involved
The Smithsonian announced on October 25, 2012 that it will launch a major long-term project to study coastal marine biodiversity and ecosystems around the globe. The project is an outgrowth of research begun with seed funding from the Smithsonian Consortia's Grand Challenges Awards program, and is made possible by a $10 million donation from Suzanne and Michael Tennenbaum. The goal of the project—Smithsonian's Tennenbaum Marine Observatories—is to monitor the ocean's coastal ecosystems over a long period of time.
11 October 2012
9:15 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
The Smithsonian Institution’s Grand Challenges Consortia are hosting a symposium on October 11, 2012 to address the tremendous scope of transformations now occurring on the Earth with profound effects on plants, animals, and natural habitats. Geologists have proposed the term Anthropocene, or “Age of Man”, for this new period in the history of the planet. The symposium will focus on the arrival and impact of this new era through the lenses of science, history, art, culture, philosophy, and economics, and will promote discussion, debate, and deliberation on these issues of change.
Speakers will include Charles C. Mann, journalist and author of 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created; Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, & Environmental Sciences at the University of the District of Columbia; Richard Alley, Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University; and photographer and filmmaker Chris Jordan. Each of these presentations will be followed by responses from an interdisciplinary panel of scholars that will foster a wide-ranging discussion of the issues. A summation of the day’s discussion will be provided by The Honorable Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, former Congressman and Senator from Colorado.
The symposium will be open to the public, but space is limited. RSVP by October 1st to Consortia@si.edu with attendee name and affiliation to receive your ticket. A schedule of talks, abstracts, and biosketches will be made available for download in advance of the event. A limited number will be available at the event.
Guests must use the Constitution Ave. entrance to the museum. Seating in the auditorium will not be assigned. Admission is free and guests will need to check in with museum security. The museum has various dining options. The nearest Metro stop to the Constitution Ave. entrance is the Archives station (Yellow, Green lines). The Smithsonian station’s Mall exit is on the Madison Ave. side of the museum (Blue, Orange lines). For information on bus lines with stops near the museum, please visit WMATA or DC Circulator. Parking is limited to on-street spaces (posted times are enforced) and local garages.
Don your clean room clothing and join Geologist Cari Corrigan on a tour of the Smithsonian's new Antarctic meteorite storage facility in Suitland, MD, where all of the Antarctic meteorites in the national collection are kept under tight security and tight airlocks. Dr. Corrigan's Grand Challenges Award studies lunar and ordinary meteorites to determine their age and when they made impact with the Earth. These studies will help answer the question in planetary science, "did the migration of the gas giant planets produce a solar system-wide impact bombardment 3.9 billion years ago?". As this long-ago bombardment of materials from asteroids, comets, and even other planets coincides with the advance of life on Earth, the project's research will be relevant for biosciences as well as geosciences. Find out more about this project and others funded in 2010 by the Consortium for Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe.
The Recovering Voices initiative promotes the documentation and revitalization of the world's endangered languages and knowledge, and seeks to make a difference in the trends of language and knowledge loss through research, collaboration, and resources. The principal challenge to the world's linguistic diversity is the rapid decline in the number of younger speakers and practitioners. This trend can be reversed only if the speakers of endangered languages and bearers of traditions ensure that their children and grandchildren learn them. Tim McCoy, a geologist at Natural History, works with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to examine the overlap between science and traditional ways of knowing derived from myammia culture. Dr. McCoy was interviewed, along with Recovering Voices Principal Investigator and lead Curator Joshua Bell, about his experience teaching his sons Myaamia, the language of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
Recovering Voices is led by the National Museum of Natural History in partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and is funded in part the Consortium for Understanding the American Experience and the Consortium for World Cultures.
The Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution's Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet hosted a one-day symposium on March 1, 2012 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launching of Limits to Growth, the first report to the Club of Rome published in 1972. This book was one of the earliest scholarly works to recognize that the world was fast approaching its sustainable limits. Forty years later, the planet continues to face many of the same economic, social, and environmental challenges as when the book was first published.
The morning session focused on the lessons of Limits to Growth. The afternoon session addressed the difficult challenges of preserving biodiversity, adjusting to a changing climate, and solving the societal issues now facing the planet. The symposium ended with a thought-provoking panel discussion among the speakers on future steps for building a sustainable planet.
The symposium was webcast live, and recorded for later viewing.
The Grand Challenges Consortia would like to thank the Club of Rome, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, and Pedro and Carol Cuatrecasas for their generous support of the event. We would also like to thank the National Museum of the American Indian for providing a wonderful venue for the proceedings.
The Deep Reef Observation Project is a collaborative effort between Smithsonian scientists at the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and the National Zoological Park. Led by Carole Baldwin, Principal Investigator on the project's 2011 Grand Challenges Award, the team uses a submersible vessel capable of descending to 1,000 feet to investigate shallow- and deep-reef biodiversity. The team has been collecting samples off the coast of Curacao and discovered several new species of fish during their research dives. Find out more about this project and others funded in 2011 by the Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet.
Meet Rachel Collin, a staff scientist and director of the Bocas Del Toro Research Station at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Rachel studies the evolution of marine gastropods (snails) and oversees multiple disciplines of marine biology at the Collin Lab in Bocas del Toro. Dr. Collin is also Principal Investigator on the 2010 Grand Challenges Award "Ocean Acidification in the Caribbean: Past, Present, and Future."
Find out more about Rachel on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute website.
The Smithsonian Consortia would like to congratulate Karen Milbourne, curator at the National Museum of African Art, for receiving the Collaborative Spirit Award as part of the Secretary's third annual Awards for Excellence to recognize Smithsonian individuals for exceptional service to the Institution.
She has received this award because of her abilities to motivate and engage others in a fruitful, creative spirit of collaboration. Her work on Artists in Dialogue facilitated a transatlantic dialogue between artists in South Africa and Brazil resulting in an acclaimed exhibition. Karen received a Grand Challenges Award for her Earth Matters project, which brings together scholars in the fields of art, history, geography, environmental science, American studies, landscape architecture and soil science. She is crossing boundaries and making new, exciting connections.
Smithsonian Grand Challenges Awards—a competitive, internal granting program—advance cross-disciplinary, integrated scholarly efforts across the Institution which relate to one or more of the four Grand Challenges. These awards encourage Smithsonian staff to advance research, as well as to broaden access, revitalize education, strengthen collections and encourage new ways of thinking that involve emerging technology. At the same time, the awards will amplify the Smithsonian's leadership in addressing the Grand Challenges, nationally and globally, by enhancing externally funded research and increasing the public's understanding of related issues. The awards are organized by Consortia of the same name which aid the development of a suite of projects in their Grand Challenge area, seek both internal and external opportunities, and explore cross-cutting themes and ideas:
Grand Challenges grants are awarded through the Smithsonian Consortia at two distinct levels:
Level One grants provide seed money to develop groups around promising concepts. Successful proposals at Level One provide the time and incentive for individuals with common interests to meet and crystallize ideas for major interdisciplinary/pan-Institutional projects. These projects are intended to be short in duration (6-12 months) and focused in purpose, such as support for arranging seminars, workshops, meetings, and brown-bag lunches.
Level Two grants are larger and aimed at maturing groups poised to confront relevant issues and prepared to secure external funding. Applicants apply for Level Two funding to conduct preliminary experiments, write a position paper, explore the design of an exhibition, conduct preparatory work for a major project or produce other evidence of scholarly capacity that is deemed essential for external competition. Successful proposals at Level Two provide a group that has defined a common goal with the resources they need to establish themselves as credible competitors for external funding. Applicants for Level Two funding may already have a collaborative history or may be building on the outcome of a successful Level One process.
The Smithsonian Consortia are funded through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant supports the four grand challenges of the Smithsonian Institution's Strategic Plan, enables the Institution to organize itself in a way that will achieve significant results in each area, and provides competitive grants to Smithsonian staff who submit creative interdisciplinary ideas.