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Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network
Marine biologists Drs Emmett Duffy and Nancy Knowlton discuss their efforts to help quantify
global marine biodiversity, and the network they are establishing to better utilise data in future
network of collaborators, and the Smithsonian's broad array of field stations that serve as R&D
hubs for MarineGEO's global activities.

The Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network (TMON) is a growing partnership between the Smithsonian and a diverse team of collaborators with mutual interests in understanding marine biodiversity and its role in the functioning of coastal marine ecosystems. TMON is unique among existing ocean observing efforts in its intent on a global network, standardized protocols, the focus on coastal regions - where people interact most intensively with the ocean - and on biodiversity rather than primarily physical measurements.

Partnership: Through TMON, the Smithsonian is initiating an unparalleled global research enterprise that will expand the world's largest natural history collection, engage our diverse specialists to develop standardized research protocols, monitor research sites, train students, and contribute to a global genomic and data repository. The network has been initiated with Smithsonian's existing marine stations in Maryland, Florida, Belize, and both coasts of Panama. Our partners will in turn catalyze and sustain the network's long-term success with in-kind contributions of access to field sites, students, facilities, and local expertise. A flexible, evolving research program encourages partners to initiate locally relevant research built around the standard measurements conducted at all sites.

Research: We envision that each observatory will regularly sample local habitats for:

  • Environmental drivers: meteorology, temperature, salinity, nutrients, dissolved O2 and carbon and pH.
  • Habitat structure: remotely sensed distribution of major coastal habitats: mangrove, seagrass, kelp, marsh, coral, rock, sand and mudflats.
  • Biodiversity and community structure: plants, microbes, plankton, invertebrates, fishes, and other vertebrates, determining what species are there, how abundant they are, and their feeding relationships determined by collections, modern molecular techniques and imaging.
  • Ecosystem processes: plant production (supporting the food web), grazing, predation, decomposition, recruitment and invasive species will be repeatedly sampled with standardized assays.

Outcomes: TMON intends to provide rigorous data on coastal marine biodiversity and ecosystem processes that can inform recommendations for sustaining and restoring healthy oceans, locally and globally. The resulting knowledge will be presented in a multifaceted open data repository, and the partnership will build capacity with legacy training for future generations of scientists and practitioners. TMON will collaborate with managers to integrate scientific outcomes into management process for global and local solutions.