Biodiversity, Climate Change Studies Backed at Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution, home to 500 scientists and an equal number of research fellows, today received a promise of a boost for the four grand challenges launched in its September 2009 strategic plan. Most notably, the total proposed budget of $797.6 million includes $10 million for the strategic plan. Of that, $8 million would go toward promoting biodiversity and climate change research. These funds signal increased recognition of the need to support programmatic activities at the Smithsonian and not just bricks and mortar, says Scott Miller, the Smithsonian’s deputy undersecretary for science.

Within the $8 million, the Center for Tropical Forest Science, based in Panama, is slated to receive $2 million to expand its long-term studies of forest plots around the world. The center got $1.25 million last year, the only science program to be singled out for support in the Smithsonian's 2010 budget.

If another proposed $1 million in the new budget is approved, the Smithsonian will begin to set up a parallel long-term program in the sea by establishing marine “plots” in Panama, Florida, and Belize that will become long-term study sites.

Another $1 million will support DNA barcoding, a short-cut way to identify species. The proposed budget also includes $1 million for the Encyclopedia of Life project and $2 million for biodiversity research across the Smithsonian.

As for bricks and mortar items, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, hopes to be swapping out temporary labs based in trailers in a parking lot for new lab space if $16 million of the $40 million total cost is approved. And there’s $7 million for renovations at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Overall, the proposed Smithsonian budget of $797.6 million is an increase from the FY 2010 budget of $761.4 million and includes $660.8 million for salaries and expenses and $136.8 for facilities.