Driven to improve and safeguard the health of our oceans through science and technology, Marc and Lynne Benioff have made a gift of $60 million to UC Santa Barbara, one of the world’s most important marine research centers. It is the largest gift ever for ocean science at UC Santa Barbara — and one of the largest known gifts anywhere to support ocean research. The gift builds on the Benioffs’ legacy of support to the campus to address ocean problems and advance science-based solutions and establishes the new Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory.
“Around the world, our ocean and the millions of species that inhabit it, as well as the billions of people who depend upon a healthy ocean, are in danger. The escalating damage to our ocean from climate change and other threats cannot be the legacy we pass along to future generations,” said Marc. “Lynne and I are so thankful we are able to support the incredible marine science community at UC Santa Barbara and the collaborations they’ve forged with ocean scientists internationally to develop the innovative solutions needed to help bring our oceans and planet back to health.”
The bulk of their transformative new philanthropy will go toward expanding the important work of the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory (formerly the Benioff Ocean Initiative), led by Professor Douglas McCauley. The rest will be invested to upgrade and renovate the university’s Marine Biotechnology Lab, a premier ocean research facility overlooking Campus Point. To honor the Benioffs’ commitment to ocean science, the building also will be renamed Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory. In 2016, the Benioffs created the Benioff Ocean Initiative at UC Santa Barbara — an effort that has since grown into a globally respected model for using science to collaboratively solve the world’s most pressing ocean problems and replicate these successes.
The newly renamed Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory has created California’s first automated whale detection system; pioneered new methods to intercept over two million pounds of plastic waste in oceans; developed new tools for detecting sharks using drones to promote coexistence of people and sharks; harnessed the power of ocean big data to help set up new protected areas in the ocean and strategically manage the high seas; and used science to promote awareness of how new industrial activities, like ocean mining, could negatively affect ocean health.
“This transformative gift will build on the existing success of the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory team, support cutting-edge research and technological advances that will help us both better understand our marine environments, and apply actionable solutions to the problems they face,” said Pierre Wiltzius, Susan and Bruce Worster Dean of Science. “With the extraordinary vision and generosity of the Benioffs, UC Santa Barbara has strengthened its status as one of the leading marine research institutions on the West Coast.”
With a key mandate to promote diversity in ocean science and in ocean solution-making, the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory provides paid internships for undergraduate students from Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and other underrepresented communities, partnering on ocean outreach and training programs, and supporting research on environmental justice in the ocean.
“We greatly appreciate Marc and Lynne’s unwavering dedication to environmental conservation, and we are honored by their partnership with UC Santa Barbara on the Benioff Ocean Initiative and the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory,” Chancellor Yang said. “It is a testament to the faith and confidence they have in our campus.”