Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1930

In the early 1920s, Wickliffe Rose of the Rockefeller Foundation began conversations with the director of the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory about the need for better understanding of the oceans. They launched a committee which eventually proposed creating a well-equipped institution on the U.S. east coast to conduct oceanographic research. The Rockefeller Foundation provided $1 million for construction, boats, equipment, and upkeep of a center located at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, along with a $1-million endowment, and $500,000 for ten years of summertime operating expenses.

By the early 2000s, there were over 1,000 researchers, ships’ crew, and support staff employed at Woods Hole, and philanthropy continued to be relied on to launch extensions of the federal facility’s programs. When fish ecologist Simon Thorrold developed doubts about the common way of reducing overfishing of depleted species—establishing large Marine Protected Areas where harvesting is banned until the fish population grows back—he and his colleagues developed a way to tag fish with harmless chemical signatures so the population dynamics and migrations of fish could be studied in detail. Woods Hole approached the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, which had been associated with marine philanthropy since their founding of the Monterey Bay Aquarium (see 1984 entry), with a request to fund the project. The Packard Foundation provided a half-million dollars starting in 2007. Woods Hole’s new Fish Ecology Laboratory was born.