Within the Smithsonian Institution (SI), global-change research is primarily conducted at the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Zoological Park, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Research is organized around themes of atmospheric processes, ecosystem dynamics, observing natural and anthropogenic environmental change on multiple time scales, and defining longer-term climate proxies present in the historical artifacts and records of the museums as well as in the geologic record. Most of these units participate in the Smithsonian’s Global Earth Observatories, examining the dynamics of forests (ForestGEO, formerly SIGEO) and coastal marine habitats (MarineGEO) over decadal time frames.
The Smithsonian Grand Challenge for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet brings together researchers from around the Institution to focus on joint programs ranging from estimating volcanic emissions to ocean acidification measurement. Smithsonian paleontological research documents and interprets the history of terrestrial and marine ecosystems from 400 million years ago to the present. Other scientists study the impacts of historical environmental change on the ecology and evolution of organisms, including humans. Archaeobiologists examine the impact of early humans resulting from their domestication of plants and animals, creating the initial human impacts on planetary ecosystems.
These activities are joined by related efforts in the areas of history and art, such as the Center for Folklife and Cultural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to examine human responses to global change, within communities, reflected in art and culture, food, and music. Finally, Smithsonian outreach and education expands our scientific and social understanding of processes of change and represents them in exhibits and programs, including at the history and art museums of the Smithsonian. USGCRP funding enables the Smithsonian to leverage private funds for additional research and education programs on these topics.