President Donald Trump’s initial budget called for significant cuts to environmental science, a focus of the Woods Hole scientific institutions, which study ocean and coastal environments and climate science.
Forty percent of the Woods Hole Research Center’s annual budget comes from federal grants, said Philip B. Duffy, president and executive director of the climate think tank.
“We are heavily dependent on that research money,” Dr. Duffy said. “We are keenly aware of the potential impact of budget cuts.”
He said the organization had been moving away from its reliance on government grants, which have become more competitive in recent years, even before the new administration came in.
“The work of independent organizations is even more important now, if government is not going to do it.” Dr. Duffy said.
The budget also called for cutting completely the Sea Grant program, which has offices in Massachusetts at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program receives $1 million in funds each year from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which was impacted by proposed cuts.
Funding to the Sea Grant program was zeroed out for the rest of the current Fiscal Year 2017 budget as well.
“Certainly, you don’t want to see your program on the chopping block,” said Matt Charette, director of Woods Hole Sea Grant.
He said the program, however, has survived past potential cuts, such as those under President Ronald W. Reagan.
“The program generally has strong bipartisan support in Congress,” Dr. Charette said. “At the end of the day, they are the ones who write the budget.”
Last week Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution expressing support for the national Sea Grant program.
Sea Grant works in 31 states and in 2015 had a $575,000,000 return from an investment of $67,300,000—an 854 percent return— states the resolution.
Locally the program supports sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and healthy coastal ecosystems. For example, it supports the Massachusetts shellfish aquaculture, a $25-million-per-year industry.
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