Jeff Bezos’ Latest Donation to the Smithsonian Is a $12m Grant

A new donation to the Smithsonian won’t be funneled towards one of the institution’s numerous art or history museums. Instead, the $12 million grant from Jeff Bezos will support the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a Panama-based facility focused on analyzing and preserving tropical ecosystems.

Up-close photo of Jeff Bezos in dark blue shirt
The donation is part of Jeff Bezos’ pledge to give away $10 billion by 2030. Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The donation comes from the Bezos Earth Fund, launched by Bezos in 2021 as the largest-ever philanthropic commitment to the environment with a pledge to give out $10 billion by 2030. The Amazon (AMZN) CEO’s organization is already 16 percent of the way there, having awarded more than $1.6 billion in grants in the past two years.

The beginnings of the STRI can be traced back to 1910, when the Smithsonian led one of the first major environmental impact studies by cataloguing the biodiversity of tropical rainforests in Panama ahead of the Panama Canal’s creation. The grant from Bezos will specifically support STRI’s GEO-TREES alliance, which offers a database of forest carbon estimates based off satellite images and contains the ForestGEO network, the world’s largest and most extensive forest monitoring network.

“The Bezos Earth Fund is pleased to support and partner on this powerful project to use decades of long-term data to understand forest carbon,” said Cristian Samper, managing director and leader of nature solutions at the Bezos Earth Fund, in a statement. “The longevity of tropical research at the Smithsonian, together with the expansion of a global network of forest study sites, will help address the climate crisis we face in a way not possible anywhere else.” The majority of the multi-million-dollar grant will go toward data collection in tropical countries, according to the STRI.

What other philanthropic donations has Jeff Bezos made?

The Bezos Earth Fund, which has already given grants to more than 100 different projects, has allocated $1 billion of its $10 billion pledge toward nature conservation, restoration and food system transformation. Bezos, the world’s third richest man with a net worth of $156.7 billion, has been ramping up the donations in recent months.

In June, his fund gave out $50 million in grants for groups protecting and developing Indigenous territories, fire responses and carbon markets in the Amazon rainforest. Meanwhile, a separate $9.7 million was donated to Brazilian Indigenous associations and nonprofits in April to aid emerging carbon market opportunities in the Amazon rainforest, following $34.5 million in grants given in March to support greenhouse gas reporting, environmental disclosures, alternative meat production and virtual livestock fencing.

Despite the significance of his two-year-old fund in the world of environmental donations, Bezos’ philanthropic contributions aren’t limited to fighting climate change. In 2021, he gave $200 million to the Smithsonian, the institution’s largest donation since its founding gift from James Smithson in 1846. With $130 million going towards a new learning center at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the rest supporting museum renovations, the donation gives Bezos naming rights at the institution for half a century. In addition to numerous contributions made to the Smithsonian over the years, Bezos was also a founding donor of its National Museum of African American History, which in 2016 awarded the Amazon founder the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his contributions in e-commerce and technology.

Jeff Bezos’ Latest Donation to the Smithsonian Is a $12m Grant


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