Advances in sustainability science and marine ecology
Funding from the Mellon Foundation transformed both the discipline of ecology and ecological research in benthic marine environments. The effort within ESA that produced the watershed 'Sustainable Biosphere Initiative' (SBI) would not have happened without Bill Robertson. The SBI continues to influence ecological research, policy, management and funding. In a related sphere, funding from Mellon has enabled a revolution in marine ecology -- a shift from local-scales, that largely ignored oceanic influences on coastal communities, to a cross-scale approach with an increasing focus on the interaction among oceanographic, physical, and biotic processes in determining patterns and dynamics of coastal meta-ecosystems.
Mellon support enabled the initiation of both new experiments, using the comparative experimental approach, and new repeated measurements of key processes, such as predation rate, recruitment and growth rates of prey, and availability of nutrients and planktonic food across increasing large spatial scales. This shift included comparisons among similar near-shore coastal upwelling ecosystems off Oregon and California, New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa. These interhemispheric comparisons have yielded novel insights and it leveraged significant additional resources and opportunities. Novel new insights included the demonstration of tight, upwelling mediated linkages between coastal oceanographic processes and ecosystem dynamics, the empirical basis for new theory on meta-ecosystems, and insights into the influences of climate change on upwelling and its influence on the supply of propagules to coastal populations.