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National Museum of Natural History Opens Marine Biodiversity Exhibition

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has opened an exhibit in the Sant Ocean Hall that highlights a decade-long investigation of the biodiversity in Earth’s oceans. The exhibit, “Census of Marine Life: A Decade of Discovery,” honors the research done by the Census of Marine Life and includes the 2011 International COSMOS Prize awarded to the Census for its outstanding achievements in conservation and environmental biology. The exhibit is located in the Sant Ocean Hall on the first floor of the museum and will be on display through September 2013.

The Census of Marine Life resulted in the creation of a vast database of information collected by an international network of scientists. The project, officially completed in October 2010, is the most comprehensive inventory of known marine life ever compiled and cataloged. This effort to assess the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life includes the work of several Smithsonian scientists from the Natural History Museum, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in addition to more than 2,700 researchers from 80 different nations. As a result of the Census, 1,200 new species have been described so far, and many of the type of specimens on which the descriptions are based are housed at the Smithsonian.

The results of the Census have great significance for humanity to understand the amount of change that has already occurred within the planet’s oceans—as a baseline from which future change can be measured and as a thorough examination of the present condition of marine habitats.

Along with the COSMOS prize, the exhibit will feature a number of images showcasing marine life discovered by the Census and a rare deep-sea squid specimen. The squid is only the third-known specimen of its species, which has been named in honor of Census donors, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. For more information about the exhibit and the Census of Marine Life visit or

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