Profile: Andrew Davis


The reflection of a full moon stretches to the horizon, gently rolling on the ocean’s surface. Beneath the waves, moonlight falls on a coral reef and illuminates the innumerable specks of life swarming around as a diver drifts by.

"It’s an extraordinary sight to see,” Andrew Davis said. "You’re watching this tiny life all around you, and you realize you are looking at the foundation of the food web that makes all life on Earth possible.”

Davis has been scuba diving for more than three decades. On his almost 600 dives around the world, he has experienced firsthand the incredible beauty and diversity of the ocean. He’s also been a witness to many of the growing difficulties that are reshaping the sea.

Davis has revisited many of the same places throughout his extensive diving experiences. Coral bleaching, invasive species, decreased shark activity — he says the changes have been quite noticeable, and he has captured many of them in detailed dive logs and photographs over the years.

"They aren’t just pretty pictures that tell sad stories about specific locations,” Davis said. "They tell a fundamentally bad story for the entire world as we know it.”

Davis speaks of these dire changes with a surprising amount of optimism. He believes that the damage he has seen is reversible and that some of the people working toward solutions will be successful.

His regular dives in Caribbean locations, such as Saint Barthélemy and the Cayman Islands, have revealed not only the degradation of reefs but the success of efforts to aid their recovery. From new fishing regulations to coral transplants, he’s seen local success in the face of global problems like ocean warming and acidification.

"There's no doubt that there is every reason to be concerned about our ocean,” Davis said. "But there are key players doing good work and making real progress. If we’re going to change course, those are the organizations that need to be supported, and I believe that Bigelow Laboratory is one of them.”

Maine is profoundly important to Davis. He is a third-generation summer resident and has spent a great deal of time in the state throughout his life. During the last few years, he and his wife, Kate, have become philanthropic partners to the Laboratory. Their support stems from the belief that Bigelow Laboratory scientists make a difference by addressing challenges and opportunities that are fundamental to global issues.

"If you really want to save the whales, you’ve got to start with the smallest plants and animals,” Davis said. "The ocean simply doesn’t work without them.”

Davis’s affinity for the ocean and underwater exploration started at a young age, when he spent countless hours in the water along the Maine coast. While attending Colby College, he learned how to scuba dive. He continues to dive 10 to 20 times a year, now with Kate and sometimes their five children.

Davis has spent his professional life as an investor and is currently president of Davis Selected Advisers and portfolio manager for the Davis Real Estate Fund. It is through this lens that he views problems and evaluates ways that he might use philanthropy to further solutions.

"I try to look for where the money isn’t,” Davis said. "That’s where you find the diamonds in the rough — organizations like Bigelow Laboratory that are doing something extremely well that few others have tackled.”

Davis’s work has taught him to focus on maximizing the return on his investments. He brings this ethos to the many ways in which he supports the arts, education, health, and the environment through his own philanthropy and as a trustee of the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund.

As a philanthropist who focuses on some of the world’s biggest issues, Davis’s approach is to seek out and develop agents of change — initiatives that might lead to transformative shifts and rally the world to action.

"Humanity has proven it has a tremendous ability to destroy, but it has also proven it has a tremendous ability to create and recover,” Davis said. "I believe that science will catalyze this type of change for the oceans.”