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l Outreach l


Alberto Malinverno- Principal Scientist


Alberto and Elisabetta Fois on the R/V Eastward in the Mediterranean, 1978

Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Milano, a big city in northern Italy. I studied at the University of Milano for my undergraduate degree in geology, and then I moved to the US for my graduate studies in geology at the Lamont-Doherty earth Observatory, which is part of Columbia

How did you become interested in your field?

As a boy, I was fascinated by the mix of science and adventure in the documentaries of Jacques Cousteau. When I was an undergraduate, my advisor (Maria Bianca Cita) got me on a marine geology cruise in the Mediterranean. I found there a real-life combination of
science, practical observation, and hard work at sea that deeply interested me, and I was hooked.

Did you think this is what you’d be doing one day when you grew up?

It is better to say that this is what I dreamed of doing as I grew up!

What are your responsibilities in the Borehole Research Group?
I am a research scientist, and my job is to collect measurements in boreholes drilled in the ocean and to address outstanding scientific problems with these data. For example, we study gas hydrate, which is an ice-like substance made of water and methane found below the seafloor of continental margins. These natural gas hydrates store large quantities of methane, which may be released in the ocean and atmosphere and have major effects on climate. Our measurements in deep boreholes are critical because they let us observe gas hydrate in an environment where it is stable; hydrate samples brought to the earth's surface quickly dissociate to water and methane gas.

What’s it like to be out at sea for two months?
It is always a wonderful experience for me. Every time we go to sea, we have a chance to test ideas about how the earth works and invariably find out something we did not know. Discovering something new out by putting together theory and practical observation is always a thrill. In the two months of an ocean drilling expedition, the world shrinks to the ship, the people one works with, and the task at hand. At the end, it is great to go
back home with a renewed appreciation of how much family and friends really matter.

Borehole Research Group at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, 61 RT 9W, Palisades, NY 10964