Lamont Weekly Report, October 7, 2016

    As this week closes, Hurricane Matthew is centered just off Florida’s eastern coast and is advancing northward, following its devastating trajectory across St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Bahamas. Even at Lamont, the storm affected the schedule of research. Joaquim Goes was to have participated on a NOAA oceanographic expedition slated to depart Wednesday from Charleston, South Carolina, but he wrote that the sailing time had been postponed at least until the weather cleared and the scientific party had been sent inland. 

     Notwithstanding the tempest to the south, most activities at the Observatory continued at a normal fall pace. 

     Last Saturday, Lamont and The Explorers Club co-hosted their second annual joint career day, entitled “Beyond the lab: Dynamic careers in science and sustainability.” The Manhattan event gave students an opportunity to learn about careers in science and sustainability and to explore current scientific research. Students heard from scientists, graduate students, alumni, and those working in the field of sustainable development in the public and private sectors. Speakers from Lamont included Nichole Davi, Kyle Frischkorn, Jonathan Kingslake, and Alex de Sherbinin from CIESIN. Margie Turrin and Bridgit Boulahanis presented video footage on their latest fieldwork. A similar event is planned for next year.

     On Monday, Nature Geoscience posted online a paper by Kuheli Dutt and colleagues from Teachers College on evidence for implicit gender bias in recommendation letters for postdoctoral fellowships in the geosciences. Kuheli and her team analyzed more than 1200 letters of recommendation submitted over the period 2007–2012 in support of applicants to a program of “highly selective postdoctoral fellowships in the geosciences at a competitive university in the Northeast U.S.” The group assigned each letter an “overall tone” of excellent, good, or doubtful on the basis of the adjectives and other terms used to describe the applicant. A total of 21% of the letters were assigned an overall tone of excellent, but the fraction of male applicants supported by such letters was significantly higher (24%) than the fraction of female applicants (15%). This difference in the distribution of recommendation letter tone by applicant gender was not dependent on the gender or nationality of the letter writer. Kuheli’s paper concluded, “We hope that studies such as this one will spread awareness of the differences in how men and women in the geosciences are perceived worldwide, and that institutions will use this information to develop initiatives to recruit, retain and advance women in STEM fields.” A press release by Stacy Morford has been posted on our web site (, and the story was picked up broadly by the media, including Science ( and Nature ( 

     On Tuesday, the Lamont Campus was visited by representatives from Columbia Technology Ventures, the university’s technology transfer office. Satish Rao, CTV’s Associate Director for Physical Sciences Licensing, and Richard Nguyen, Technology Licensing Officer, met first with a small group that included Art Lerner-Lam, Andrew Barclay, Bruce Huber, Einat Lev, and me, and then Satish and Richard spoke to a larger group of interested Lamont staff members. CTV provides advice and assistance to the Columbia community on patenting and licensing, technology development, entrepreneurial activities, and industry collaborations. A CTV representative will visit Lamont on a regular basis to answer questions and hold discussions on any of these topics, and both Satish and Richard emphasized that their offices in Morningside are open to anyone from Lamont who wants to stop by. 

     On Wednesday, Science Advances published a paper by Justin Mankin, Ben Cook, Jason Smerdon, and lead author Toby Ault of Cornell on the relative impact of temperature, precipitation, and future greenhouse gas emissions on the probability of a megadrought later this century in the American Southwest. For their analysis, the team defined megadrought as a 35-year period of aridity at least as severe as the worst droughts of the 20th century. The group found that regional increases in temperature result in a risk of megadrought in excess of 70, 90, or 99 percent by the end of the century under a moderate increase, no change, or a decrease in regional precipitation. An aggressive and global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could cut the risk of a megadrought in the American Southwest this century nearly in half. A Stacy Morford story on the paper has been posted on our web site ( 

     The R/V Langseth departed from the International Ship Repair facility in Tampa, Florida, late yesterday and is now in the Gulf of Mexico en route to the Panama Canal for transit thereafter to Chile. The sailing date had been delayed by a couple of days by the last round of inspections. Later today, the ship will conduct a test of the multibeam system. 

     New to Columbia University’s web presence is ColumbiaYou, an interactive menu of stories of Columbia University students, alumni, and faculty. The brainchild of Louise Rosen, Deputy Vice President for Alumni Relations in the Office of Alumni and Development, ColumbiaYou includes links by geography and general theme, and it promises to be a dynamic site that grows and evolves over time. A number of Lamont colleagues are already featured on the site, so you might see how many you can find ( 

     It should come as a surprise to no one on this campus that tomorrow is Lamont’s Open House. The web site for the event ( now includes a detailed program ( Notwithstanding a weather forecast for the possibility of afternoon rain, the diversity of offerings promises that participants of all ages and backgrounds will find activities that engage and captivate. 

     This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Jeffrey Shaman, an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health ( Jeff will be speaking on “Simulation and forecast of infectious disease: Environmental determinants and transmission dynamics.” I hope to see you there.