Lamont Weekly Report, August 31, 2012

     The seasons are changing. Even as many on the Lamont staff are exploiting the final days of August for the rejuvenation and renewal of late-summer vacations, the Morningside campus is awash with the fresh
faces of new students.

          On Sunday, the Langseth completed her most recent cruise, which included four dives by the ROV Jason, and returned to Astoria, Oregon. The successful completion of all of the planned work on that cruise owes much to the considerable efforts by the ship's officers and crew, and by Lamont's Office of Marine Operations, to adapt the Langseth to be able to support Jason operations.
         I spent three days this week at a meeting in Woods Hole of the GRAIL Science Team. GRAIL, an acronym for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, is a lunar version of the twin-spacecraft GRACE mission, and like GRACE is designed to make precise measurements of the global gravity field. GRAIL's measurements promise to improve our ability to understand the deep structure of lunar geological features and the nature of the Moon's crust, mantle, and core. A side benefit of the meeting was that the tourist season in Woods Hole had ended a week earlier than in past years, and seats at the best restaurants and even parking places in the village were easy to secure.
         The change in seasons will be marked at Lamont in other ways. After Labor Day, we will be inaugurating a new strategic planning effort for the campus. The first step will be the formation of a Lamont Strategic Planning Committee, to consist of a mix of senior staff and early-career scientists. Such a strategic planning exercise will take advantage of past and ongoing plans by Lamont's research divisions and by Columbia's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. More than an amalgamation of past plans, however, our new strategic plan should be fully cross-disciplinary and should identify the most promising directions for future research even if progress in some of those directions requires that Lamont build strength in non-traditional areas.
         Once the Observatory's planning activities are underway, I hope to entrain the leadership and membership of IRI, CIESIN, and the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program to seek those areas for which scientific cooperation and collaboration can be of greatest mutual benefit. Those conversations will permit an expansion of an Observatory strategic plan to a strategic plan for the Lamont Campus. The campus plan should feature long-term plans for facilities,
laboratories, information technology, and infrastructure, with priorities and schedules driven by scientific priorities as well as by the current state and operational efficacy of our existing facilities. The specifics of such a plan will feed, in turn, into expanded programs in development, communication, and education.
         The importance of understanding our planet was amply underscored this week by the landfall of hurricane Isaac in Louisiana and Mississippi and by the announcement by NASA and the U.S. Snow and Ice Data Center that the areal extent of Arctic sea ice had reached the lowest level on record. The need to ensure that Lamont be optimally
positioned to lead in the furtherance of that understanding has never been stronger.