Director's Weekly Reports
No travel this week, which was a pleasant change. But a wonderful evening event on Monday at the Frick Mansion in Alpine NJ participating in a fund raising event for the local Alpine school and getting to meet many of the residents of this intriguing, tiny, exceptionally wealthy town. We made a number of good new contacts that hopefully will become friends to LDEO in the future.
We entertained Kyoshi Suyehiro on Wednesday, who stopped by for a few hours on his way from the IODP jackup rig off New Jersey (that is drilling the hole that Greg Mountain has been trying to get drilled for a century or two) to his IODP-MI Office in DC where he is now President...
The happiest news of the week is that the April issue of "Deep Sea Research" has been dedicated to Taro Takahashi. Taro, in his typically modest way, insists that "Since my ocean study was (and is) conducted entirely at Lamont with Lamont colleagues, I would like to share this honor and recognition with the entire Observatory."
There is a wonderful citation in the journal that states in part:
"Taro is an outstanding scientist, colleague, and mentor, with a graciousness and humility that has been an inspiration to us all throughout his entire career"
Congratulations Taro for this thoroughly appropriate and well-deserved recognition.
We received the great news on Monday that we have been given the one slot available to CU for submission of a proposal to NSF's Buildings and Infrastructure RFP issued as part of the Stimulus funding program (formally known as the American Reinvestment and recovery Act (ARRA)...
As you all are probably aware, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding (ARRA, aka stimulus funding) comes with significant reporting requirements. We are starting to see Stimulus awards come in and we do expect that many more PIs will be receiving such funds in the coming months. Therefore, we have invited Paul Reedy, who is
leading Columbia's ARRA implementation team, to come to Lamont to talk about PI responsibilities with respect to Stimulus Funding. The government reporting requirements for ARRA are significant so this will be a very important meeting for everyone. Please join us: Tuesday June 16th 10am Lamont Hall...
Today we had a successful visit by Chet Koblinsky the head of NOAA's Climate Program office along with a couple of his colleagues. He received briefings on the Columbia Climate Center and there were specific and useful discussions, led by Yochanan Kushnir about the future of our NOAA cooperative institute (CICAR). Relative to the other climate science agencies, the President's request for NOAA's budget for FY10 does not look great, but as a small sign of hope yesterday the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee marked them up by ~$130M which was at least something. But there is still a long way to go in the budget process.
Kuheli Dutt ran the first Lamont Leadership Forum on Wednesday at which Suzanne Camargo and Tim Crone reported upon their recent attendance at leadership workshops organized by AGU and Ocean Leadership respectively. There was good discussion and this is clearly an activity which we should repeat so that new insights and ideas to help our junior staff can be shared...
A week today - Friday June 5th, the Director of NOAA's Climate Program Office, Chet Koblinsky, will give a talk in the Comer 1st floor seminar room at 2:15pm. There is a lot going on at NOAA right now and we hope to gain some insights from Chet about what the future might hold.
I flew down to DC first thing on Tuesday morning (with Hilary Clinton, no less, on the US Air shuttle) and spent Tuesday and Wednesday working on the Advisory Committee to the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL) for the NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). COL is the prime contractor to NSF for the implementation of this ambitious infrastructure program which (depending on how you count) will be funded over the next decade at a level of more than $700M...
Monday and Tuesday were consumed by the annual merit reviews of the whole of the scientific staff - an important but tiring process where I, along with the Associate Directors, go through every activity report and discuss relative merits and accomplishments.
I attended a very grand dinner on Tuesday evening at the Bollinger residence to recognize the nine CU honorary degree recipients - our good friend and generous benefactor Jerry Lenfest was among the honorees. It was enjoyable but I had to stay up way way past my regular bed time! (Wednesday was commencement in case you missed it!)
Thank you to all who attended the ceremony this afternoon to honor this year's recipient of the Observatory's Excellence in Mentoring award. It was an activity designed to emphasize the importance of mentoring our junior colleagues - helping them succeed in the tough competitive environment in which we all live. Everyone who was nominated for this award deserves our recognition and thanks - so if you see Juerg Matter, Nick Christie-Blick, Doug Martinson, Alexey Kaplan in the next few days thank them for their important contributions to the quality of our work environment here at Lamont. These folks along with all the previous recipients of this award - Gordon Jacoby, Bob Anderson, Marc Spiegelman, Kevin Griffith, Sid Hemming - all deserve our sincere thanks...
The very first rumblings from NSF are being heard regarding implementation of their plans to disburse stimulus funding - we all wait with great expectations!
Little bits of information are trickling out about the all important President's request for FY2010 - more complete data will be available next week - but let me share a few numbers.
The FY10 request for NSF Geosciences is $909M versus the FY08 Actual of $758M - a healthy increase of 19.9 per cent. This is very good news. NOAA did not fare so well - only a 1.5 per cent increase (relative to FY08 actual) for OAR and for NASA science a decrease of 4.9 per cent. But the real story on this, and its impact on Geosciences I am sure lies in the next level of budget detail which we will not see till next week. Remarkably, Science at DoE has an FY10 request of $5813M relative to an FY08 actual of $4080M - an increase of an amazing 42.5 per cent...
Despite the glorious weather last Sunday afternoon, Brendan Buckley's talk at the Spring Public Lecture series, the last for this season, attracted a good audience - this was the first event of many during the week. Brendan told a wonderful story about how he is linking the history of past droughts in SE Asia (reconstructed from tree rings) to the disappearance of ancient civilizations in the region. Every year attendance at this lecture series increases - a couple of years ago we
had to start charging an entry fee to control the numbers somewhat - but still the pressure grows - Lamont owes a great debt of thanks to all this year's speakers - thank you Michael Studinger, Dorothy Peteet, Nick Christie-Blick and Byrdie Renik (and of course Brendan).
On Monday evening there was a recognition of Provost's Alan Brinkley's many contributions to the University - he will be stepping down at the end of June - a very plush, and well-attended reception in the Rotunda of the Low Library. Notably one of the Alan's accomplishments that President Bollinger recognized in his speech was that of creating the
Research Professorships at Lamont. We all certainly owe Alan a great deal of thanks for that...
Last Sunday we held a meeting of the Alumni Association Board prior to a very well-attended lunch for members of FOLD (Friends of Lamont-Doherty) - almost forty folks attended - and its success was only eclipsed by the excellent public lecture (the third in this years series) that followed the lunch. Nick Christie-Blick and Byrdie Renik talked about Continental Stretching to a near capacity crowd in Monell.
Wednesday afternoon was spent with our Advisory Board. They were treated to a tour of the "Seismology Museum" in the basement of the cafeteria, thanks to Art Lerner-Lam and Won Young Kim, before engaging in one of the best attended and most active meetings we have had. The central agenda item was that of improving Lamont's visibility, and Kevin Krajick and Kim Martineau gave a great overview of the impressively large amount of diverse press coverage that we have been receiving in recent months. Robin Bell was the featured science speaker and told the great story of the recent expedition to Antarctica that she led with colleague Michael Studinger.
We had the annual budget meeting with the Provost on Tuesday - this is the annual event at which Edie and I try to convince the Provost Alan Brinkley and the CU Chief Financial Officer that we can afford to run the campus for the next fiscal year. This is done with Steve Cohen and the Earth Institute of course (as our budget is tightly integrated with that of the EI). It was tough this year - we have significant reductions in our endowment income and major growth in costs over
which we have no control. Our financial situation next year is tighter than it has ever been since I have been Director. Of course we are all hopeful that when the stimulus dollars begin flowing from NSF, that the institution will get some relief because of the increase in indirect cost recovery, but I fear we will not see that until well into 2010. (And rumors aside, I still have no reliable idea of when stimulus funds will reach the program level within NSF - some have said that program managers will hear today - but I really do not know.) Anyway - enough with the negativity...
I got back from DC late Friday night after a classic five hour long weather-related debacle with the Delta shuttle. The leadership of the US Implementing Organizations for the Ocean Drilling Program came into town on Sunday afternoon for a dinner that night and a day-long meeting on Monday. Most of the discussions were focused upon the many leadership changes that are occurring in practically every area of the program - except Lamonts - thank goodness. Texas A&M is recruiting a new Geosciences Dean (to whom ODP-TAMU reports) as well as a new Director of the program to follow-on after Jeff Fox. And Kyoshi Suyehiro of JAMSTEC is taking over from Manik Talwani as President of the international management office for IODP. While all this is going on JOIDES Resolution is drilling successfully in the Pacific, with a
major celebration planned in early May during the Honolulu port call - Arden Bement, Director NSF will be the keynote speaker.
There was a Council of Deans meeting on Tuesday - probably there will be only one more during Alan Brinkley's tenure as Provost. No convincing rumors are circulating re the identity of Alan's replacement - obviously a critical appointment for both Lamont and the Earth Institute.
This phenomena - of agreeing to some substantial commitment, because the date was sufficiently far into the future that you never thought it would actually happen - came home to roost for me this week. The week was essentially consumed in preparation for and the running of a major NSF Panel review of the Management practices of the IRIS corporation. IRIS runs the global seismic network among other things. When I agreed to do this last year I did not at all appreciate the magnitude of the commitment. So I have had three full days in DC - Tuesday night through Friday night chairing this panel - a job made easier by the exceptional quality of my fellow panelists.
Langseth arrives in Taiwan tomorrow, after her long Trans-Pacific transit. Rumor is that she will escorted into the harbor with fireboats spraying hoses and greeted on the dock with a traditional Dragon dance - it should be quite a photo op!
We welcomed Connie Class to ExCom this morning for the first time, as the new Geochem representative - she had a magical effect because for the first time in living memory we finished the meeting in under two hours! In the informal information-swapping session, Bruce Huber brought up something that I had not appreciated - something quite
impressive. Lamont has had six separate research teams working in Antarctica this (southern) summer - some on ships, some on the ice and some in the air - but six separate groups. Another Lamont first, I would guess.
I was driving back from Morningside early on Thursday afternoon, with the Leonard Lopate Show on NPR on the background, when I noticed that every sentence that the interviewee spoke in response to Leonard's questions began with the two words "Kelemen says". Needless to say this attracted my attention after a while, and I turned up the volume to find that a fellow by the name of Tim Folger was being interviewed.
He wrote a piece for NRDC's magazine 'On Earth' about Peter Kelemen's ideas on using the peridotites in Oman to take CO2 out of the atmosphere - based upon Peter's publication in PNAS last year. It was a good piece - about nine minutes long - but sadly - as far as I heard, Lamont was not mentioned.
Last Sunday was our first Spring public lecture of the year. We had a very good audience with very good questions for Mark Studinger's remarkable account of the recent Lamont-led international expedition to Antarctica - a wonderful account of technical accomplishment and great discoveries embedded in a story of adventure and survival under incredibly tough conditions. Our next Public Lecture is a week on Sunday - March 29th - when Dorothy Peteet will talk about the 7000 year long archive of climate change that is Piermont Marsh.
Almost six months into the fiscal year, the Federal agencies that support our research finally got their budgets. The president signed HR 1105, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 on Tuesday. NSF gets 7.6 per cent above 2008 (and is directed among other things to spend $10M on Climate Change education); and NOAA gets an increase of 12
percent and there was this very interesting and important directive to NOAA:
"By not providing enough extramural research funding, NOAA risksg discouraging extramural involvement in NOAA's research programs and the concomitant leveraging of external funds in support of mission-oriented research. Thus, NOAA is encouraged to provide additionalg extramural funding in future budget requests"
I hope this week will be the last one in which Dick Greco and his crew will have to brave the winter's morning darkness to keep our Campus safe and accessible in the face of a particularly tiresome snowstorm on Monday. It was a tough call at 5 am that morning to make a decision about whether to stay open or close but it was the fact that we believed that we could keep the bus running from downtown that swung the balance. I hope everyone stayed safe and warm nevertheless.
I was on the 6am shuttle down to DC on Thursday morning, for a couple of days of Ocean Leadership meetings on the Hill. I am sitting in National airport writing this as I make my way home. In the old days (i.e. 6 months ago) National airport at 4pm on a Friday afternoon was absolutely chaotic with crowds and queues - but not anymore - even though this seems to be the only town in the US that has any money!
Lamont received a rare amount of coverage in the CU's Record this week - not only a great photo of Doug Martinson doing his "Ocean Station Obama" thing, but also a good write up on the passage of the Research Professorships though the Senate - marred only by its (incorrect) inference that this was an initiative restricted to the senior staff. Speaking of errors - I was wrong last week when I said that Lamont should be proud that we had won two outstanding student paper awards at the last Fall AGU - the truth is that we won three! I apologize to Jenny Arbuswewski for not previously recognizing her accomplishment - her paper was entitled "Towards a global calibration of the G. ruber (white) Mg/Ca Paleothermometer".
I spent five hours in four different EI meetings downtown on Monday afternoon and had eight appointments in my diary for Tuesday. And on Thursday enjoyed an excellent event in the Rotunda of the Low Library in honor of the great Benefactor and CU Trustee Gerry Lenfest. President Bollinger recognized him as fourth largest donor to CU of all time - and joked that given Gerry's competitive spirit he was sure that Gerry would want to become number 1! Anyhow I promised Gerry an opportunity to drive Langseth when she comes to the east coast - an offer of which he may take advantage!
Whenever I talk about Lamont I always try to remember to emphasize the essential role that our graduate students play in maintaining the quality of of everything we do. We received further testament to how exceptional our students are when we learned that for the SECOND time this year an AGU Outstanding Student paper award will be presented to one of DEES finest, Karen Wovkulich - for her paper entitled "Arsenic remediation enhancement through chemical additions to pump and treat operations" that was presented at the Fall Meeting in San Francisco. I doubt seriously that another institution in the US has received two of these awards this year. This is excellent - and many congratulations
The Federal stimulus package that the Senate-House Conference Committee has agreed to contains a total of $3.5B for NSF, including $2.5B for research and Related Activities (i.e. the Research Directorates), $300M for Major Research Infrastructure and $400M for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction. NSF has to spend this in 120 days (I think that's right) so I expect it will go to programs for which they already have fully reviewed proposals. It will have long term impact over the next 2-3 years as it will relieve pressure on programs - allowing managers to fund the backlog of
activities that have been held back for lack of funding. This is really important and very very good news for us all!
The House passed this earlier today - the Senate may vote as early as this evening. It is almost too good to be true!
So this was a very good week to receive a visit from Tim Killeen, the Assistant Director for the Geosciences at NSF - he had an excellent visit on Wednesday, and I believe went away impressed. Interestingly, he had never before visited Lamont.