Director's Weekly Reports
Well, it is Friday the 13th and nothing terrible has happened yet... although yesterday my cell phone died, and earlier this week we did discover that carpenter ants are eating the Monell Building... but that seems unrelated to the failure of the phone system in that same building for half a day (which was caused by lightning).
I did an interview for Austrian National Public Radio (in English - so who will be able to understand it remains a mystery).
We received the disappointing news that yet another attempt at hiring a DARS-level glaciologist has been unsuccessful - so we will have to try again.
Our ship, the Langseth remains alongside the Scripps dock in San Diego completing final preparations before sailing south to Manzanillo Mexico in a couple of weeks... Then, under the leadership of Suzanne Carbotte and John Mutter she will carry out the very first industry- quality three-dimensional survey of the volcanic plumbing system
beneath the East Pacific Rise. Another first for Lamont...
A few random news items to begin with:
After a couple of years of dedicated service Andy Juhl has decided to step down from his position on the LDEO Executive Committee and Andreas Thurnherr (who has served occasionally as Andy's backup in the past) has agreed to take his place.
Three Lamonters were inducted into Columbia University's elite cadre of 25 year veterans earlier this week: John Mutter from MG&G, Dave Walker from Geochem and Fernando Uribe from the Marine Dept (Fernando works in the engine room on Langseth - and did on the Ewing... and the Conrad).
In a speech in the Low Library earlier this week Mayor Bloomberg said: "Science in our city also puts New York on the cutting edge in the study of climate change. Columbia University's Earth Institute and its Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are world leaders in understanding and addressing global warming...
So it is nice that he knows our name!
The Commissioner of the New York State Dept of Environmental Conservation (Peter Grannis) and his Deputy Stu Gruskin spent most of the day here at Lamont, learning about the many NYS research activities in which we are involved. This was an extremely productive session that I believe will lead to substantially increased interactions. Other States around the nation, especially California and Florida, provide significant support for University-based research that has relevance to State interests - we must get New York into this same state of mind. The reality is that we do a tremendous amount of research here at Lamont that is of fundamental importance to the healthy future of NYS.
Kevin Griffin gave the last talk in this years public lecture series on Sunday and we had a small dinner afterwards with a few special friends of Lamont. As always, Kevin's talk was tremendous and elicited a seemingly unending string of good questions.
Monday morning I left for San Diego and stayed aboard Marcus Langseth alongside at the Scripps Pier at Point Loma for two days - the NSF mandated Oversight Committee was meeting there and giving us important advice concerning how we can continue to improve the quality of the services that Langseth offers for the community. Her first three
cruises, off Costa Rica and in the equatorial Pacific have been unqualified successes (and we made the front page of the local newspapers in Manzanillo Mexico!)
Langseth sails on June 26th (or thereabouts), with Chief Scientist John Diebold for a last shakedown of her multi-streamer towing systems, immediately prior to the groundbreaking East Pacific Rise cruise, led by Suzanne Carbotte and John Mutter, that will for the first time in academia carryout a three-dimensional imaging experiment
using multiple (4) six-kilometer-long hydrophone streamers.
It has been a very busy week with a particularly crazy schedule. A day trip to DC on Wednesday to participate in an interagency discussion on the issue of marine mammals and sound in the ocean was followed by a successful Advisory Board Meeting on Thursday and Don Forsyth's Jardetzky lecture on Friday.
This Sunday is the last of Spring public lecture series - Kevin Griffin at 3pm in Monell, and on Monday I leave for San Diego to participate in the NSF Oversight Committee meeting for the Langseth. She will be alongside at the Scripps Marine Facility so both the Committee and representatives from NSF will have an opportunity to go on board and review her status first hand.
Even though the weather last Sunday afternoon was glorious, Robin Bell's Public Lecture - talking about places much colder and ice-covered - was well-attended and was the third in this year's series - another highly successful series that continues to bring new faces and friends to the Observatory.
Next Friday - in place of the regular colloquium - is our annual Jardetsky Lecture - this year the speaker is Don Forsyth, a world-leading seismologist from Brown University. Undoubtedly this will be a great talk - all are invited and of course there will be a reception afterwards.
Sarah Huard and I had lunch with the Vetlesen Foundation's George Rowe on Wednesday, the one time each year I get to eat in the Rainbow Room overlooking Rockefeller Plaza. The support that the Vetlesen Foundation gives Lamont each year is critical to our health and long-term security.
The Earth Institute's External Review Board, commissioned by the Provost, was in town at the beginning of the week, and they triggered a number of excellent discussions about the structure and future of the EI. It is always so enlightening to listen to perspectives from 'outside' - it was clear that the Board members perceived CU as
playing the major leadership role within US academia on matters pertaining to earth and environmental research and sustainable development. Very heartening.
Our own Michael Studinger is featured on the front page of the CU home page (one of the several photos they have cycling through) - looking like the quintessential field geophysicist surrounded by snow and ice and equipment boxes and earnestly recording observations in a field note book! I think I need to enact a new policy requiring large and legible Lamont logos on all our equipment boxes so when photos like this are taken we are guaranteed visibility. (There is also a picture in the sequence taken at our Open House.)
We received nine proposals for the Advisory Board Innovation Fund - all of them excellent and relevant. I would like to make a speedy decision about the results so that I can report them to the Board at their next meeting on May 15th. Whether I am successful in this will depend upon how quickly I can get reviews.
Our vessel the Langseth was on the front page of the US Embassy (Costa Rica) web page (maybe still is) following on from her very successful port visit there at the end of the Steve Holbrook expedition. Already she is at sea again - working in the equatorial Pacific for PI McGuire from WHOI.
Attended a 'going away' party for Ellen Smith in the Low Library on Monday - very sad to see Ellen leave Columbia as AVP for Government Relations. I have worked with her closely and she has done a lot of good work for LDEO on the Hill over the years - we will miss her greatly.
Last Sunday we held a successful Alumni Association Board Meeting and lunch, along with a several of the Observatory's special friends, before Greg Mountain's great lecture at the second Spring Public lecture event - again to a capacity crowd in the Monell Auditorium. I had to leave early from the reception to get down to Newark airport in time to catch a plane to Houston with Dave Goldberg, rolling in to College Station substantially after midnight. So Monday was spent talking with the TAMU folks and with Ocean Leadership about how to keep the Ocean Drilling Program thriving and successful, through these difficult times of rocketing fuel costs and decreasing NSF support. After losing Tuesday to the return trip from Texas, and Wednesday to day-long interview sessions with a candidate for our new Academic Affairs and Diversity position, and Thursday morning to a very educational visit to the Liberty Science Center (to talk about a possible MoU), Friday arrived - the pinnacle of which was the annual budget meeting with Provost Brinkley - always a positive joy.
Langseth arrived in port in Costa Rica this week - at the end of her first two legs of science operations for Steve Holbrook - which were by all accounts highly successful - absolutely fabulous data from the 8 km long streamer.
The April issue of the Rockland Magazine listed the ten best places to work in Rockland County - Lamont was, of course, not included on this list because we do not qualify - we all come here because it's fun... which was made clear by Eliot Tozer's article in this same issue - an article about the impacts of global warming on the county that inevitably featured several Lamonters including Dorothy Peteet, Beate Liepert, Juerg Matter.
Rockland Magazine aside, we also made it onto the 6 o'clock news on NBC on Thursday - Paul Olsen and Dave Walker were featured talking about the geology of the Palisades sill.
And while on the subject of television Sarah Huard and I were extremely pleased on Wednesday when we asked the discerning critic of TV programming Bill Baker, LDEO Advisory board member and most recently President of Channel 13, to review the final cut of our 8 minute Lamont promotional DVD - he thought it was exceptional - told us it was a quarter million dollar production (Of course it was not, by any means!) - but that was good, because a lot of effort by many folks has gone into that over the past months.
Last Sunday was the first in this year's series of Spring Public Lectures. Terry Plank was the speaker and the Monell auditorium was absolutely packed on a beautiful sunny afternoon. As you know last season we started charging a $5 entry fee and requesting advance bookings in order to try to reduce the difficult and embarrassing over flow crowds that we had experienced - but still we are experiencing getting capacity crowds - which of course is absolutely wonderful!
And Terry's talk was fabulous - a very tough subject - the role of the earth's interior in the global water cycle - but she made it fun and exciting, up to and including spraying the Director with an effervescing soda bottle.
The US remains one of the very few (if the only?) developed nation not to have signed and ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty, that regulates, among other things, the extent of continental shelves over which governments control undersea resources. Nevertheless there are those in Washington DC who have recognized the essential national interest
embedded here, and a twelve member interagency group, led by the State Department, has been formed to plan programs of surveying to provide the data necessary to support any future claims. So that is why John Diebold and I spent Tuesday in DC - giving presentations to this group (in a very grand conference room in the Department of the Interior) about the capabilities of our ship - Marcus G. Langseth - the only American flag vessel capable of full industry standard deep seismic imaging - a capability essential to the determination of the true extent of the US's natural boundaries.
We hosted the editor of Columbia magazine and the CU Exec VP for Communications for separate visits this week, so we are certainly up-to-speed on all things related to the CU publicity machine!
We started the first round of interviews for applicants for the new position in the Director's Office - Assistant Director for Academic Affairs and Diversity; and we made significant progress with decisions regarding this year's Post Doc Fellows program. So far we have made three offers - two were accepted and one declined and I am working, as we speak, on making one more offer.
The Geoscience and Microbiology mini symposium on Monday was successful in content, but was not well attended so we still have work to do to spread the word about the important new research opportunities in this field. Thanks to Howard Shuman and his steeringcommittee for putting this together.
Thursday was consumed by an EI Academic Committee in the morning followed by a meeting with the Liberty Science Center leadership and the President of Montclair State University to discuss possible cooperation in education initiatives.
After being out of the office last week I was playing catchup through Wednesday, when I had to go back down to DC. The reason was to participate in a roundtable at NSF - tasked with defining research priorities in sustainable development. This was led by the Earth Institute - in particular by John Mutter and Jeff Sachs - but the attendees were (by design) predominantly non-CU, including luminaries like Bill Clark from Harvard and Steve Schneider from Stanford. The
goal was to make the case that at the heart of sustainable development is a set of hard-core researchable basic research questions. There was superb discussion at a very high level - but the determination of success will depend on how good a job we can do of writing up the report - and there is a short fuse on this because to have maximum impact we want to get the report into the system prior to a high-level retreat of NSF upper management scheduled for April.
I have been on the road all week - although I am not sure that the first activity - a day long Earth Institute retreat in the Bronx (of all places) qualifies as being 'on the road'. It was held at the Wave Hill estate - never been there before - beautiful Hudson River-front locale, just off the Henry Hudson Parkway.
And then down to DC. I spent Wednesday afternoon at NSF - met with Jarvis Moyers, the interim Assistant Director for Geosciences, who is overjoyed that Tim Killeen will be taking this position 'permanently' (he will be an IPA) effective July 1st.; as well as with Julie Morris, Bill Lang and Jim Holik.
The week began with an interesting day over in Lamont Hall spent discussing marine mammal research priorities and opportunities with a group from NSF and the oil industry. We met Jim Holik (a Lamont graduate - Phil Rabinowitz
student) who has taken the critically important program manager position at NSF that used to be Sandy Shor. He will be the key contact for us in the future for running Langseth science operations.
On Monday I also met with the CU Senate sub committee on Officers of Research to talk about our Research Professor plan - that was also a very useful and constructive meeting.
Having survived Valentine's Day, the rest of the week was something of a blur, especially given weather bad enough, and changeable enough, to remind me of England. With today being the NSF OCE target date much time has been spent in reading and approving proposals and there is little more important than that - given our very existence depends upon their success. A couple of high profile events were the Earth Institute's two day long Global Change Roundtable downtown, and the very first visit to the campus of Columbia's new Chief Financial Officer Ann Sullivan on Friday afternoon.
Langseth arrives in Limon Costa Rica tonight, after a rough crossing from Galveston Texas, and will sail tomorrow under the leadership of Steve Holbrook.
The Langseth returned to Galveston Tuesday after a very successful cruise collecting high bandwidth source signature data on the new airgun arrays. She sails for Costa Rica on Saturday and begins a full schedule of challenging operations through 2008. The crew and all the technicians on the ship, as well as everyone back here in the marine department continue to perform at herculean levels, facing up to, and overcoming, the challenges involved with bringing such a huge and complex machine - that is a multi-streamer seismic boat - to full operational status.
Wednesday afternoon was spent with the Lamont Advisory Board - a particularly good meeting - in which some important decisions were made - and stimulated by a great science talk by Doug Martinson. The board wants to provide some funds directly to Lamont researchers to help 'seed' new and innovative research projects. The amounts of money will be small to start, but I think it will grow. I will send out an a formal announcement next week that lays out the selection criteria etc that will be used for disbursement of these funds. The money is coming from direct donations from the Board members themselves, so they feel truly invested in the project.
Of the twenty-odd separate appointments in my diary for this past week, the Earth Institute External Advisory Board Meeting and the second meeting of the Columbia Climate Center Steering Committee are probably the most worthy of note. And tonight I am attending a celebration hosted by the Consul General of Norway to mark the New York City International Polar Weekend at the American Museum of Natural History. Two full afternoons of activities and presentations on Saturday and Sunday at AMNH feature many (in fact mostly) Lamont and Columbia folks - stop by - it will be worth it.