Director's Weekly Reports

Lamont Weekly Report, March 11, 2011

We received word yesterday from the Advisory Committee on Undersea Features that the US Board on Geographic Names has "approved the name 'Diebold Knoll' for the undersea feature at 43 deg 53 min N, 126 deg 10 min W," off the coast of central Oregon. Our colleagues Sandy Shor and Anne Trehu, as well as several folks here at Lamont, helped guide the naming request through the appropriate committees. This is a fitting memorial to John, and it will be a reminder to future generations of oceanographers of the inestimable contributions made by one of our own. We miss him, still, and we will miss him always...

Lamont Weekly Report, March 4, 2011

A full week, with meetings both here in Palisades and on the Morningside campus. Bev and I discovered one of the pitfalls of modern office management when we discovered that we were looking at different versions of my calendar on the server. So, if any of you expected me to show up but I was AWOL, my apologies. It's fixed now.


As we assemble the Observatory's budget for next year, we are paying particular attention to space planning. Several of our divisions are expecting significant numbers of new students and post-docs - a good thing! - and we want to make sure that we can accommodate them. I've asked several of the associate directors to put together some forward-looking space plans, and I hope to put together some of the internal resources we need to make the necessary renovations...

Lamont Weekly Report, February 25, 2011

We are watching the federal budget process very closely. As you probably know, the federal agencies that provide the bulk of our extramural funding have been operating under a Continuing Resolution absent passage of the FY11 appropriations bills last September. The existing CR set spending at FY10 levels, and must be renewed by next Friday. The CR renewal bill (H.R. 1) was passed in the House of Representatives early last Saturday, and will probably be changed in the Senate. Among the features of H.R. 1 that we are monitoring are the funding levels for the science agencies in the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2011. Several amendments to the bill clearly are targeted at reducing spending on programs important to our work. This political gamesmanship is highly unpredictable, to say the least...

Lamont Weekly Report, February 18, 2011

As someone who thinks Saturday Night Live reached its apotheosis when Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite on his show, it was a bit of a chore to sit down last Saturday night and wait for the promised appearance of a Lamont icon. I'm talking, of course, about one of our classic Sprengnether smoked paper seismographs, which appeared in a skit entitled "A Spot of Tea" just after the Weekend Update segment. Our instrument just about ate the scenery, as the saying goes. As I expected, Belushi, Aykroyd, Radner et al need not fear competition from the present SNL cohort. Kudos to John Armbruster for training the prop masters at 30 Rock to be seismologists for an evening. I hope he got cast autographs on the smoked paper. Make sure it's shellacked, John...

Lamont Weekly Report, February 13, 2011

In the 1966 sci-fi classic "Fantastic Voyage," an intrepid team of tiny scientists entered a comatose colleague's body via his bloodstream to search for and destroy a blood clot in his brain. I've spent the last week in meetings here and on Morningside begin carried along in the University's circulatory system trying to understand its neurology. There are some clots, but not as many as one would think. And while it's not quite up to the level of a fantastic voyage, it's been enlightening and helpful...

Lamont Weekly Report, February 4, 2011

Monday, 31 January: Driving down the PIP after work, I hit a pothole. My front tire doesn't go flat; it actually breaks. New tire on backorder.  Tuesday, 1 February, Day 1 of the interim: Pat O'Reilly calls me at 6AM to tell me that the buses can probably run, and that I would lose credibility if I declared a snow day. We decide to stay open.

Wednesday, 2 February, Day 2 of the interim: The heck with credibility; the sidewalks are too slippery for safe walking. Pat recommends a delayed opening and we call it. Then, a water main breaks on campus.

And so it goes...

Lamont Weekly Report, January 28, 2011

I flew out to Seoul, South Korea last Saturday for the annual mtg of the global ocean institution directors - there were 28 there - from China, South Africa, Brazil as well as the usual suspects from the UK and Europe, and of course Scripps, Woods Hole and Hawaii.  It was a worthwhile meeting though I have to admit that there were no earth-shaking conclusions.  We heard presentations from the new head of the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) - Wendy Watson Wright - who promised (as have several of her predecessors) to breath new life into this bureaucratic UNESCO entity. The one positive note however: despite everyone's grumbling about funding shortages, the reality is that the number of 'permanent' ocean observation stations around the globe is steadily on the rise. Certainly compared with ten years ago one can claim that truly substantial progress has been made.

Lamont Weekly Report, January 21, 2011

Thanks to the skill and hard work of Sean Higgins and his team in the Marine Office, the shipyard work ongoing in San Francisco on Langseth is proceeding extremely well. Completing shipyard work on schedule is generally unheard of, but we seem close to achieving this incredible feat, thanks to close and careful management. She will sail back south to the warmer climes of the Scripps facility in San Diego to complete the remainder of the maintenance work...

Lamont Weekly Report, January 14, 2011

Second guessing decisions about snow closures is always a tiresome business, but I always do it.  Given the way it turned out we could probably have opened earlier than noon on Wednesday. Dick Greco and his crew did their usual remarkable job of clearing our roads and sidewalks, so when I came in at around 11 the campus was already in
great shape. Too much snow already this year.

Lamont Weekly Report, January 7, 2011

The world lost one of the giants of seismology on Wednesday: Jack Oliver passed away quietly at his home in Ithaca after a long battle with cancer. He left Lamont a long time ago - 1971 in fact - he was Chair of the Department at the time, but he did some of his most pioneering work here in the sixties, helping to lay several of the important foundation stones of plate tectonics. Details of services etc are appended at the end of this report. An obituary will going up on our web
site momentarily.  A sad day - he was a great man.

Lamont Weekly Report, December 17, 2010

I came out to San Francisco on Sunday morning, in time for the UNOLS Langseth Oversight Committee meeting in the afternoon, and have been essentially bouncing from one meeting room to another since then. AGU claims approximately 19000 attendees this year - and it feels like it. There is clearly a lot of great Lamont science here - with Kevin Krajick and David Funkhouser both working hard to get it recognized and reported upon in the public media. And of course a particular highlight for us is the awarding of the highly prestigious Harry Hess AGU Medal to our own Dave Walker. Congratulations, David...

Lamont Weekly Report, December 10, 2010

The week before AGU is generally frantic, but this year it is even more so. I fly out at the crack of dawn on Sunday.
It was great to see so many Lamonters at the EI Holiday party on Tuesday - rather unexpectedly (to tell you the truth) that turned out to be a lot of fun!

We entertained (very successfully) the Board of Directors of the Tinker Foundation on Wednesday morning - the highlight being Robin Bell's presentation about her work in Antarctica. And on Wednesday afternoon we held one of our regular meetings with our Advisory Board.  Although it was a routine meeting it was for me a real landmark - we had 22 folks in the room for a really active and energetic agenda afternoon-long.  We have come so far from where we were a 2-3 years ago, when we were hard pressed to get attendance from more than 6 or 8.  At the meeting we received a pledge from one of the members for a $100K gift towards the Comer Ultra Clean Lab - a clear sign of the health and effectiveness of this group.  This does not happen by itself - it is solely because of the hard work and professionalism of Barb Charbonnet and her folks in the Development office...

Lamont Weekly Report, December 6, 2010

Lamont's new Assistant Director for Large Programs and Compliance began work on Wednesday - Glenn Gordian will occupy an office on the ground floor of the Admin Building and will be singularly focused in his early months here upon helping us with the response to the NSF Business Systems Review of the Office of Marine Operations. Glenn comes to us with tremendous knowledge of Government contracting but with little previous experience in academia, so I hope everyone will help Glenn adjust to our somewhat contrasting culture!

Lamont Weekly Report, November 19, 2010

CU is carrying out a major review of it's fringe benefit programs. The review is being conducted by a Task Force composed of faculty and administrators from all across the University and, as a part of the review, the Task Force is conducting a survey to gain a better sense of what the community thinks is important in this arena. The survey is
being carried out by an outside consulting group and considerable effort has gone into its design. The outcome of this review will be highly dependent upon the nature of the responses to this survey.  I will not deceive you - it will take more than five minutes to complete - quite a lot more - but it is a carefully designed questionnaire designed to have real impact on the outcomes. So... please try to find time to complete it before the November 24th cutoff date; it is important that all of our voices are heard in this process...

Lamont Weekly Report, November12, 2010

Two days of this week were spent downtown in back-to-back meetings - very efficient from a scheduling point-of-view and a testament to Bev's abilities to use my time wisely, but still it seems odd driving away from my office at 730am in the morning to start the days work shuttling from one meeting room to another in the Low Library, the Faculty House, Hogan Hall, Schermerhorn and Lerner.  Not even the free food makes up for it!

Lamont Weekly Report, November 5, 2010

November 5th is an important date in England - Bonfire Night - an odd tradition recognizing the night in 1605 when an extremist by the name of Guy Fawkes succeeded in loading lots of gunpowder into the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with the intent of doing away with a large part of the government. For reasons I have always failed to understand it is celebrated nationwide in England to this day with bonfires and fireworks - burning effigies of poor old Guy - quite bizarre really. Not sure what made me think of this - maybe it was the election results on Tuesday...

Lamont Weekly Report, October 22, 2010

I got back from San Diego on Wednesday night after three days of Langseth meetings with NSF and UNOLS.  It was great to be on board the ship again -  though only very briefly. She was in good shape, and will be even better after the planned shipyard and maintenance period. On Monday evening NSF ran the first of a number of public hearings on the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that they are preparing (jointly with USGS) - dealing with the issues surrounding the interactions between marine mammals and the various types of sound used in marine geophysical surveys.  It was poorly attended by genuine members of the general public (I think there were two!) but the room was
filled with participating government officials and other interested parties (like me!)...

Lamont Weekly Report, October 22, 2010

Another meeting-filled week - 8-10 per day Monday through Wednesday - highlights running the gamut between finalizing decisions about the science writer to replace Kim Martineau, to entertaining the new Executive Director of AGU Chris McEntee on Wednesday afternoon.  Ms McEntee is impressive - it will be interesting to see how her leadership will reshape AGU going forward...

Lamont Weekly Report, October 15, 2010

We fulfilled our neighborly responsibilities and hosted the Nyack Hospital for a wonderful event last Saturday night - a very plush evening - and I made one new contact that may be helpful to us. The whole thing was far more opulent than we are used to: valet parking, catered by Restaurant X, two (very loud) bands and luxurious bathrooms on a semi trailer like I have never seen before!  But it is always disquieting to be recognized by nurses in evening gowns who last saw you in less, how shall I say, 'elegant' situations...

Lamont Weekly Report, October 8, 2010

Open House last Saturday was an unparalleled success. We were, of course, incredibly lucky with the weather - a beautiful cool sunny day, after days of torrential rain. The head count, which this year I am assured is precise and reliable, was 3104.  And one of those folks was our Congressman  - Eliot Engel - who stayed for about an hour and has since followed up with us with questions about some of the exhibits that he visited...