Director's Weekly Reports
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.
Having ExCom and a Faculty on the same day (like today) is just not good for my constitution, so I will talk about something else... Just as LDEO led the world in bringing multichannel seismics to academic research three decades ago, so we have again attained a first (as far as I know) of being the first academic general purpose research vessel to tow multiple hydrophone streamers (enabling practical collection of 3D data sets). A couple of days ago R/V Marcus G. Langseth had three 6km long hydrophone streamers deployed, towing them successfully a few tens of meters apart, and learning the many challenges of rigging and ship handling. It will be a steep learning curve for us in the coming months as we bring this new capability to the academic community. The goal was to deploy four streamers - we did not make that - the weather in the Gulf (and the reliability of the weather forecasts) has been very poor over the last couple of weeks so we lost many days of working time.
I hope everyone saw Robin Bell and Doug Martinson on the NBC Nightly News on Monday - if you missed them, the video clip can be accessed from the front page of our (great, new) website.
We welcomed Terry Plank and Geoff Abers as our latest new recruits to the Lamont staff this week - a very happy day - two of the world's best researchers in their respective fields who will undoubtedly help us build Lamont's reputation as global leaders in the earth sciences. And as icing on the cake, it was announced that Terry has been elected as a Fellow of AGU! Congratulations Terry!
I flew out to Bermuda on Tuesday to spend three days with the leaders of ocean institutions from around the world. The unusual ten-year- old international entity hosting this meeting (Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean - POGO) is working to play a bigger role in the planning for GEOSS (Global Earth Observing). The breadth of international representation was impressive - Director-level folks from fifteen different nations, plus many government representatives. The meeting exceeded expectations (mine at least) with regard to the substance of the dialog, and was an 'eye-opener' with regard to the level of coastal and ocean observation activity world-wide. It was something of a novelty to hear the representative from the Chinese Academy of Sciences defining the direct economic benefit of multi- million dollar investments in coastal monitoring, impressive to hear the British describe the operational predictions from models assimilating observations in real time from the Irish Sea, and the six or seven decades of data from Plymouth's Continuous Plankton Recorder program, though seen before, never cease to make the case strongly for sustained programs of careful and systematic ocean observations. All this as Tony Knapp announced that NSF had decided discontinue funding for the Bermuda Test Bed mooring after 13-14 years of operation...
I expected this short three day week to be busy, and it was - but curiously it was spent not doing a single thing that I expected to be doing... so the progress I made catching up over the Holidays slipped away.
We have been making a lot of progress with effort certifications in recent days, but we still, as an institution have a way to go in order to meet our January 15th deadline. In case you think that, as Director, I escape this task, let me tell you that I have certified around forty folks so far this week...