Director's Weekly Reports

Lamont Weekly Report, June 3, 2011

Memorial Day:

A short week, beginning with an untold number of backyard barbecues and the ingestion of great-tasting carcinogens. The unofficial kick-off of summer sometimes obscures a greater message: the recognition that our lives and prosperity are built on the sacrifices of neighbors and friends, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. Some of our colleagues here at Lamont are veterans, and others may have felt immeasurable loss.  The historic clarities of war may have morphed into something else, but there is nothing opaque about the sacrifices made by servicemen and servicewomen...

Lamont Weekly Report, May 27, 2011

Hope springs eternal:

Won-Young Kim was cleaning up his space in seismology and found a brochure for a new "Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Building"to accommodate "a pressing need to bring together the over 100 scientists, engineers, graduate students and technicians" needed for a new earthquake engineering research center.  That center was NCEER (now
MCEER), which dates the brochure to ca. 1986. The building was to be built on the site where the OBS lab is now, and was designed to complement the Geoscience building, creating a "quad" on that part of the campus. As we ponder what might have been, it's worth noting that the Seismology/Marine Biology Building is approaching its 50th anniversary, not bad for a temporary structure...

Lamont Weekly Report, May 20, 2011

Better late than never:

Paraphrasing a memo dated 20 October, 2009, from the USGS Geographic Names Information System, which appeared mysteriously in my in-box: As a result of a science cruise on the R/V Gould in January 2009, an island 900 m long and 224 m high off the Antarctic Peninsula at 68 deg 36' 16" S and 71 deg 58' 38" W is named Martinson Island by the "US Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names after Douglas G. Martinson, the expedition leader and project co-Principal Investigator."...

Lamont Weekly Report, May 13, 2011

Mark's diaries:

We received a lovely letter from Lillian Langseth about a month ago letting us know that she had Mark's diaries and wanted to donate them to Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  From Lillian's letter:

"Marcus had a life long habit of writing down many things about his daily activities, some somewhat personal but mostly about his thoughts and ideas of the day. A large portion of these writings were in hard cover school notebooks. The collection relative to Lamont started in 1953 when he first came to Lamont as a summer intern working for Jack Oliver."..

Lamont Weekly Report, May 6, 2011

Martin Visbeck and some of his colleagues from Kiel spent this morning at Lamont, to discuss possible collaborations in ocean sciences. Martin is heading up an effort called "Future Oceans," one of Germany's "Excellence Clusters." The idea is to try to institutionalize some of the basic arrangements so that peer-to-peer research collaborations and scholarly exchanges can take place without too much administrative hassle. There is very good potential here, and I'll be working with the Associate Directors and folks at the Earth Institute to get this off the ground. Thanks to Peter Schlosser for setting this up, and to those of you who were able to participate on such short notice...

Lamont Weekly Report, April 29, 2011

There's a scene in the original Disney animated version of Snow White; our heroine is lost in a dark forest, panics and faints. All the cute forest critters come out to investigate and ultimately comfort her. (What can I say? The movie came out in 1937.) That scene, which at the time was a marvel of animation, comes to mind as I try to avoid being distracted by all the wildlife romping around outside my office window. It being springtime, and animals being animals, this is not your grandparents' Disney movie. The only individual left out of the action is that bumptious tom turkey, who is still alone, wandering around in vain. Nice feathers, though.

The following most definitely is not a turkey moment. Much the inverse. Our own Kat Allen has been named the recipient of a 2011 Presidential Teaching Award for Graduate Students...

Lamont Weekly Report, April 22, 2011

Congratulations to Robin Bell and Ed Cook, who have just been named AGU Fellows, a well-deserved honor signifying great professional achievement. We'll celebrate appropriately as soon as Ed gets back from his latest adventure. Plan on attending the next AGU awards ceremony; a prize will go to the Lamonter who comes closest to guessing which T-shirt Ed will wear.

Yet another honor: Tatiana Rautian was awarded the Reid Medal last week at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America...

Lamont Weekly Report, April 8, 2011

The week began with two days of meetings in College Station on the future of ocean drilling. This was an opportunity for me to spin up on some of these issues, to meet some of the leadership of IODP facilities, and to reconnect with a long-time colleague, Kate Miller, who is now TAMU's Dean of the College of Geosciences. Like all major facilities
and science programs, IODP is being examined from scientific and management perspectives. If you're asked, or are interested, get involved in the discussion. It's an important time for the program...

Lamont Weekly Report, April 1, 2011

The week actually started on Sunday with a lunchtime meeting of the Lamont Alumni Board followed by our third public lecture of the season. We varied the format this time with Andy Juhl and Greg O'Mullen, of BPE, and John Lipscomb, from Riverkeeper, providing a panel discussion on pollution in the Hudson River. This topic drew an overflow crowd, and
they got to hear how sound environmental science strengthens environmental advocacy. My thanks to Andy, Greg and John for putting this together. The last lecture is this Sunday at 3, and will be given by Natalie Boelman...

Lamont Weekly Report, March 25, 2011

One wouldn't know it from the snow we had earlier this week, but spring has finally sprung. A rafter of oven-sized turkeys strolled by my office last evening. The hens were pecking away at morsels on the ground, while a well-endowed tom (with a very big and colorful wattle) strutted behind, with his tail spread and feathers puffed out. The hens either ignored him or danced away. I went outside to take his picture, but he ran away. The hens stayed put...

Lamont Weekly Report, March 19, 2011

It was a hectic week, but it ended spectacularly on a beautiful day with our celebration of Taro Takahashi's 80th birthday. Taro is one of those colleagues for whom it is easy to express our affection, and it showed in the speeches and tributes. There is not a better manifestation of the community that defines Lamont than when we get together to honor one of our own. Congratulations, Taro, and may there be many more parties in your honor...

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.