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. This is a very big deal; only three of these are awarded annually, and President Bollinger will present a citation to Kat at the GSAS graduation ceremony along with a
cash award. The citation reads:

"Her enthusiasm for science is contagious and she has a special talent to creatively communicate difficult concepts, leaving her students engaged, and with a great appreciation for the wonders of our planet."

Can there be a better sentiment? Congratulations, Kat!

We are trying to close the deal on the last of this year's Lamont Post-Doc Fellow offers. So far, we're batting a thousand. We'll announce the new Fellows as soon as this is done.

We did our annual budget briefing for the Provost on Monday afternoon, as part of the Earth Institute briefing. This has been standard practice since the EI was formed, and it went well in my view. It's useful because it gives us a chance to organize our thinking about the opportunities and challenges in the next fiscal year, and it's one more way to interact meaningfully with the Provost's office. We will be discussing this briefing in some detail at the next Lamont executive
committee meeting, toward the end of May.

A quick recruiting visit to Columbia by the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Michael Bromwich, left us with this factoid: BOEMRE spends about $30M on ocean research, of which
about $10M goes to universities. There may be some opportunities here, and we will continue to track this.

We discussed the important issue of University benefits during today's executive committee meeting. There is still time to address your comments to the taskforce at, or through my office at Our town hall meeting with members of the provost's office raised substantive issues, some of which had not been articulated in other quarters. From my discussions with them afterwards, I do believe they left better informed about our concerns.

Last week, Pat O'Reilly distributed a draft new procedure for dealing with property (specifically equipment over $5,000) at Lamont.  He has received a good deal of constructive feedback that will result in a revision.  This is time sensitive, so if you have yet to comment, please let Pat O'Reilly or Bruce Huber know your concerns by Wednesday, May 4, so they can be addressed in the final version.

DIRECTOR SEARCH UPDATE: The next few meetings will be work sessions devoted to developing a reduced candidate list for more intensive research. The search committee will still accept nominations sent to, but your inputs would be most useful if the committee receives them by Tuesday, next week.

I had the chance on Monday night to catch up with Wayne Pennington, who was delivering his IRIS/SSA lecture at the AMNH (on Haiti). Wayne worked at Lamont in the seventies with Nano Seeber, Klaus Jacob, John Armbruster and others in Pakistan, part of the long legacy of research in central and south Asia conducted by our seismology group. He has had
a distinguished career in the private sector, as a university professor, and more recently as a Jefferson Fellow in the State Department. While at State, he helped Nano and Cecilia McHugh get permission for their post-earthquake cruise to Haiti, and was an important resource to the Secretary in implementing the US response. As a consequence of those and
other efforts, State appears to be paying more attention to natural disaster risk than it had previously. All of which illustrates: in our society, in certain ways - as a matter of circumstance or providence - science eventually matters.