Lamont Weekly Report, July 5, 2013

     The beginning of this week marked the end of my first year at Lamont. The time has passed quickly, and there are still many in the Lamont community whom I would like to know better. In many ways Lamont is like a large oceanographic vessel. Course changes are made only slowly, and even while they are underway the important work of the ship is conducted not on the bridge but rather on the main deck and in the science laboratories. It is the steady pace of progress on that work that validates our mission. I hope that you will continue to keep me posted on the progress on your own work over the coming year.

     Adjunct Associate Research Professor Abby Kavner arrived at Lamont late last week for a summer visit. A mineral physicist and former Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow, Abby is an Associate Professor in the Earth and Space Science Department at UCLA. Please drop by Abby’s office in Comer to welcome her back to campus.
    The R/V Langseth has remained in Vigo, Spain, this week as repairs to the ship’s portside engine continue. Current plans call for resumption of the three-dimensional seismic imaging investigation of the Galicia Rift some time next week, but a postponed date for the end of the current cruise has led to some changes in the scientific and ship personnel who will be aboard on next sailing.
    Notwithstanding the midweek holiday and the particularly low density of automobiles in Lamont’s parking lots today, the scientific and administrative staff of the Observatory have been busy with the preparation and submission of proposals, most headed to the National Science Foundation. I’ve signed off on a total of 16 proposals from Lamont that were submitted to programs with due dates between this Monday and Friday. Of those 16, Arlene Suriani shepherded at least five, Regina Giacinto and Jessica Levinson at least three each, and Bonnie Bonkowski and Tara Brant at least two each. Several of the cars in our parking lots must belong to our Administrative Assistants and Division Administrators, all of whom merit our profound thanks for their dedication to ensuring that our proposals meet all requirements and deadlines.
    On Monday, about 70 students in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy visited the Lamont Campus for the day. After introductions to the Observatory and IRI, the students were offered talks on air pollution and climate by Arlene Fiore, organic carbon in aquifers by Brian Mailloux from Barnard, glaciers and climate by Mike Kaplan, and sea-level change by Maureen Raymo. After lunch, the students were treated to tours of the Lamont Campus led by Jason Smerdon, the Lamont Core Repository led by Nichole Anest, and Comer’s geochemistry laboratories led by Ben Bostick and Beizhan Yan.
    A long tradition at Lamont has been the fall Open House, a popular event among our neighbors and schools in the region. The task of organizing and managing the logistics for the event, however, fell for many years to Lamont’s Development Office, even though the Open House is not primarily a development function. The special events group at the Earth Institute has offered to take on many of these organizational tasks, but the lead time needed for them to do so exceeds the time between now and this fall. For these reasons, we will stand down for one year and resume our Open House on an annual basis in the fall of 2014. In the meantime, we plan to take the funds in this year’s budget that would have been spent on Open House and use them instead to invest in permanent displays that help tell the story of what goes on at this campus. Ideas for such investments will be sought from each of the divisions, with the goal that the displays be in place well before Open House 2014 and in time for earlier visits by colleagues, friends of Lamont, and visiting school children.
    News stories this week treated findings by several Lamont scientists. A paper led by Kevin Uno and posted online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences described how accelerator mass spectrometer measurements of 14C in animal teeth, hair, horn, and tusks could date tissues younger than 1955 to within about one year in age, because of the addition of atmospheric 14C from above-ground testing of nuclear weapons in 1952–1962. A story on the application of their method to illegal ivory posted Monday by Kim Martineau ( was picked up by several media, including National Geographic ( Also on Monday, a story in Popular Mechanics discussed the evidence from tree cores published by Neil Pederson and colleagues that the climate of the U.S. East Coast has been growing wetter since the late Nineteenth Century ( On Wednesday, a story on Planet Earth Online summarized a paper published Thursday in Nature by David Ferguson, Terry Plank, and colleagues reporting that melts produced beneath the Afar rift were generated in anomalously hot mantle at depths greater than 80 km, implying an overlying thermo-mechanical boundary thicker than expected for an area at the stage of continental rifting represented at Afar (
    May all of you, but particularly those still working on proposals due today, enjoy a well-deserved weekend.