Lamont Weekly Report, June 14, 2013
This week is notable for the $20 billion plans for storm protection for New York City that Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/nyregion/bloomberg-outlines-20-billion-plan-to-protect-city-from-future-storms.html). The plan that forms the basis for the announcement was derived in part from material issued the same day by the New York City Panel on Climate Change, a group that includes Klaus Jacob, Yochanan Kushnir, Cynthia Rosenzweig and Vivian Gornitz from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and others from the Earth Institute. A story Tuesday in Gotham Gazette on the city’s plan (http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/environment/4255-no-retreat-from-the-coastline) quotes Klaus. It is heartening to see that the lessons from Hurricane Sandy on climate change and sea level rise are having an impact.
New to Lamont’s Development Office is Kimberly Miner. Kimberly joined us last week us after completing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration this spring from the Program in Environmental Science and Policy in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. Please take an opportunity to introduce yourself to Kimberly and welcome her to the campus.
The Geochemistry Division welcomed three other new arrivals last week. Fresh from her Ph.D. at the University of Maine, Bess Koffman holds an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Polar Programs Research. Bess will be working with Steve Goldstein, Mike Kaplan, and Gisela Winckler. Biogeochemist Boaz Luz is visiting Lamont this spring from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And Sean Eaves is a graduate student from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, who is visiting Gisela Winckler’s lab. I hope that you have a chance to welcome these new colleagues as well.
For two days this week, Lamont and the Earth Institute hosted a Bhutan Symposium. A delegation of researchers and administrators from Bhutan and colleagues from Brigham Young University joined Ed Cook, Aaron Putnam, Joerg Schaefer, Peter Schlosser, Upmanu Lall and Tara Troy from the Columbia Water Center, and Ben Orlove from the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions to discuss topics ranging from environmental, climate, and hydrological change in Bhutan; to sustainable development; to opportunities in the areas of social science and education. Informal working groups on the second day sketched out the next steps toward new cooperative programs.
On Tuesday, I attended another in the series of meetings on current and future cooperative arrangements between Columbia University and GISS. Piers Sellers (Deputy Director of the Science and Exploration Directorate) from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Ron Miller from GISS attended, along with Dean of Science Amber Miller, Jeff Sachs, and Peter Schlosser. A delegation from NASA Goddard will return in two weeks for further discussions and a visit to the Lamont Campus.
Also on Tuesday, the American Geophysical Union announced a new open-access, peer-reviewed journal entitled Earth’s Future. According to the announcement (http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2013/2013-28.shtml), the journal “will emphasize the Earth as an interactive, evolving system under the influence of the human enterprise and will reflect the risks and opportunities associated with environmental changes and challenges.” Guy Brasseur will be the inaugural editor-in-chief, and the journal will begin accepting submissions next week.
Lamont’s Advisory Board met Wednesday afternoon in the Comer Building. The board heard presentations on recent scientific findings from the Lamont staff, Lamont’s budget and the state of our physical plant, and progress toward the development of Lamont’s scientific strategic plan. A lively discussion was held on how the board can assist the Observatory in translating that scientific plan into strategies for communication and development. Board members were given a tour of the newly completed biogeosciences laboratories on the second floor of the New Core Laboratory and were treated to a captivating Director’s Circle talk by Hugh Ducklow on “The disappearing cryosphere and Antarctica’s changing ecosystems.”
Published online by Nature Wednesday was an article on which Sonya Dyhrman is a senior co-author that reported the first gene sequencing results for the coccolithophore E. huxleyi (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nature12221.pdf). These phytoplankton are important components of the carbon cycle in the oceans and anchor marine food chains. The gene sequencing has revealed that variants of E. Huxleyi share common genes but also have variable genes that permit the species to adapt to environments with different nutrients and environmental conditions. Kim Martineau has posted a very readable summary of the findings and some of their implications (https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/genetic-maps-ocean-algae-show-bacteria-like-flexibility).
At the Council of Deans meeting on Thursday, the Provost announced that the President’s Global Innovation Fund had received 84 proposals, including two from Lamont and at least one from every school at Columbia except the School of the Arts. The proposals seek university funds to use the resources or facilities at one or more Columbia Global Centers for new programs in research or education. A review committee will meet in July to evaluate the proposals. A new request for proposals to this fund will be made next year.
Also on Thursday, graduate students and postdoctoral scientists from the seismology group took a rainy fieldtrip to visit the site of the nearest broadband seismic station in the Transportable Array (TA) of EarthScope’s USArray program. The TA is eight years into a 10-year program to roll seismic stations from west to east across the contiguous U.S. (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6138/1283.summary). Jim Gaherty led the trip to station M61A (in upper Westchester County), and Geoff Abers contributed to the arrangements.
The R/V Langseth has been making good progress conducting its planned three-dimensional seismic structural survey of the Galicia Rift west of Spain. Sean Higgins reports that 24.5% of the prime structural lines had been completed by Thursday, with a month to go until the end of the cruise. Reports from the ship can be found on Donna Shillington’s blog (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/research/blogs/mapping-galicia-rift-spain).
This afternoon I spoke to the Science Subcommittee of Columbia University’s Board of Trustees. I was asked to cover both “What’s new at Lamont?” and the latest findings from the MESSENGER spacecraft at Mercury. Subcommittee members appeared to follow the presentation materials and asked many relevant questions throughout, so the experience was an enjoyable one.
This Saturday in the Guild Hall in East Hampton, the Hamptons Institute and the Roosevelt Institute will host a panel presentation on “After Sandy: What can we do about climate change?” Panelists will include Adam Sobel, the Earth Institute’s Steve Cohen, and Sabine Marx from the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. Author Dava Sobel will serve as moderator (http://www.guildhall.org/learn/hamptons-institute/).
The week has ended on a very sad note. Word was received yesterday evening that Chris Scholz’s son Erich passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday. Please keep Chris and his family in your thoughts over the weekend and in the weeks ahead.