Lamont Weekly Report, March 28, 2014

     It’s the first full week of spring, but the change of seasons has been difficult to discern on the Lamont campus.

     Last Friday and Saturday, the Observatory hosted the second annual Seismology Student Workshop, an event run by and designed for graduate students. This year’s participants included 38 students from 12 different universities. The workshop featured 16 talks on a wide range of geophysical topics, from adjoint tomography, to noise minimization on ocean-bottom seismometers, to triggered Andean earthquakes (http://eesc.columbia.edu/student-life/graduate-student-life/graduate-student-symposium2/agenda). The organizing committee – Natalie Accardo, Celia Eddy, Mike Howe, Jingle Jin, and Zach Eilon – had secured external funding that covered the cost of four meals for participants and lodging for visiting students at a nearby hotel. Zach wrote, “We feel very satisfied that Lamont is playing such a central role in building a collaborative community within a large group of young research scientists.” He specifically called out Lisa Kerin for thanks for her considerable administrative assistance.
 
    The public memorial service for the Center for International Earth Science Information Network’s Mark Becker, held at the Dolce Palisades Conference Center on Sunday, was extraordinarily well attended. Mark’s life and work were remembered and celebrated – in words, music, and images – by his family, friends, and colleagues. A private gathering of Mark’s campus colleagues in the Monell Lobby followed the service. The Earth Institute has established a Mark Becker Scholarship Fund to which donations can be made in Mark’s memory (http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2014/03/04/a-life-well-mapped/).
 
    On Tuesday, a survey was distributed to all members of the Lamont research faculty. The survey has been designed to assess satisfaction with the current policies of the Lamont Research Professor program, now nearing the end of its fourth year, as well as to provide insight into the values, motivations, and career goals of our current LRPs. I hope that each member of our research faculty will complete the poll in a thoughtful manner. The poll results, collected as of the deadline of 8 April, will inform decisions on the program as we seek to optimize next year and beyond the balance between scientific opportunities and institutional financial constraints.
 
    I spent Tuesday through Thursday at the University of Toronto, where my host was former Columbia Astronomy Department professor Kristen Menou. For the last year, Kristen has been Director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Planetary Sciences (http://cps.utoronto.ca/). I gave a talk on the latest findings from MESSENGER at the Centre’s “Planet Day,” held on Wednesday.
 
    Thursday was the 50th anniversary of the great Alaskan earthquake of 1964, the largest recorded earthquake to have occurred in the U.S. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/03/27/remembering-the-1964-great-alaska-earthquake-the-largest-in-u-s-history/). Seismologists presumably paused, at least briefly, to contemplate the broad impact of that event on their field.
 
    Speaking of earthquakes, many of you have noticed the line of ocean-bottom seismometers and bottom pressure recorders, distinctive for the yellow hardhats surrounding the glass spheres that impart buoyancy to the instrument packages, along the road next to the Geoscience parking lot. The instruments are headed to deployment along the Hikurangi Trench, the locus of a plate boundary east of North Island, New Zealand. Spahr Webb – along with colleagues from the University of Texas, University of Colorado, University of California at Santa Cruz, and several institutions in Japan – is leading an investigation there of episodic slow-slip events along the shallow portion of the subduction zone.
 
    In the news this week, Live Science carried a story on Monday on Bess Koffman’s recent fieldwork in New Zealand to collect samples of glacier-generated dust in New Zealand as part of an effort to ascertain the sources of increased dust at high southern latitudes during the last ice age (http://www.livescience.com/44288-iron-rich-dust-from-new-zealand.html). Ben Bostick was quoted in a story, first posted on the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet site, by freelance writer Renee Cho on the role of the environment in modifying nanoparticles and their toxicity. The article was later reposted by Phys.org (http://phys.org/news/2014-03-peril-nanotechnology.html). A story today in Chemistry World highlights Lex van Geen’s work on arsenic-contaminated ground water in India and Bangladesh (http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/03/arsenic-asia-groundwater).
 
    Lamont’s spring season of Public Lectures will kick off this Sunday. Bärbel Hönisch will speak on “Ocean acidification and climate change.” Her lecture will be given in the Monell Auditorium at 3 pm (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/events/public-lectures/public-lectures).
 
    The Earth Science Colloquium resumes today with an offering by rock mechanics expert Chris Marone of the Pennsylvania State University (http://www.geosc.psu.edu/academic-faculty/marone-chris). Chris will speak on “Slow earthquakes and weakness of major tectonic faults: Connections between fault strength, fabric, and the mode of frictional sliding.” I hope that your coefficient of friction will not prevent your attendance.
 
       Sean