Lamont Weekly Report, October 25, 2013
Our federal government has been open for more than a week, but as the fallout spreads from the shutdown the overall financial and scientific costs continue to mount. The National Science Foundation alone had to reschedule more than 100 peer review panels, and numerous target submission dates for proposals had to be reset. Field operations in Antarctica are resuming, but many programs face truncated seasons and some projects will be delayed by as much as a year.
On Monday and Tuesday, Art Lerner-Lam, Kathy Callahan, Rachel Roberts, and Emily Soergel visited the R/V Langseth in Woods Hole. The visit, undertaken on behalf of the Lamont Directorate, was one of an annual series of such meetings intended to provide regular face-to-face opportunities for communication with the ship's officers and crew on matters of ship operation and administration. Along with Sean Higgins and Paul Ljunggren, the Directorate staff met with Captain Jim O'Loughlin, Chief Engineer Steve Pica, and Chief Science Officer David Martinson. The discussions spanned such topics as feedback from recent scientific parties, ship operations, maintenance plans, future shipboard capabilities and science support activities, and even the impact on ship operations of expectations for high-bandwidth internet access.
On Thursday I was in Washington, D.C., to attend the fall members’ meeting of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. COL President Bob Gagosian stressed the unusually uncertain environment in which this year’s budgets for federal science agencies will be decided. COL’s Senior Manager for Policy, Kassandra Cerveny, gave an overview of the organization’s public affairs activities. She outlined the specific terms of the recent agreement on the resumption of government operations and the increase to the federal debt ceiling, and she assessed prospects for near-term progress by the newly named Budget Conference Committee. She also highlighted a variety of looming legislative threats designed to restrict the unfettered operations of federal science agencies.
Roger Wakimoto, NSF's Assistant Director for Geosciences, and Mark Schaefer, NOAA's Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management, each made presentations on their agency’s programs, plans, and concerns. Wakimoto reaffirmed the importance at NSF of “core science,” but he highlighted the challenge faced by the Ocean Sciences Division that the combination of ship costs, NSF’s contribution to the International Ocean Discovery Program, and rising operations and maintenance costs for the Ocean Observatory Initiative threaten to surpass the spending for science programs in an era of limited overall budgetary growth. Schaefer gave a high-level overview of NOAA’s programs in extreme events, sea-level rise, marine ecosystem changes, and fisheries sustainability.
The afternoon featured a spirited panel discussion of lessons learned, particularly for the coastal oceans, from Superstorm Sandy. Larry Mayer from the University of New Hampshire chaired the panel, and panelists included Rusell Callender from NOAA’s National Ocean Service, Tony MacDonald from the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University, Oscar Schofield from the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, and Charles Chesnutt from the Army Corps of Engineers.
I have copies of most of the PowerPoint presentations given at the COL meeting yesterday, and I will be happy to share them with anyone who wishes to view them.
In the news this week was Robin Bell, quoted in the (Rockland) Journal News Monday on the structure of the sediments and bedrock at the site of the new Tappan Zee Bridge (http://www.lohud.com/article/20131020/NEWS02/310200024/Strength-new-Tappan-Zee-Bridge-lies-Hudson). On Wednesday, a journalism student at Northwestern University selected the paleoclimate work of Aaron Putnam and Wally Broecker for an article in the school’s Medill Reports (http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=225132). And as the anniversary of the landfall of Superstorm Sandy approaches, the media is understandably interested in what that storm taught us, and Klaus Jacob remains in demand for media commentary, including two stories posted Tuesday on Climate Central (http://www.climatecentral.org/news/scientist-who-warned-about-sandy-like-events-says-were-still-unprepared-16637; http://www.climatecentral.org/news/sandy-a-warning-that-nuclear-plants-threatened-by-rising-seas-16622).
This Saturday evening, Margie Turin will be feted at the Annual Awards Gala of Keep Rockland Beautiful, to be held at the Rockland Country Club in Sparkill. Margie will receive the organization’s 2013 Education Award, which is being given to honor her years of education and outreach activities organized through “Day in the Life of the Hudson,” Planning Land Use with Students, and other programs. KRB has written that Margie’s “leadership continues to support a cleaner, more environmentally sound Rockland County.”
Monday of next week will be your first opportunity to order the 2014 calendar entitled “Climate Models.” The brainchild of Rebecca Fowler and Francesco Fiondella of IRI, the calendar features photographs of some dozen of the climate modelers from this campus, in more stylish attire than is typical of workday wear (http://climatemodels.org/). A campaign to recover the production costs will be launched on Kickstarter next week, and printed versions of the calendar may be available in time for Christmas stocking stuffing.
Next month marks the beginning of a campus-wide Energy Efficiency Initiative, spearheaded by a group of Barnard College students in Martin Stute's course, Workshop for Sustainable Development. Last year’s class concluded that Lamont was not as energy efficient as many of our peer institutions. This semester, the students have devised campus experiments to measure the impact of some simple energy-saving measures and designed a campaign to encourage energy-wise behavior. The campaign will involve newsletters, posters, and other announcements to raise awareness, and the group promises to track changes in energy usage both for the campus and among individual buildings. There is a campaign website (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12M4CYGQ_iqg56xxx5dLa2btUpHmHF7xjqLB0q6bGAfo/viewform) at which you can pledge to be energy efficient and earn points for your building’s team.
This afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium will be given by Lamont alumna Elizabeth Cottrell, Director of the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (http://mineralsciences.si.edu/staff/pages/cottrell.htm). Liz will be speaking on “Upper mantle oxidation state: Implications for the asthenosphere.” The colloquium will be preceded by a short announcement on the Energy Efficiency Initiative by Martin’s students. I hope that you can join me for both presentations.