At the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, the federal government closed its doors for the first time since 1995-1996. Program managers and other staffers at federal science agencies were barred from their offices, prohibited from travel, and in many cases ordered not to conduct any business by phone or electronic mail. National parks are closed. The ensuing confusion is being watched closely by the administrations of Columbia and Lamont, but the costs to this nation of the inability of Congress to agree even on a simple continuation of government funding will mount sharply by the day.
I’ve been on travel for much of the week. Over the weekend, I was in Toronto to serve on a panel asked to review the Earth System Evolution Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (http://www.cifar.ca/earth-system-evolution-program-members). (Sid Hemming is a senior fellow in that program and a regular participant in the group’s annual meetings.) From Wednesday to today I’ve been in Boulder, Colorado, for a meeting of the MESSENGER Science Team hosted by colleagues at the University of Colorado. Our team members from NASA centers and our NASA program managers, of course, were forced to stay home.
The R/V Langseth has been in Woods Hole since early this past weekend. Our Office of Marine Operations is now in negotiation with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Shell TechWorks over a possible cruise in the Gulf of Mexico later this month. The cruise would involve the Langseth’s multibeam system and the Sentry autonomous underwater vehicle of WHOI to explore naturally occurring hydrocarbon seeps.
Planning accelerated this week for Lamont’s 2014 Open House. The events planning group at the Earth Institute will be providing overall logistical support for the open house, and the EI’s communications, design, and media relations groups will also be involved. Jennifer Genrich and Vilma Gallagher will be contacting each Lamont division in the near future to schedule meetings to discuss lessons learned from past open house events and to streamline the planning process for next fall’s event. In parallel, our Strategic Initiatives, Development, and External Relations office will be issuing a request for proposals from the divisions to purchase video displays and other equipment that can be used to tell the stories of what goes on at Lamont to visitors and to attendees at future open houses.
On Monday, I hosted a visit to Lamont by Jeremy Grantham, the co-founder and chief strategist of the global investment management firm Grantham Mayo van Oterloo (GMO), and Ramsay Ravenel, executive director of the Grantham Foundation. Grantham and Ravenel were given a tour of the Lamont Core Repository by Mo Raymo and Nichole Anest and a tour of the IcePod laboratory by Robin Bell and Nick Frearson. Over a lunch in the Comer Board Room, Grantham and Ravenel participated in a wide-ranging discussion on climate change and resource scarcity with a group that included Mark Cane, Peter deMenocal, Art Lerner-Lam, Adam Sobel, Pete Sobel, Lisa Goddard from IRI, and Bob Chen from CIESIN.
The Geochemistry Division welcomed two visiting students this week. Eleanne Van Viliet, a graduate student in the Mailman School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, is visiting Steve Chillrud’s group until early November. Yongfeng Jia, a graduate student at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, will be working in Lex van Geen’s group as a Part-time Staff Associate. Also new to Lex’s group is Senior Research Staff Assistant Tyler Ellis.
On Tuesday, Alex Evans arrived as a new Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics Division. An expert in planetary interior structure and mantle dynamics, Alex holds an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan and successfully defended his Ph.D. in geophysics at MIT last month.
Please join me in welcoming all of our new colleagues.
In the news this week, David Goldberg was interviewed by WCBS radio on Monday about the campus project to drill beneath the Palisades sill to test the suitability of the sedimentary rocks of the Newark Basin as possible sites for carbon dioxide sequestration (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/09/30/stories-from-main-street-carbon-dioxide-sequestration-in-southern-rockland-county/). An Alexandra Witze news article for Nature on Tuesday highlighted a project by Paul Olsen and others to drill a site in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona to recover continuous core samples from the middle and late Triassic period, as well as the possible impact of the government shutdown on the start of drilling (http://www.nature.com/news/geologists-take-drill-to-triassic-park-1.13866). A radio report on WNYC Wednesday mentioned this example of the disruption of scientific research by the shutdown and included a comment by Art Lerner-Lam (http://www.wnyc.org/story/shutdown-stymies-scientific-research/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+wnyc/newsarticles+%28News+from+WNYC+New+York+Public+Radio%29).
On Wednesday next week, NOVA will be premiering a show on the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy entitled “Megastorm Aftermath.” Adam Sobel and Klaus Jacob are featured in the trailer that previews the show (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/megastorm-aftermath.html).
On Friday next week, Lamont and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences will host the Arthur D. Storke Memorial Lecture. This year’s Storke Lecturer will be Robert Hazen, who holds appointments at both the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory and George Mason University. Hazen will speak on “Recent discoveries in the co-evolution of the geo- and biospheres: Metallogenesis, the supercontinent cycle, and the rise of the terrestrial biosphere” http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/files/uploaded/image/file/Storke%20Lecture%20Abstract.pdf).
To cap this week, the Lamont community has the opportunity to set aside for an hour any concerns over the future of federal science agencies and learn about the fate of the Adélie penguin population in Antarctica. William Fraser from the Polar Oceans Research Group and an investigator with the Palmer, Antarctica, Long-Term Ecological Research Program will be speaking on “A landscape effect on the demography of Adélie penguins in the western Antarctic Peninsula region.”