Four current and former researchers at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory will receive honorary degrees from their alma mater, St. Lawrence University, this spring. The degrees will be awarded at May graduation to paleoclimatologist Peter deMenocal; engineer Dale Chayes; paleoceanographer Miriam Katz; and oceanographer Richard Fairbanks.
St. Lawrence has a small geology program that for at least three decades has turned out a large number of climate science researchers. How did so many wind up at Lamont? “SLU has a great undergrad geology program that turns out excellent budding scientists, who end up at the best institutions,” said Katz, now a geology professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, NY.
Mark Erickson, a longtime professor at St. Lawrence, said his department emphasizes hands-on learning, which may be why so many students go on to research careers. While the four alumni receiving awards next month study different aspects of climate change, as students they shared two important traits. “They all had a natural curiosity,” he said. “And I saw that they all had some independence."
DeMenocal, who graduated from St. Lawrence in 1982, has worked at Lamont-Doherty since finishing his PhD here in 1991. He studies ocean sediments to understand how and why past climates have changed, with a particular focus on rapid climate changes.
Chayes, ‘73, came to work at Lamont-Doherty after graduation. For more than three decades he has designed, installed, operated and repaired instruments used in mapping the seafloor and measuring ocean chemistry.
Katz ,’81, spent 15 years at Lamont studying ocean sediments to understand past climate transitions. Her current research focuses on reconstructing major climate shifts from millions of years ago and studying sea level changes over the past 25 million years.
Fairbanks, ’72, is a pioneer in studying deep water circulation, sea level fluctuation and radiocarbon dating. In three decades at Lamont, he worked to understand the oceans’ role in global climate change. He is currently a professor emeritus at Columbia University and a visiting professor at Rutgers University.