Lamont Weekly Report, April 28, 2017

    This week ended unexpectedly, with a campus closure today as a result of a break in our pressurized main sewer. The break was discovered by our Facilities staff yesterday afternoon, and its source was confirmed by a dye test. Our staff shut off the sewer pumps and the water to the campus and notified the county health department. This morning the gas and other utility lines in the area of the break were marked out, and our team began digging to carry out the repair work. Pat O’Reilly and his crew hope to complete all repairs by the end of the day but may have to continue working tomorrow. Everyone will be notified by the usual emergency channels when the water and sewer systems are operating and the campus is again open.

    As of this writing, the federal government does not have a budget that extends beyond midnight tonight. Columbia University’s lobbyists, Joel Widder and Meg Thompson of Federal Science Partners, report that a continuing resolution to fund federal agencies for one more week, through May 5, is working its way through Congress. If passed, the continuing resolution may provide sufficient time for the House and Senate to pass an omnibus spending bill next week to fund the government through September 30, the end of federal fiscal year 2017. Meanwhile the House has already begun work on the 2018 appropriations process, notwithstanding that the President’s budget – the full rather than the “skinny” budget – is not scheduled for release for another three and a half weeks. If this situation sounds confusing, the best advice is to stay in close communication with the program officers at federal science agencies who manage your proposals and grants.

    Apropos to the Congressional appropriations process for 2018, on Monday Joel and Meg sent “Testimony regarding fiscal year 2018 funding for NSF, NASA, and NOAA” on the importance of federal support for the geosciences to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. The four-page document was submitted on behalf of 130 educational and commercial institutions that work in the Earth sciences, with Lamont as the lead signatory. The testimony highlighted, by example, the importance of Earth science research to national security, economic competitiveness, and public safety.

    Lamont’s Office of Marine Operations reported several milestones this week. Phil Neis will be retiring on Friday after 10 years of service to the Observatory on the R/V Langseth and ashore as marine electrician and project engineer. Sean Higgins wrote, “Phil has been an incredible asset to the Langseth and OMO during his tenure, and I’d like you to join me in wishing Phil all the best with retirement and his future endeavors…He’ll be greatly missed as a truly dedicated worker, information resource, and friend to many involved with the Langseth. Despite many challenges on the ship over the last decade, Phil’s determination, persistence, and good sense of humor were a huge asset.” In addition, Suzanne Carbotte has been elected a member of the Fleet Improvement Committee of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, Lamont’s first regular member of any UNOLS committee since Jim Cochran served in 2010. The Langseth, meanwhile, remains in transit between Chile and Honolulu and is scheduled to arrive in port on or about May 7.

    The third annual Lamont Fun Run was held on Wednesday. Organizers Genevieve Coffey and Michael Sandstrom report that 28 runners participated in the event, including 14 women and 14 men. The top three women finishers in order were Genevieve, Madeleine Pascolini-Campbell, and Melanie Bieli; and the top male runners were Eric Berg, Toby Kaufmann, and Park Williams. Both Genevieve and Eric set new records for the course. With a scoring system developed last year that normalized by age and gender, the top three finishers were Eric, Genevieve, and Madeleine. A Golden Running Shoe, awarded to the division with the best three finishing times corrected for age and gender, went to Biology and Paleo Environment, with Geochemistry and Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics in the next two slots. Congratulations to all who participated!

    On Thursday morning I attended the first meeting of the Climate Change Task Force charged with fleshing out the Climate Response theme of Columbia University’s capital campaign. Others attending from Lamont included Robin Bell, Peter deMenocal, Dave Goldberg, Farhana Mather, Mo Raymo, Richard Seager, and Adam Sobel, along with Bob Chen from CIESIN and Lisa Goddard from IRI. The Task Force, chaired by Mike Purdy, has been asked to produce a concise written document that makes a compelling case for the Climate Response campaign theme and lays out attractive giving targets to potential donors.

    Today’s Earth Science Colloquium was to have been given by biological oceanographer and marine ecologist Stephanie Dutkiewicz, a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( Her talk on “Climate change impacts on marine phytoplankton communities” will be rescheduled for a later time.

    Today was also to have been the opening, in the Comer Atrium and Seminar Room, of the 4th Annual Research as Art Exhibition ( Please await word from organizers Anna Barth, Kyle Frischkorn, Joshua Russell, Hannah Rabinowitz, and Maayan Yehudai as to the new opening date.

    Following last week’s Vetlesen Prize ceremony and dinner, Mark Cane offered perspectives on his scientific findings and his career in an interview that The Forward posted last Friday (  On Sunday, Voice of America posted a radio story on Peter Kelemen, the Oman Drilling Project, and the prospect that the region offers for understanding the possibility of subsurface sequestration and storage of carbon dioxide in Earth’s mantle (

    On Monday morning next week, Congresswoman Nita Lowey will be at Lamont to give a press conference about the importance of federal funding for climate science. The briefing will be held at 11 am in the Comer Seminar Room, and the Congresswoman has extended a special invitation to the women scientists of Lamont to attend. According to the Congresswoman's staff, Sheean Haley and Gwenn Hennon earlier visited Mrs. Lowey’s local office in New City to communicate the importance of federal funding for climate science research and the damage that the President’s budget for science agencies would do to the field and to our understanding of our home planet. Mrs. Lowey was so moved by this outreach that she contacted Columbia University’s government relations office to ask about holding this media event on our campus. Congresswoman Lowey’s 17th New York District includes Rockland County and portions of Westchester County, she’s the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, and she’s long been a spokesperson for science in general and for women in science in particular. Everyone at Lamont is encouraged to attend Monday’s press briefing.

    On Tuesday evening next week, Marco Tedesco will be participating in an EcoArt Project Salon on “Greenland’s Melting Glaciers.” The EcoArt Project Salon Series is “a program of insightful discussions related to the environment, conceived to generate curiosity and engagement by mixing art and design with science and technology.” Marco will be paired with artist Justin Brice Guariglia. The event, for which admission is free, will be held from 6 to 8 pm at the TWOTHIRTYONE Gallery at 231 Tenth Avenue.

    May our campus be back to normal for all of next week’s activities.