Lamont Weekly Report, December 23, 2015

    It is fitting that a week cut short by university holidays included the winter solstice yesterday, with the shortest interval of daylight this year and the noontime Sun at the lowest point in the sky.

    Notwithstanding the long nights, the week began with the good news that Moanna St. Clair has been selected as the first recipient of the Earth Institute’s Distinguished Staff Award. The award, which will be given annually and comes with a $1000 prize, was established to recognize and honor exemplary performance by members of our administrative staff. Nominees are considered on the basis of excellence in work performance, willingness to go above and beyond expectations, contributions to improving coworker morale, initiative and leadership, and overall effectiveness and efficiency. In support of the nomination of Moanna – who has been at Lamont since 1992 and Division Administrator for Geochemistry since 2012 – were letters from more than a dozen Lamont Research Professors, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences faculty, Research Scientists, and administrators.

    According to Alison Miller, Moanna “was recognized for her diligence and superior dedication to individuals and tasks – never letting a problem go unresolved, and genuinely caring about the people and projects she engages with. She was called a ‘wonder woman’ and ‘the heart and soul of the Geochemistry Division.’ Her competence and leadership were praised as key to keeping the division running. She was clearly identified by many as the ‘go-to’ person for questions, big or small, and as someone with a superior knowledge of all requirements, systems, and processes. One individual said, ‘Problems seem to disappear when Moanna is on the job.’ She was also praised for her impact on the community and morale among those who interact with her: ‘Moanna's charm would appear to be inexhaustible. She is so friendly and welcoming, seems to so genuinely enjoy interacting with the geochemists, that it is always a pleasure to work with her.’ Another said, ‘She has made an enormous impact, and as many or all PIs, I completely rely on Moanna's advice and help. She makes Geochem a much better division and Lamont a better place!’”

    Another item of good news is that Bärbel Hönisch is to receive one of Columbia University’s Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Awards this winter. The awards, supported by a gift from former Trustee Gerry Lenfest, according to a Columbia web site “are given annually to faculty of unusual merit across a range of professorial activities – including scholarship, University citizenship, and professional involvement – with a primary emphasis on the instruction and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students.” Each Lenfest Award winner receives $25,000 per year for three years.

    To Moanna and Bärbel, congratulations from all of your Lamont colleagues!

    Frankie Pavia has begun a blog from the FS Sonne, on which he and Sebastian Vivancos are set to sail from Antofagasta, Chile, on a cruise to sample the chemistry of the south central Pacific, an ocean region comparatively barren of life. Their departure has been delayed, however, by the late arrival of some of the scientific gear still en route to the ship, and the frustration of a scientific party eager to get underway with their work is evident (

    One of the last of the Stacy Morford stories on Lamont presentations given at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting last week was on a paper by Colin Stark and Göran Ekström on the near-real-time detection and characterization from remote seismic signals of a landslide and associated tsunami last October in Taan Fiord, Alaska ( The story of the discovery of the slide, the largest in North America in 35 years and one later imaged by satellite, was reported by ABC News and other media ( 

    Among other AGU-related stories, National Geographic reported on a presentation by Dallas Abbott citing evidence that a megatsunami – possibly one generated by the impact of an asteroid into the Indian Ocean – left deposits at high elevations in Madagascar (

    May you all successfully avoid landslides and tsunamis this week, and may you return from a holiday break spent with family and friends ready for a new year of discovery.