Lamont Weekly Report, February 2, 2018

    This week brought the good news from the Geological Society of London that Terry Plank is to receive the 2018 Wollaston Medal, the society’s highest honor first awarded in 1831 ( Previous recipients of the Wollaston Medal over its long history include Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell, and G. K. Gilbert. Past Wollaston medalists from Lamont include Maurice Ewing (1969), Wally Broecker (1990), and Maureen Raymo (2014). Kudos to Terry!

    The American Geophysical Union this week released the names of winners of Outstanding Student Paper Awards from the 2017 Fall Meeting last December in New Orleans. OSPA recipients from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences include Christine Chesley in Study of the Earth’s Deep Interior, Ruth Oliver in Biogeosciences; Daniel Rasmussen in Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology; and Jan-Erik Tesdal in Ocean Sciences.

    Moreover, Natalie Accardo received from the NSF GeoPRISMS (Geodynamic Processes at Rifting and Subducting Margins) program one of two prizes for Outstanding Student Presentation on GeoPRISMS- or MARGINS-related science at the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting.

    And Colleen Baublitz learned yesterday that she received the Outstanding Student Paper Award for her presentation at the American Meteorological Society’s 20th Conference on Atmospheric Chemistry held last month in Austin, Texas.

    To Christine, Ruthie, Dan, Jan-Erik, Natalie, and Colleen, congratulations!

    Lamont’s Research Management Department welcomed Karen Lai this week as a new Financial Analyst. Previously at the Mailman School of Public Health, Karen first joined Columbia in 2013 and has broad experience working with principal investigators and division administrators on budgets, financial planning, and grants administration. At Lamont, Karen will conduct analytical work in support of the Directorate’s efforts to understand the Observatory's financial challenges as we seek to diversify our funding portfolio and move toward a more sustainable campus business model.

    Also this week, John Halpin joined the development team at Lamont and the Earth Institute as a new Major Gifts Officer. His responsibilities include securing corporate support for Lamont’s annual Open House and helping to identify and cultivate individual and foundation donors to the Observatory. John rejoins Columbia after several years as a major gifts officer at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Prior to his tenure in that position he was associate director of development at the Mailman School of Public Health, where he focused on corporate and foundation fundraising and donor stewardship initiatives. John is also a 2013 graduate of the Executive Master of Public Administration program at the School of International and Public Affairs.

    Visiting Senior Research Scientist Al Hofmann arrived late last month for his annual spring visit to Lamont. A geochemist who has made broad contributions to our understanding of Earth’s mantle and crust, Al is an Emeritus Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society, the Urey Award from the European Association of Geochemistry, and the Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union. While at Lamont, Al will once again teach Advanced Geochemistry and co-lead the “Hot Topics” Seminar in Geochemistry, the latter focused this year on “Whole Earth Carbon.”

    The R/V Langseth is nearing completion of the Hikurangi 3D project east of North Island, New Zealand (, led by chief scientist and Lamont alumnus Nathan Bangs, now at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas. As of Monday this week, Sean Higgins wrote, “The project has gone extremely well so far, with minimal down time for weather, mammals (no mitigation actions so far), or technical reasons. We’ve enjoyed higher than average towing speeds and therefore higher than average production. This is our first time deploying the full array of the new Sercel 408 system, and the new smaller-diameter streamer combined with the new vane/harness system is allowing faster tow speeds than expected. Data quality is reported to be excellent and with low noise. There are approximately three primary lines remaining in this ~15x60 km box to be completed over the next 24 hours for a total of ~3100 line-km of coverage. They’ll have a bit of infill to do over next few days and may have to dodge one storm blowing past but we are in great shape right now.” Sean confirmed yesterday that the ship had to pause infilling data gaps to wait out a storm that passed through the area, but work is expected to be completed within a few days, and the ship should be back in port by the end of next week.

    Last week’s issue of Science magazine included a paper coauthored by Scott LaPoint on the impact of human activities on the movement of terrestrial mammals through their habitats. The ­group  – 115 coauthors in all – utilized a GPS tracking database of more than 800 individuals from 57 species to compare movement patterns with human impacts on the habitat region. The team found that the extent of movement of mammals in areas with a high human footprint is one-third to one-half that of animals in areas with a low human footprint. The impact of our species on others evidently extends to population persistence, predator-prey relations, nutrient cycling, disease transmission, and other ecological processes.

    On Wednesday afternoon, I attended an event on “Frontiers in Climate Research: Implications for Investments,” hosted by UBS Financial Services for a group of their clients. The event featured two panel discussions. A panel on Frontiers in Climate Control included Peter deMenocal, Radley Horton, Maureen Raymo, and Michael Gerrard from Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. A second panel on Implications for Investments chaired by Stephen Freedman from UBS also included Geoffrey Heal from the Columbia Business School, Cyrus Lotfipour from MSCI, and Ian Simm from Impax Asset Management Group. Other Lamont and Earth Institute attendees included Alex Halliday (visiting New York this week from Oxford University), Emilie Dufour, John Halpin, Susan Holgate, Farhana Mather, Ashley Sheed, Marco Tedesco, and Stacey Vassallo.

    Also on Wednesday, Hugh Ducklow and several colleagues took over the NSF Twitter account from Antarctica to discuss their research on the response of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems along the Antarctic Peninsula to regional climate change. A Rebecca Fowler story on Hugh’s work at the Long-Term Ecological Research station at Palmer has been posted on the Lamont web site (, complete with a video and a field photo of Hugh – easily recognizable from his Boston Red Sox baseball cap.

    Yesterday and today, the External Review Committee for the ongoing academic review of DEES visited the Morningside and Lamont campuses. Art Lerner-Lam and I met yesterday afternoon with committee members David Bercovici from Yale University, Rick Carlson from the Carnegie Institution, and Kate Freeman from The Pennsylvania State University. Earlier in the day the committee met with the internal review committee, the tenured DEES faculty, the female faculty, DEES administrative staff, Executive Vice President for Research Mike Purdy, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Carlos Alonso, Columbia College Dean Jim Valentini, the College’s Dean of Academic Planning and Administration Lisa Hollibaugh, and DEES undergraduate and graduate students. The committee spent most of today at Lamont, where they’ve met or plan to meet with DEES adjunct faculty, graduate student advisors, Lamont Research Professors, Associate Directors, postdoctoral scientists, and Lamont research, technical, and administrative staff. Their last meeting will be with Sid Hemming and Peter Kelemen to discuss committee findings and recommendations.

    Also today, Marco Tedesco is co-hosting – along with Geoffrey Heal – a workshop at Lamont on Economics and Climate Change: Merging Science and Social Benefits. The goal of the workshop is “to establish some level of mutual agreement between the scientific and economic/business research communities about what are the key knowns and unknowns [about likely changes in sea level in the U.S.] and what can be said with varying degrees of certainty.” Following the meeting, the workshop participants plan to write a white paper “directed at the community of real estate investors and financiers.” Other Lamont participants include Natalie Boelman, Guido Cervone, Radley Horton, and Park Williams.

    Media coverage this week included a quote from Bob Anderson in a VICE News story Saturday ( on a report that average temperatures in the top 2000 m of the oceans were higher last year than for any previous year on record. On Sunday, MSN News posted a photo essay on two-dozen regions already markedly affected by climate change, including many areas in which Lamont scientists conduct fieldwork ( On Wednesday, The New York Times Magazine published an interview with Robin Bell ( about her research in polar geophysics, her leadership of the American Geophysics Union, and her efforts to improve opportunities for women in the geosciences.

    Next week the federal government faces yet another possible shutdown, if Congress cannot agree on a budget beyond the current continuing resolution deadline of February 8. Columbia University lobbyists Joel Widder and Meg Thompson wrote yesterday, “House and Senate negotiators are continuing discussions regarding either another extension of the CR and/or new spending limits for defense and non-defense spending for FY18 and FY19.  These new spending limits are important prerequisites for completing the pending FY18 appropriations bills. Other issues impacting the negotiations on an extension of the current CR include immigration and border security issues.”

    In the meantime, this afternoon’s Earth Science Colloquium speaker will be geochemist and petrologist Kari Cooper, a Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Davis ( The title of her seminar is “‘A world in a grain of sand…’ What crystal records reveal about magma reservoirs.” I hope that you will join me for her talk.