Lamont Weekly Report, January 15, 2021

     Hello Friends,  Lots of news this week.  The landscape of the pandemic is changing quickly, sometimes daily.  Please note Interim Provost Ira Katznelson’s email to all regarding the virtual town halls that will occur next week about COVID-19 vaccines and distribution.  You can register for one of the sessions below: Tuesday, January 19, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.  or Wednesday, January 20, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.  It is very hard to predict when CU will be getting vaccine deliveries, but they have been working closely with New York-Presbyterian (NYP) Hospital and I know that some of our emeritus faculty are already being vaccinated.  NYP is also seeking volunteers to help with administering vaccines—you would work four 8-hour shifts over next few months.  You also get a vaccine.  If you are interested in serving, please go to: and provide the information requested.  Some of our faculty have already signed up to help.

     As our CU health leaders have said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we are still very much in the tunnel. Everyone—including those who were vaccinated—must continue to practice protective behavior”. It could easily be April before most of us are eligible for a vaccine, if not longer.  Hopefully everyone is managing to get their gateway test without undue hardship.

     Classes began this week for our spring semester, which for our community are still mostly on-line.  It is a good time to give a big shout-out to the gang in the DEES office in Geoscience for their always effective support of our pedagogical mission—thank you Kaleigh, Sally, Yasmin, and Monica.  In other education news, Cassie Xu has let us know that EI LIVE K12 is back for spring 2021 and she thanks those Lamonters who have signed up to do a session. “This free series, first launched in spring 2020, will continue to provide educational content for K12 students, educators, and parents for the rest of this academic year. The series will feature experts from across the Earth Institute in 45-minute live sessions where they will share aspects of their work through lectures and interactive activities. All the spring sessions are listed here.”

     And more educational resources were sent around to Lamont from last week’s Workshop of Inclusive and Culturally Competent Pedagogy in the Earth Sciences, organized and run by Lamont graduate students Jonathan Lambert, Julian Spergel, Clara Chang, Nathan Lenssen.  I had a scheduling conflict with the workshop but did go through the resources provided and found them very useful for reflection on my teaching goals.  Another new initiative, Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE) has also been launched by a group of geoscience researchers who have created a curriculum of eight two-week sessions covering a wide range of issues pertaining to race and racism.  Postdoc Rachel Lupien is organizing a Lamont pod to engage with this program so please see her email of 1/13/21 if you are interested in participating.  Big picture—the depth and breadth of leadership on our campus never ceases to amaze me.  Lamont’s tagline should be “We Create Leaders!”

     On to science news….it has been a busy week here as well. An EOS report discussed graduate student Janine Birnbaum’s experiments with corn syrup to better understand lava flow.  You can see a cool video at the link above.   Janine, working with Lamont Associate Research Professor Einat Lev and visiting scientist Atsuko Namiki, carried out the work in the LDEO Fluids Lab, which is in the Machine Shop building.  Eos quoted Pranabendu Moitra, a physical volcanologist at the University of Arizona (who was not involved in the study), as saying “the research represents an effort to understand lava flow in all three of its phases: liquid, bubbly, and particle.” And also, “This (the experiment) is one of the first of its kind” and “has potential to be the basis for a lot of future research.”  Pahoehoe, you’ve met your match in Janine!

     Another great article celebrating the first anniversary of Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, asked six leading researchers investigating weather and climate “to outline notable developments within their discipline and provide thoughts on important work yet to be done.”  Lamont Associate Research Professor Indrani Das tackled the field of glaciology and former Lamont postdoc Jessica Tierney focused on paleoclimatology.  Also in the polar research group, LRP Marco Tedesco’s book,  Ice: Tales from a Disappearing World, has also been selected among the 12 best travel books of 2020 by National Geographic Traveler UK.

     And lastly, I get to my favorite article of the week, an absolutely beautiful, and beautifully illustrated, story in the NYTimes focusing on the emerging “golden age” of wildlife telemetry and which quotes our very own pioneer in this once marginal field, LRP Natalie Boelman.  What, pray tell, is wildlife telemetry?  Essentially this is animal tracking with GPS, but now on steroids.  After 20 years leading a global effort, in 2018 a scientist named Martin Wikelski realized a life’s dream when astronauts attached a dedicated wildlife tracking receiver called ICARUS to the exterior of the International Space Station.  (I always wonder what they are doing on those space walks.)

     At the same time, the same group refined tracking tag technology such that the tags are now approaching a mere gram in weight.  They can be attached to mammals, reptiles, even insects like locusts, bees, and dragonflies—and of course, Natalie’s lovely robins with their GPS backpacks might soon get much lighter loads.  As more and more animals around the world are tagged and “their faint tangle of tracks thickens and clarifies, the internet of animals blinks to life.”  How amazing—the internet of animals.  But what can we learn?  Of course, there is the obvious—the migratory response of animals to climate and environmental change, for instance.  But in 2011 Wikelski also documented correlations between goat and sheep activity on the slopes of Mount Etna and the intensity of volcanic eruptions.  “Another tracking study published in 2020 found correlations between the kinetics of farm animals in the Italian village of Capriglia and their distance from the epicenter of earthquakes.”  Either these Italian farm animals are unusually smart or a whole new chapter in hazard prediction and mitigation may be about to open up!

     Please see many more great science links below and don’t forget to read Linette’s Staff Member Spotlight.

     I’ll wrap up by pointing to the just released  Columbia University LGBTQ+ Guide: Resources to Foster an Affirming Community for LGBTQ+ Faculty, Students and StaffDennis Mitchell, the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement issued “A Call to Action” urging “everyone at Columbia, regardless of role, career stage, or identity, to read this guide and ask the question: How can I be a better LGBTQ+ ally?” and, ultimately, help “foster a more inclusive campus climate for LGBTQ+ members of our community, and by extension, for all who work and study at Columbia.”

     With that aspirational dream, I wish you all a peaceful and restful three-day weekend. Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.









Will Warming Bring a Change in the Winds? Dust from the Deep Sea Provides a Clue


January 12, 2021

Article on study by Lamont graduate student Jordan Abell, climate scientist Gisela Winckler, geochemist Robert Anderson, and colleague.


Riots in the Capitol. Is This Who We Are?

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

January 8, 2021

Opinion piece by Lamont climate scientist Adam Sobel.


Marie Tharp, the Scientist Who Revolutionized Geology

Il Bo Live

January 8, 2021

Article features pioneering Lamont geologist Marie Tharp.


Climate Change Could Take Weather Patterns Back to the Pliocene


January 7, 2021

Article on study by Lamont graduate student Jordan Abell, climate scientist Gisela Winckler, geochemist Robert Anderson, and colleague.


The Westerly Winds Are Changing, and the Consequences Are Unknown

January 6, 2021

Article on study by Lamont graduate student Jordan Abell, climate scientist Gisela Winckler, geochemist Robert Anderson, and colleague.


Global Warming to Keep Driving Winds Poleward, Deep Sea Dust Suggests


January 6, 2021

Article on study by Lamont graduate student Jordan Abell, climate scientist Gisela Winckler, geochemist Robert Anderson, and colleague.


Dust Preserved Deep Beneath the Oceans for Five Million Years Confirms Climate Change Is Pushing Westerly Winds towards the Earth's Poles


January 6, 2021

Article on study by Lamont graduate student Jordan Abell, climate scientist Gisela Winckler, geochemist Robert Anderson, and colleague.




Far-Drifting Antarctic Icebergs Are Trigger of Ice Ages, Scientists Say

January 13, 2021

Large numbers of icebergs that drifted unusually far from Antarctica before melting into ocean waters have been key to initiating ice ages of the past, says a new study.


Staff Member Spotlight: Linette Sandoval-Rzepka

January 12, 2021

She is a division administrator at Lamont and one of the 2020 recipients of the Earth Institute Distinguished Staff Award.


Annual Report

January 08, 2021

Our 2020 Annual Report highlights our accomplishments from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.


EI LIVE K12 Is Back for Spring 2021

January 08, 2021

Our popular video series for students, educators, and parents returns with an exciting lineup from January to June.