Lamont Weekly Report, July 24, 2020

    Hello Friends,  It has been a busy week as I continue to meet with Lamont groups and work with the great team in the Directorate to launch new initiatives, act on community recommendations, and generally try to come up to speed on the byzantine infrastructure of LDEO (and I’m not referring to our “aqueducts” although, yes, yesterday there was another severe electrical disruption that blew fuses on the main  pump supplying water to our campus as well as impacting other parts of Lamont.  This glitch affected a broad region of Palisades.  Pat O’Reilly has offered the hypothesis that perhaps demand for air conditioning is over-taxing the grid more than usual this year, possibly because no one is traveling this summer and many are working from home?  What I do know is that it is costing us lots of headaches and lots of money). 

    In happier news, a new initiative being launched with contributions from the Center for Climate and Life, DEES, and the Directorate is the Scientific Instrumentation Repair Fund, or SIRF, which will provide funding to help repair instruments in recharge centers.  SIRF is designed to provide a loan of up to a maximum of $30,000 for each emergency as a solution to the challenges of paying for costly instrument repairs that legally can’t be budgeted into cost centers (those who manage the cost centers will know what I mean).  Thank you to Bärbel Hönisch in particular, whose tireless efforts on behalf of lab managers across campus helped to make this happen.  And to Edie Miller and Jean Leote for crafting the financial framework to support SIRF.  Now let’s just pray that southern Rockland electrical grid failures don’t drive SIRF to an early grave.

    I’d also like to thank Kuheli Dutt and Virginia Maher for altering all internal forms at Lamont which, going forward, will be changed from gender-binary to gender-inclusive.  We cannot change the forms that feed into EOAA offices and the like on the main campus, but hopefully that change will eventually follow.  Thanks also to Kevin Uno for agreeing to serve as the faculty coordinator of this year’s Colloquium Committee—he will be working with student organizers Tanner Acquisto (MGG), Shanice Bailey (OCP), Alexandra Balter (Geochemistry), Clara Chang (BPE), Sarah Giles (SGT), and Joohee Kim (Geochemistry).   And speaking of talks, please don’t forget to tune in to Cristina Mittermeier’s Summer Stars lecture next Tuesday at 3pm: “The Thin Blue Line: Life on the Water’s Edge”. Please register online.

    Also announced this week was a new childcare benefit (for July and August) being provided by the university.  For officers of instruction, research, or administration, postdocs, and students who are required to work on campus, either as previously designated essential personnel or for the purposes of continuing research as indicated by assignment to “Group A,” Columbia has established a temporary childcare benefit that can be used to support your needs through August 2020.  This benefit recognizes the seriousness and complexity of the childcare issues facing many of our colleagues and has been designed after much discussion and consultation.  Information on eligibility and applications can be found here and questions can be addressed to the Lamont Ramp-up Ambassadors.

    Earlier this week, I took my annual mandatory online harassment training course required by Columbia University. It was overdue (of course) and had the threat of losing my login not been there I would have happily moved the reminder to the folder of “things to never look at again”.  I mean really, I have 40+ years of experience observing, hearing about, and on occasion experiencing harassment—what could I possibly learn that I don’t already know?  Well, it was humbling to get more than a few of the in-line questions incorrect and made me appreciate (anew) the complexity of human interactions and our roles as co-workers, supervisors, friends, and mandatory reporters.  So I would please ask that when the time comes for your mandatory training that you open your heart, channel your most reflective inner nature, and commit to doing your part to making our campus the best it can be….don’t let what is urgent get in the way of what is important.

    Turning to science, there is some news I particularly want to note.  For weeks the media has been reporting on the work of Lex van Geen and his colleagues from the CU Statistics department on the lead fall-out from the Notre Dame fire in Paris.  The roof of the cathedral was clad in 460 tons of lead, much of which fell out of the smoke plume over Paris creating a potentially severe health risk, especially to children.  I am imagining Lex and his colleagues as the equivalent of geochemical first responders flying to crisis centers around the globe.  Do they have good uniforms?  Lamont-branded swag?  A lead-sniffing dog named Maximus?  The work of this team, broadened to include Chris Small, Ben Bostick, and Mike Steckler, extends to the tracking of toxic bauxite dust exposure in New Guinea (in collaboration with colleagues in Sustainability Management and SIPA), mapping arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh (with colleagues from Barnard, the Economics department, and Mailman School of Public Health), and measuring lead in soil around schools in Peru.  While the scientific and societal importance of this work is obvious, I want to make another point about the significance of this work with respect to the challenges that the Geosciences (including Lamont) have in the recruitment of under-represented minorities.  Many of us, myself included, came to the Earth Sciences through a love of the outdoors—mountains, oceans, camping, etc.  But today, one of the most compelling motivations behind the interest of a new generation of geoscientists is environmental and social justice.  We need to recognize and embrace this seismic shift when thinking about how we position Lamont and approach the challenge of diversifying our campus.

    This brings me to Lamont-Doherty's Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) run by Bob Newton, Ben Bostick, Anjelle Martinez and Susan Vincent (a retired Earth Science teacher).  Each summer the SSFRP brings high school students to the Lamont campus for six weeks of field and laboratory research.  For the past four years, the program has engaged 54 high school students (including recent graduates), 15 college students—most are graduates of the high school program—and 10 high school science teachers. The college students serve as team leaders, who plan and facilitate the field and lab work and most of them are young people of color.  The program has a 100% college entrance rate for participating students. About half of the graduates major in science or engineering, and the program has become a pathway to careers in science for underrepresented populations across New York City. Over 80% of student participants are eligible for Title I (subsidized lunch) support; about 60% are young women; most are from African-American, Latin-American or south Asian families.

    If you follow the link above you will see a set of terrific photographs of the teams working in the Piermont Marsh (of course these are from prior years since the program is on-line this year).  However, what really struck me was Bob’s quote about how the program is evolving this summer: “This year we took the opportunity to make our college kids really be responsible for the curriculum in these workshops,” said Newton. “We originally had a much more technical and traditional science-based curriculum and they just rejected it and asked for a chance to develop their own curriculum. So every single one of our eight projects takes some core piece of science and links it to the social issues that the kids care about.” (my italics).  As we move forward with two major task forces working on campus, the Lamont Vision Committee and the Lamont Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, it is important we are attuned to the changes taking place all around us and act on those “cues”.  And thank you to Lex, Chris, Bob, Mike, Ben, Anjelle, Susan, and all of your colleagues.  We are proud of your work.

    Finally, in unhappy news we lost two members of the Lamont community this week. B. Charlotte Schreiber passed away last Friday. From her friend Cecilia McHugh: “I am very sad to report that Charlotte Schreiber passed away Friday July 17 after a short illness. Charlotte was Emeritus Professor at Queens College, CUNY and had been an Adjunct Researcher at Lamont. After her retirement Charlotte moved to Seattle and continued her work at the University of Washington. Charlotte was a world leading authority in carbonates and evaporites specializing in the Messinian salinity crisis of the Mediterranean. She mentored and steered numerous undergraduate, MA and PhD students in their careers and was particularly helpful to women through the Geological Society of America. Charlotte was awarded the Sorby Medal in 2006 by the International Association of Sedimentologists.”

    We also lost Ann Binder who worked at IRI. From her friend and colleague Lisa Goddard: “I'm sad to report that today we learned Ann Binder died over the weekend. Ann was a beloved and respected coworker and friend to so many of us at IRI and across this campus, and she will be dearly missed. An obituary and information about Wednesday's funeral and committal services can be found here”. 

    Rest in peace Charlotte and Ann.


                                    Sincerely, Mo








Dueling Cyclones Brew in Atlantic and Pacific 


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Article quotes Lamont climate scientist Suzana Camargo.


Biggest Ice Sheet on Earth More Vulnerable to Melting Than Thought

National Geographic

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Article quotes Lamont paleoclimatologist and interim director Maureen Raymo.


Toxic Lead Fallout from Notre Dame Fire May Be Worse than Thought

US News & World Report

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Article on research by Lamont geochemist Lex van Geen.


Greenland Bedrock Drilling Project to Understand Past, Future Ice Sheet Melting

Science X

Friday, July 17, 2020

Article on research co-led by Lamont geochemist Joerg Schaefer with geochemist Gisela Winckler, climate geologist Nicolás Young, paleoclimatologist Benjamin Keisling, education coordinator Margie Turrin, and colleagues.




Join Us in Celebrating #MarieTharp100

July 23, 2020

July 30 marks 100 years since the birth of Marie Tharp, a pioneering geologist who created some of the first maps of the ocean floor. We’re celebrating her achievements and legacy with blog posts, giveaways, and more.


Lamont-Doherty Program Aims to Bring More Diversity to Earth Science

July 22, 2020

The Secondary School Field Research Program offers a diverse group of young people a unique opportunity to do field and laboratory research.


App Will Track Harmful Dust from Bauxite Mining in Guinea

July 17, 2020

Researchers at Columbia are developing an app that Guinean communities can use to hold mining companies accountable for controlling the dust they produce, which can harm health and livelihoods.