Lamont Weekly Report, June 16, 2017

    It was the last full week of spring, with high temperatures early in the week to foreshadow the coming season, and a giant American flag draped from the superstructure of the George Washington Bridge on Wednesday to announce to those of us commuting from the city that it was Flag Day.

    I am pleased to report that effective next month Laia Andreu Hayles, Tim Creyts, and Park Williams have been promoted to the rank of Lamont Associate Research Professor, Junior Staff. These promotions constitute the culminations of successful Developmental Reviews for each faculty member. Please join me in congratulating Laia, Tim, and Park on their new positions!

    Laura Gruenburg learned this week that she will receive a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship for the coming academic year. Her award is for a proposed project entitled “Response of the Indian Ocean to Indonesian Throughput variability,” part of her Ph.D. thesis research under the supervision of Arnold Gordon. Laura joins Dan Bishop and Chloe Gao, two other DEES graduate students whose fellowships from the same program were announced last month.

    In melodic counterpoint, Lorelei Curtin learned that she has been awarded a Rolex Explorer Grant ( Lorelei’s award will support fieldwork this fall on Easter Island with Billy D’Andrea to investigate the roles of climate change and deforestation on the decline of the early island settlement population.

    The Biology and Paleo Environment Division recently welcomed Qian (Katy) Xu as a visiting Staff Associate. Katy is a graduate student at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Nagoya University, and she is vising Lamont this month to work with Joaquim Goes on several research projects in biological oceanography.

    All of this week’s good news was tempered by a loss from the Lamont community. Fara Lindsay, a Staff Associate in the Observatory’s Geoinformatics Research Group, passed away on Wednesday. A geochemist with a 2009 Ph.D. from Rutgers University, Fara joined Lamont last September as a data curator for the NASA-funded MoonDB Project, but only eight weeks later she took a medical leave. Kerstin Lehnert writes, “Fara was a great addition to the team; she brought important expertise to the project and was a cheerful colleague. She will be missed.” Fara’s family reports that no formal service is planned, and in lieu of flowers friends and colleagues are invited to consider making a donation in her name to the American Cancer Society.

    In other news this week, the National Science Foundation’s Integrative and Collaborative Education and Research Program announced a new three-year award for STEM Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS), a collaborative project led by Lamont and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The STEMSEAS project will leverage unused berths on U.S. academic ships during transits between expeditions (time for which ship time is already paid) for high-impact and immersive undergraduate student experiences. A goal of the project is to send to sea as many as five undergraduate cohort groups per year. STEMSEAS is specifically designed to increase diversity in the geosciences and help students at critical junctures in their studies (e.g., from undeclared major to STEM major, from 2-year college to 4-year college, from undergraduate student to the workforce or graduate school) find success in the geosciences. Sharon Cooper leads the Lamont portion of the project.

    The R/V Langseth completed a study of marine microbiological processes across environmental gradients in the Pacific Ocean this week and returned to Honolulu on Tuesday. Sean Higgins, in Hawaii this week to meet the ship, reports, “A total of 17 stations were occupied in a transect along 158°W that ran up to 42°N and back down to 31°N. There were a total of 43 casts with the OTG-standard rosette, including one down to 3000 m, and 21 with the trace metals rosette, as well as 40 underway CTD casts. Incubators were used throughout the cruise on the upper deck. The scientists onboard were able to display near-real-time data from their instruments and planned stops for the transit south on the basis of data they collected on the trip north.”

    On Monday, representatives of the Li/Saltzman Architects ( team that will be designing the renovations planned for Lamont Hall visited the Observatory to “kick off” discussions with the Lamont Directorate and members of the Lamont Hall Restoration Committee. Those from the architectural group included Judith Saltzman, Principal-in-charge; Senior Architectural Designer Inda Sechzer; landscape architect John Williams; and engineers Michael McGough and Kent Nash. Joining me from Lamont were John Armbruster, Mary Ann Brueckner, Art Lerner-Lam, Farhana Mather, Mo Raymo, Kim Schermerhorn, and Stacey Vassallo. The goals of the restoration are to ensure that Lamont Hall remains a signature element of the campus, to incorporate preservation and sustainability in the design, to provide flexible space on the first floor for meetings and events, and to house the Lamont Directorate and the staff of the Development, External Relations and Strategic Initiatives Office on the second floor.

    On Tuesday, Asmi Napitu successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis of the “Response of the Indonesian Seas and its plausible feedback to the Madden-Julian Oscillation.” In addition to her thesis supervisor, Arnold Gordon, her committee included Xiaojun Yuan, Chris Zappa, Chia-Ying Lee from IRI, and Raghu Murtugudde from the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland. Asmi’s work at Lamont has been supported by the Schlumberger Foundation’s Faculty for the Future Program. A native of Indonesia, Asmi has accepted a position with the Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research in Jakarta, where she plans to continue to collaborate with Arnold and his group on oceanographic measurements of the Indonesian Throughflow.

    Also on Tuesday, David Madigan – Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences ­– announced that Natalie Boelman and Kevin Griffin are to receive one of three of the first Arts and Sciences Catalyst Grants. According to Madigan, “These grants are intended to stimulate new projects with the potential to have significant societal impact, in order to place them in a strong position to attract outside partners or to be considered for the Columbia World Projects initiative.
” The Catalyst Grant to Natalie and Kevin is for a project entitled “Reducing the catastrophic effects of Oak Wilt disease through early detection and ecologically sound decision making.” Kevin tells me that Oak Wilt is caused by a fungus that kills trees by restricting water uptake. First found in Wisconsin about 70 years ago, the disease has only recently been reported in the state and city of New York. William Schuster, of the Black Rock Forest Consortium and Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, is a project collaborator.

    New to Lamont’s web pages this week is a profile of the oceanographic career of Arnold Gordon, written by Melissa Meggiolaro, a recent graduate of Columbia’s M.S. Program in Sustainability Management ( Joining Arnold’s story is a new entry in the Earth Institute video series on What We Do and Why?, this one on Adam Sobel and the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate ( There are links, too, to a Chris Mooney story in The Washington Post yesterday on a report of rainfall and a large sheet of surficial meltwater on the Ross Ice Shelf in West Antarctica ( and a longer story from the July issue of National Geographic on other impacts of warming air and ocean to Antarctic ice shelves and ice sheets ( Robin Bell is quoted in the first story, and Stan Jacobs in the second.

    Even as you keep one eye trained on local sea level as the Antarctic ice budget continues to change, may you enjoy the last weekend of northern-hemisphere spring.