Lamont Weekly Report, June 17, 2016

     The Earth and Planetary science community mourned the death this week of Jerry Wasserburg, isotope geochemist and cosmochemist, Crafoord Laureate, and long-time member of the faculty at Caltech. Jerry’s laboratory largely defined the history of the Moon and established the timescale between nucleosynthesis and solar system formation. Together with Columbia’s Paul Gast, Bob Walker from Washington University, and Jim Arnold from the University of California, San Diego – a group known informally at the time as the Four Horsemen – he persuaded NASA to invest in the design of facilities to receive, characterize, distribute, analyze, and curate the Apollo lunar samples. The last of the Four Horsemen has moved on. 

     And multiple younger generations of Earth and planetary scientists continue building on the legacy of those who laid our field’s foundations. 

     The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences announced this week that three of its faculty members would receive promotions effective next month. Arlene Fiore and Maya Tolstoy have been promoted to full Professor, and Steve Goldstein has been named Higgins Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Kudos to Arlene, Maya, and Steve! 

     Kerstin Lehnert reports that six undergraduates from City College of New York are participating in an NSF-funded internship program ( this summer in Lamont’s Geoinformatics Research Group. As part of the Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance (IEDA), interns Asra Ismail, Robert Palumbo, and Cody Randel are digitizing and documenting data and samples that members of the Lamont community identified as being at risk, including Pierre Biscaye's global clay mineralogy data set, high-grade granulite samples acquired during the construction of NYC City Tunnel #3, and paleomagnetic data from ocean sediment cores (with assistance on these projects from Sid Hemming, CCNY’s Karin Block, and Dennis Kent, respectively). Interns Tola Alabi, Rafael Uribe, and Thomas Van Wert are helping to improve the IEDA Global Multi-Resolution Topography (GMRT) synthesis with LiDAR terrestrial survey data from the U.S. Geological Survey repository, and they will also prepare seismologically derived tomographic models from the IRIS Earth Model repository for inclusion in GeoMapApp. 

     On Monday, Cathleen Doherty successfully defended her thesis on “Multi-stage evolution of the lithospheric mantle in the West Antarctic Rift System – A mantle xenolith study.” Her thesis was completed under the supervision of Conny Class, and her committee included Steve Goldstein, Sid Hemming, Peter Kelemen, and Steve Shirey from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Congratulations, Dr. Doherty! 

     On Tuesday, Farhana Mather and I visited the Office of Alumni and Development to introduce senior staff members there to Farhana and to discuss the role of Lamont in the developing plans for Columbia’s Comprehensive Campaign. We met with Amelia Alverson, Executive Vice President for University Development and Alumni Relations; Ryan Carmichael, Deputy Vice President for Development; Brian Chapman, Executive Director for Analytics and Business Strategy; Joanna Hootnick, Executive Director for Campaign Planning and Analysis; and Louise Rosen, Deputy Vice President for Alumni Relations. I was also able to introduce Farhana briefly to Sonia Winner, Vice President for University Development, and Jerry Kisslinger, Deputy Vice President for Alumni and Development Strategic Communications. Earlier in the day, Farhana and I met over coffee with Lamont Alumni Board member Wendy David for an introduction and a discussion of Lamont’s marketing efforts. 

     Also on Tuesday, the June issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter ( was sent out to a broad distribution. The issue included links to eight stories from the last month, including the report by Juerg Matter, Martin Stute, and others of rapid mineralization of carbon dioxide pumped with water into subsurface basalts in Iceland; the work of Kevin Uno and his collaborators linking human evolution in East Africa to the spread of C4 grasslands; the evidence assembled by Beizhan Yan and coworkers that deep deposition of contaminants from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continued at least 5 months following capping of the wellhead; the studies by Marco Tedesco and colleagues on the effect of meltwater from southern Greenland on Atlantic Ocean circulation and on the causes of anomalous warming and melting in northern Greenland last summer; the demonstration by Gisela Winckler, Bob Anderson, and colleagues that Earth’s natural episodes of iron fertilization in the equatorial Pacific did not lead to enhanced phytoplankton productivity; the importance of Maurice Ewing’s policies of systematic data and sample collection and open data access to the ability of Lamont scientists to confirm and develop the tenets of plate tectonics theory; and the opening of nominations for the 2017 Vetlesen Prize. Links to news stories of Lamont science, blogs and videos by Lamont scientists, and upcoming events rounded out the issue. 

     On Wednesday, Lamont hosted the third Annual Blood Drive in memory of our friend and former colleague Gerry Iturrino. Angela Martin led the organizational efforts for the drive. She reports that from the 51 registered donors the New York Blood Center collected 49 pints of blood. She adds, “Each pint saves three lives. That being said, this group of wonderful people here at Lamont helped to save 147 people. A big, big thank you to all who made this a huge success. It is times like this when I feel very fortunate to be a part of the team here at Lamont, working amongst such giving and caring people.” 

     In the August 15 issue of Science of the Total Environment, Sara Flanagan, Steve Chillrud, Stuart Braman, Yan Zheng, and two colleagues from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection published the first in a series of papers on arsenic in New Jersey well water. The New Jersey Private Well Testing Act (PWTA) has required testing of private well water for arsenic levels in 12 counties since 2002. Sara and her coauthors have argued that the PWTA resulted in the identification and mitigation of a higher fraction of New Jersey’s wells than before the law went into effect, but more testing is warranted and would be encouraged by greater public awareness of the health issues involved. A David Funkhouser posted yesterday on our web site highlights a public information campaign in which Columbia University and Barnard College are major participants ( 

     Marco Tedesco’s paper on the record high temperatures and melt runoff in northern Greenland last summer and its possible link to Arctic amplification was mentioned in a Huffington Post blog yesterday ( And stories quoting Martin Stute on the implications for carbon capture and storage of the CarbFix pilot experiments in Iceland continued as recently as yesterday ( 

     Another weekend of pleasant weather is forecast for the New York City area. May you all find ways to enjoy it.