Lamont Weekly Report, March 24, 2017

    The week began with the vernal equinox on Monday. New York City weather did not seem to take notice.

    Franziska Landes and Carly Peltier learned recently that they will receive awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to conduct research abroad. Franziska’s award is in response to her proposal on “Deploying a new field kit to identify harmful lead levels in Peruvian communities,” and she will work with local health departments, primary caregivers, and local high schools to identify and map areas of high lead risk in Peruvian communities near mining sites. Carly’s successful research proposal will take her to Chile. Kudos to both Franziska and Carly!

    On Monday, I joined Earth Institute’s Executive Director Steve Cohen and Faculty Chair Michael Gerrard on another in the series of visits scheduled with deans and other academic administrators to discuss opportunities for strengthening ties with Lamont and other EI units. We visited Gillian Lester, Dean of the Columbia Law School. Discussions focused on opportunities to strengthen environmental law at Columbia and the growing role of that field in activities at the Earth Institute.

    At yesterday’s meeting of the Council of Deans, Provost John Coatsworth drew attention to a brief that Columbia University filed this week with the National Labor Relations Board regarding the recent election among university graduate students to seek union representation for teaching and research assistants. The brief was submitted in response to a judgment by a Hearing Officer earlier this month that none of the objections to the election process filed by the university in December warranted holding a new election. On the basis of the university’s latest brief, the NLRB will either certify the original election or order that a new election be held. Additional information on Columbia University’s position and actions on these matters can be found online (

    At the same meeting, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Chris Brown summarized a recent study of comparative salaries of tenured and tenure-track faculty on the Morningside campus by gender and by race, ethnicity, and citizenship. The study was a follow-up to a similar investigation completed in 2009. The study found no significant gender differential in salaries within individual academic units (in contrast to a 4% negative differential for women faculty in the 2009 study). Similarly, no significant disparities by race or ethnicity were found, but the study identified a significant negative differential for tenure-track faculty who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. On the whole, improvements in salary equity have occurred since the earlier study.

    A paper posted online by Earth and Planetary Science Letters this week by Yael Kiro, Steve Goldstein, Yochanan Kushnir, and colleagues from Spain and Israel reported thick halite deposits in a sediment core from the Dead Sea indicating severely arid conditions in the eastern Mediterranean during the last three interglacial periods. On the basis of chemical analyses of pore waters and halite fluid inclusions, modern salt and water budgets, and a mass balance model, Yael and her coworkers showed that the fresh water influx to the Dead Sea during these conditions was as low as 20% of modern values for periods of decades to centuries and generally lower than the present for periods of centuries to millennia. Because climate models predict increasing aridity in the area today, their work has implications for water management in this multi-national region. A Kevin Krajick release on the paper’s findings was posted on our web site Wednesday ( The story was picked up by International Business Times ( and other media.

    News coverage over the past week included an article in The Atlantic on the use of seafloor geophysical instruments to improve warning systems for submarine earthquakes and tsunamis (; author Sascha Brodsky visited Lamont’s ocean-bottom seismometer laboratory and interviewed Spahr Webb for the story. An Atlas Obscura article last Friday highlighted the work of Göran Ekström and Colin Stark on the seismic detection and characterization of landslides, particularly those in recently deglaciated, steeply sloping coastal valleys in Alaska, where large slides can generate huge tsunamis (

    On Wednesday to Friday next week, Lamont will host a Workshop on Scientific Exploration of SeisMicity and Stress (SEISMS) in the Monell Auditorium ( The goal of the workshop, jointly sponsored by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program and the Southern California Earthquake Center, is “to discuss the scientific merit and practical applications of a field-based investigation into the causes of induced seismicity.” Heather Savage leads an international organizing committee.

    In the meantime, the Earth Science Colloquium today will be given by geologist Carmala Garzione, Professor and Chair at the University of Rochester’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director of their Center for Energy and Environment ( Carmala will speak on “The tectonic evolution of the central Andean Plateau and geodynamic implications for the growth of plateaus.” If the pace of your work has reached a plateau this afternoon, I hope that you can join me for her talk.