Lamont Weekly Report, May 10, 2019

    Signs this week that the academic year is drawing to a close at American universities included the last day of classes at Columbia on Monday, the start of Columbia’s final exam period today, and the fact that I have been off campus all week to attend the college graduation of a grandson yesterday. Because of that last milestone, this Weekly Report is shorter than its usual length.

    Last Friday, Nature Communications published a paper by Brad Linsley, Emilie Dassié, Logan Brenner, and their collaborators on the sensitivity of the carbon isotope systematics in reef-building corals to coral growth rate and changing water depth. From samples of Porites from Fiji, Tonga, Rarotonga, and American Samoa, the team documented an inverse relationship between the 13C/12C ratio and skeletal extension rate over the last several centuries, although a breakdown in the relation in the 1950s is attributable to increased atmospheric levels of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, which is depleted in heavy carbon. Brad and his colleagues also showed from global data that heavy carbon varies inversely with water depth, a result attributable to an isotopic sensitivity to endosymbiotic photosynthesis. This last result provides a basis for improving estimates of past sea level from coral isotopic measurements.

    On Wednesday, Steven Jaret, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History, hosted a two-hour workshop on Science Communication. The workshop was the brainchild of organizers Clara Chang and Miranda Cashman. Clara reported that workshop attendees included faculty members, technical staff, and students. She added, “Everyone who attended was an active participant in this hands-on workshop. We had a good, lively discussion about science communication and the skills that are necessary to work on as scientists sharing our work.”

    In celebration of Mother’s Day this coming weekend, Nicole deRoberts has written a story on the challenges of balancing the demands of a career in scientific research with those of raising children, with a focus on Christine McCarthy as a scientist–mother who has recently faced and is meeting those challenges (

    In the media this week, Jason Smerdon was interviewed by KTOO, an educational radio station in Juneau, Alaska, on the implications of climate models and tree-ring records of paleoclimate for a near-term Alaskan climate involving higher rates of precipitation and more seasonal variability ( Andy Juhl was quoted in a story today in The Journal News on the unusually high pollution levels in Sparkill Creek, dubbed “the shame of the Hudson” in the article (

    The Earth Science Colloquium this afternoon will feature Lamont’s own Paul Richards, who will be speaking on “Recent progress in seismic monitoring of earthquakes and nuclear explosions, and some of what we have learned.” That the development, testing, and proliferation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems do not fill the front pages of The Times as often as they once did does not lessen the importance of these topics for humanity’s future, and Paul is conversant with this subject to a degree unmatched in academia. I hope that you can come to Monell to hear “some of what we have learned.”