Lamont Weekly Report, October 16, 2020

     Hello Friends,  It seems like it has been a quiet week despite many Zoom meetings.  The other day I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how many Zoom meetings I’ve been in since the pandemic shut-down began and the number was over 1000.  I’m thinking of all the exercise I missed not walking to all those meetings around campus.  My step-counter is crying a river and my scale is letting out an evil chuckle.  However, my happy news is that the very best Zoom meeting of the entirety of the pandemic was yesterday – my graduate student Mike Sandstrom successfully and elegantly defended his PhD thesis entitled “Geochronology and reconstruction of Quaternary and Neogene sea-level highstands".  Mike, who started as a technician with me (having walked into a Lamont Open House hoping to find a job) and eventually became a Lamont graduate student, participated in and led numerous field expeditions in remote sectors of the Australian Outback and elsewhere during his time at Lamont.  He has transformed the way we measure ages of Miocene to Pliocene carbonate sequences on land and has produced some of the most impressive strontium isotope and U-series ages any of us have ever seen.  Kudos, Mike!  It has been a true honor and pleasure working with you over the last eight years and your contributions to life and science at Lamont have gone so far beyond your own research interests.  Sometimes scientists talk about their “scientific family tree”.  I got my PhD from Bill Ruddiman, who got his from Bruce Heezen – so, Mike, you are a fourth generation Lamont graduate!

     Please also join me in congratulating Genevieve Coffey who successfully defended her thesis entitled “Mapping earthquake temperature rise along faults to understand fault structure and mechanics” this afternoon.  This is indeed a great week at Lamont.  Genevieve pioneered a marriage of organic geochemistry and rock mechanics by using organic molecules to measure frictional heating in fault zones (mentored by another lovely marriage, Heather Savage and Pratigya Polissar).

     And speaking of all the wonderful mentors out there, please remember that we are still soliciting nominations for the Mentoring Award and the inaugural JEDI Award.  This year both awards will be reviewed by the Mentoring Award Committee. Please note the 16 November 2020 deadline. Due to the pandemic, all letters must be submitted electronically (emailed to Kuheli Dutt). Please indicate your nomination category, i.e. Mentoring-Scientific; Mentoring-Technical/Administrative; JEDI.  You can submit only one nomination letter per category, but there is no limit to how many supporting letters you can submit.

     While lying awake between my first and second sleep last night I was thinking about solar farms, phone systems, water main breaks, failing server facilities, and more.  I realized our Lamont campus is quite literally stuck at the boundary between 20th century technologies (land lines, natural gas, etc.) and the technologies and infrastructures of the 21st century.  We keep pumping money into repairs to keep our old campus systems running knowing we should be dumping the natural gas, the land lines, and other obsolete ways of building and operating.  But, of course, any major transition takes a major upfront investment.  Lamont is not alone in facing this challenge – indeed much of the world is stuck between the technologies of the industrial revolution and the available renewable, carbon-zero, efficient technologies of the future.  I don’t know how we will find the resources we need to make this transition, but it does comfort me to recognize that the challenge we face is bigger than just us – that it is shared globally.  We need to invent a widget or app that brings in hundreds of millions in royalties!

     Next week is Lamont Open House “At Home” Edition!  Follow the link and get the talks and panel discussions on your calendar.  In particular, a series of four Ted-style talks will be at 11am from Monday to Thursday given by Radley Horton, Einat Lev, Gisela Winkler and Kevin Uno.  As I write this missive, I’m admiring the kids’ activity envelope Cassie Xu and the team sent me in the mail – it is full of fun things like the recipe for Glacier Goo and a papercraft Thwaites Glacier field site.  While nothing can replace the sight of Marc Spiegelman jumping up and down in his bathtub of goo or Terry Plank exploding a garbage can, you might find the online escape room an engaging and distracting pastime next week.  And don’t forget to check out the online swag store for some new LDEO baseball caps.  Most of all, I’d like to thank this year’s Lamont Open House sponsors, including Frank Gumper, Florentin Maurrasse, and AllianceBernstein. Your support of Lamont’s research and teaching mission is deeply appreciated.

     I learned this week that the National Science Foundation is launching a new Ocean Sciences’ Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.  We should endeavor to bring this to the attention of top students nationally, students we would welcome advising and mentoring at Lamont.  Indeed, this could be a good program to keep in mind as we evaluate the applicants from our own postdoc competition pool.  I’d also like to give a special shout-out to one of our junior scientists—Associate Research Scientist Dan Westervelt was officially awarded a 3-year project funded by the US Department of State titled "International networking, knowledge sharing, and capacity building for improved air quality in four East African countries". The project seeks to support air pollution reduction in East Africa through training and capacity building, implementation of air quality management plans, and high-quality data collection. 

     Finally, I’ll wrap up by sharing an email request I received this morning, “Do you have observatory times or even better, [can I use] your telescope by the hour?”

     Loving it.  Have a restful and enjoyable weekend.  Best, Mo








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