Lamont Weekly Report, October 23, 2020

     Hello Friends,   What a fun week it has been!   Yesterday we wrapped up Lamont’s very first virtual Open House— “At Home” Edition—and it was nothing short of remarkable. While I’m sure many of us missed the excitement of our traditional in-person event, I was so impressed to see the range of offerings our Open House organizers put together. From the various K12 programming to the TED-style talks by our scientists, to the live panel discussions, to the fun, inventive videos and presentations. The event website had over 10,000 unique visitors and thousands of video views.  Silver linings, sow’s ears, and silk purses, what an example of making the very best opportunity from the terribly challenging time we are in right now.  

     Last night I finished watching the last of the four “TED” talks by Gisela Winckler, Radley Horton, Einat Lev, and Kevin Uno.  They were so great!  Gisela, I loved your climate change in twelve words message delivered in your usual all-business, authoritative manner.  Here it is folks: “It’s warming. It’s us. We’re sure. It’s bad. We can fix it.”  I do believe we can, and I bet others will too after hearing your talk.  I’d like to thank our Director of Strategic Communications Marie DeNoia Aronsohn for organizing the “TED-talk” effort, and I look forward to hearing more about the experience from the people involved—is this something we should do/invest in again? 

     My highlight of the week was hosting the alumni reception on Tuesday night.  It was great seeing old friends and connecting names with faces.  It was a pleasure to engage with you all and, especially, to meet Florentin Maurrasse for the first time who, along with Frank Gumper, was one of the very generous sponsors of Open House week.  Florentin received his Ph.D. from Lamont in 1973, coming out of the Core Laboratory as a micropaleontologist.  Indeed, it was fun hearing stories from the folks that were at Lamont in the 70s—a common theme was: arrived at Lamont, was put on ship, sailed the world, came back a scientist, changed my life.  There is a certain romance to that.

     Of course, many other participants and contributors made this week a success.  I have to thank all of the researchers and staff for their creativity and willingness to create videos and participate in Zooms from their homes and labs. I'd also like to congratulate the Open House Committee Jennifer Genrich, Adrienne Kenyon, Phebe Pierson, Sunghee Kim, Vilma Gallagher, David Phelan, Cassie Xu, Stacey Vassallo, Marie Aronsohn, and Marian Mellin. If you weren’t able to participate this week, the videos, the “Discover Lamont: A Virtual Science Adventure” game, and LDEO merch will continue to be available online.

     One last Open House happy moment….I loved seeing the Twitter pics of the kids building the papercraft Thwaites ice sheet and especially enjoyed the iceberg sinking the off-script, self-fabricated Titanic!

     Well the fun times keep coming—power up your Zelle, Paypal, Venmo, or checkbook because next Wednesday, October 28, is Columbia Giving Day, a 24-hour opportunity to come together and make the magic happen.  AKA helping to fuel discoveries about our planet that will inform solutions to Earth’s greatest challenges (my friend Peter deM inspired that sentence).  The really great news is that Lamont supporters Ed Botwinick and Vicki Brown have donated a $100,000 challenge match, the most generous matching challenge in Lamont’s history!  Ed and Vicki, your family’s support of Lamont is so appreciated and valued—that is coming from my heart.  For us, this means that every gift will have an even greater impact.  And, of course, I want to break any former giving day record because I’m a competitive over-achiever.  In other words, I hope everyone will visit the Lamont Giving Day page to learn more and show your support on October 28th.  And I will go sit at the feet of my Yoda (Meghan Fay) and learn more about how to fundraise.

     Truly we’re having a fun overload at Lamont right now.  Columbia's Giving Day selfie competition is in full swing in our inboxes and you may recall LAMONT WON last year.  Remember getting together on the soccer pitch for the drone shot?  Jonny Kingslake cheekily inquired of our COVID Czar Art Lerner-Lam if standing close together for 10 minutes while Nick gets another perfect drone shot would violate any rules.  Instead, Jonny and Nick will be using the requested selfie photos to make a montage, in some creative way that will surely dazzle downtown judges.  Apparently, we must all post on social media at the allotted time (9-10 pm ET on October 28)—I’m not exactly sure what that means and undoubtedly more details will come, but please do upload your pics here.  The more selfies, the better the mosaic. 

     In science news, comings and goings, Bridgit Boulahanis successfully defended her Ph.D. today on “Seismic studies of interactions between the accretionary, tectonic, fluid flow, and sedimentary processes that impact the evolution of oceanic lithosphere”. Bridgit is starting a job as a Data Scientist at a startup called Radish Fiction – a mobile fiction platform for serialized storytelling.  Wishing you the best Bridgit!  Steve Goldstein is also leaving us, though only temporarily and probably only virtually given the pandemic.  NSF just officially announced that Steve will be the Division Director of Earth Sciences effective November 9, 2020. Thank you, Steve, for your ongoing service to the geoscience community (and please send me my own proposals to review!).

     EGU awards and medals were announced this week and I am happy to announce that among the recipients were recent Lamont Post-doc Mark Hoggard (Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award in the Geodynamics Division) as well as Post-doc Michael Jollands (Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award in the Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Petrology & Volcanology Division).  I was also pleased to see that a colleague I nominated won the Milankovic Medal, Ayako Abe-Ouchi of the Univ. of Tokyo.  Miriam will add the Lamonters to our 2020 list of awardees on our website—it's a tight race between OCP and GEO this year!  Please let us know if we are missing anyone.

     I’ll wrap up by saying I hope this letter cheered you up a little.  I know how awful and stressful things are for us and our families.  If there is anything I can do, please reach out.  In the meantime, I’ll be continuing my news fast and looking forward to some quality time with pizza and Borat this evening.

     Wishing you a relaxing weekend, Mo







We Didn't Track Hurricanes Hundreds of Years Ago—But Trees Did

Popular Science

October 16, 2020

Article features work of Lamont tree ring scientists Nicole Davi and Edward Cook.


Nearly Half of the U.S. Is in Drought. It May Get Worse.

The New York Times

October 15, 2020

Article cites research by Lamont scientists Park Williams, Edward Cook, Jason Smerdon, Benjamin Cook, Kasey Bolles, Seung Baek, and colleagues.


Sediment Layers Pinpoint Periods of Climatic Change


October 14, 2020

Article quotes Lamont geologist Sidney Hemming.


Climate Change Is a Big Reason for Fires

Delta County Independent

October 14, 2020

Article quotes Lamont bioclimatologist Park Williams.




How a Turbulent Environment Sparked a Leap in Early Human Behavior

October 21, 2020

A new study suggests that a series of environmental changes in East Africa some 320,000 years ago challenged a previous long-standing way of life for proto-humans, and produced a more adaptable culture.


Break Codes, Solve Puzzles and Learn About Science in This Interactive Game

October 19, 2020

A new “escape room–like” game for kids and families offers a fun and puzzle-filled way to explore the discoveries taking place at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.


Pod of the Planet Ep. 11: Lamont’s Open House Goes Virtual

October 18, 2020

In this episode Marie DeNoia Aronsohn talks with Maureen Raymo, the interim director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, on her vision for the institution.