Lamont Weekly Report, April 25, 2014


   This week included Earth Day ( ), and many of us on campus tipped our collective hats in celebration of our planet. For the occasion, our Campus and Life Committee organized a weeklong office cleaning and recycling program, a yoga class on Tuesday to collect donations to the New York Fresh Air Fund, and bike-to-work events from Nyack and Manhattan this morning that ended in breakfast at the Lamont Café. 

   Last Friday afternoon, Anna Foster successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis, written on the topic of “Surface-wave propagation and phase-velocity structure from observations on the USArray Transportable Array.” Congratulations, Dr. Foster!
   The Vetlesen Prize, established in 1959 by the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and administered by Lamont, is awarded every several years for scientific achievement that has resulted in a clearer understanding of the Earth, its history, or its relation to the universe. The prize, which consists of a medal and a cash award of $250,000, will next be given in 2015. An invitation to submit nominations for the prize appeared in Tuesday’s issue of Eos , and individual invitations were sent electronically to hundreds of senior Earth scientists on the same day ( ).
   On Thursday, Lamont’s Integrated Earth Data Applications facility hosted an Earth Institute workshop on research data management planning and proposals. Co-hosted by Columbia’s Center for Digital Research and Scholarship and Columbia Libraries/Information Services, the workshop addressed data management challenges and plans to address those challenges for individual projects.
   Also on Thursday, Art Lerner-Lam, Kathy Callahan, Edie Miller, and I joined the Earth Institute’s Jeff Sachs, Steve Cohen, and others at a meeting with Columbia University Provost John Coatsworth, Executive Vice President for Finance Ann Sullivan, and their staff to present an overview of the fiscal year 2015 budget for the Earth Institute and the Lamont Campus. In the Observatory’s budget for the coming year, expected resources match outlays, but we face longer-term challenges to balance income and expenditure for the Lamont Research Professor program and to address urgent campus infrastructure needs.
   Yesterday evening, Hugh Ducklow delivered the second of this spring’s Lamont Public Lectures ( ) on the topic of the “Western Antarctic Peninsula: Rapid climate change and an ecosystem near a tipping point.” Scheduled in Low Library as a contribution to Columbia University’s Earth Week, an audience of more than 100 were treated to stories of krill, Adélie penguins, and their coupled fate as the Palmer Station area of Antarctica experiences the most rapid known increase in atmospheric temperature on the planet.
   In the news this week, Art Lerner-Lam appeared on ABC’s Katie Couric Show in a segment Monday on the tragic landslide in Oso, Washington ( ). Also on Monday, the MESSENGER spacecraft notched its 3000 th orbit of Mercury ( ), and Jason Smerdon was quoted in a Climate Central story on the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide through the 400 parts-per-million level ( ). In a counterpoint to the latter article, Peter Kelemen was quoted the next day, also in Climate Central , on the readiness of technologies for atmospheric carbon dioxide capture and storage ( ). An article yesterday in Dallas Magazine describes John Armbruster’s work on earthquake activity induced by the injection of wastewater into oil and gas wells ( ).
   On Monday afternoon next week, Columbia’s Prize Postdoctoral Fellow in the Natural Sciences, Carla Staver, will be giving a 4 pm colloquium in the Ivy Lounge at Faculty House. Her presentation will be on the topic of “Positive feedbacks and the global distribution of biomes” ( ). A research social hosted by Mike Purdy, Amber Miller (Dean of Science), Shih-Fu Chang (Senior Vice Dean in the School of Engineering and Applied Science), and Robert Kass (Vice Dean for Research in the College of Physicians and Surgeons) will follow in the Presidential Room. All researchers on the Lamont campus are invited to both events.
   This afternoon, we will be treated to the possibility of a biome well removed from our globe. Robert Pappalardo ( ), a Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will be speaking on “The geology of Europa: Exploring a potentially habitable ocean world.” If you long for the days when ice once covered much of our planet, Europa may be the solar system body for you. I hope to see you there.