Lamont Weekly Report, April 10, 2020

    The Lamont community was saddened this week by the news that Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences alumna Patience Cowie passed away on Tuesday. An expert in fault mechanics and a Professor of Earth System Dynamics at the University of Bergen, Patience obtained M.Sc. (1988), M.Phil. (1989), and Ph.D. (1992) degrees from Columbia, where she worked under the supervision of Chris Scholz. Prior to moving to the University of Bergen, she held a series of positions at the University of Edinburgh from 1993 to 2011. In 2016 Patience was awarded the Coke Medal by the Geological Society of London. The citation for that award reads, in part, “Patience Cowie’s research career has been outstanding from its outset: her seminal Ph.D. work, carried out with Chris Scholz at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, produced novel insights into the way faults grow and interact, and explained the physical mechanisms behind fault linkage and the reason why fault displacement-length scaling occurs in natural systems. Subsequent work … sought to explain the growth histories of normal faults, the development and significance of fault damage zones, and the implications of this for fault spacing and slip-rate enhancements in interacting arrays. During the next two decades, Patience broadened her research to address the role of active faults in landscape evolution and the way faults control the locus, routing, and architectures of sedimentary deposits and river long-profiles. Patience’s research is characterized by deep clarity of thought and represents a judicious combination of numerical modelling, seismic analysis, and field observation. It has been so extensively cited … because it exerts explanatory power across many fields, including geophysics, structural geology, rock mechanics, and active tectonics.” Jerry McManus recalled yesterday, “Patience was my first-ever office mate as a grad student at Lamont, and she remained a role model and inspiration for me throughout her career.”

    In better news, the results of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship competition announced last week included four students who recently accepted admission to the DEES Ph.D. program. Honorable Mentions were awarded to Sarah Elizabeth Smith, a graduate of Columbia’s M.A. Program in Climate and Society who plans to work at Lamont with Yutian Wu and Mingfang Ting, and Tessa Walther, who will receive an M.S. in Earth and Climate Science from the University of Maine and will work at Lamont with Nicolás Young. Fellowship recipients include Jasper Baur, a Geology major at SUNY Binghamton who will work at Lamont with Einat Lev, and Casey Brayton, a Marine Science major at the University of South Carolina who plans to work at Lamont with Jacky Austermann, Robin Bell, Jonny Kingslake, and Kirsty Tinto. To our imminent colleagues Sarah, Tessa, Jasper, and Casey, congratulations!

    The R/V Marcus Langseth this week completed all planned hydrographic surveys on its current cruise in the South Pacific. After a brief stopover in American Samoa next week to pick up provisions and several delayed shipments, the ship will embark on a three-week transit to Newport, Oregon.

    On Wednesday, I joined a Zoom briefing by the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Sciences Division on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on NSF-supported scientific programs and oceanographic facilities. The briefing was given by Division Director Terry Quinn and Bob Houtman, Head of the Integrated Programs Section, and was hosted by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Most research vessels in the U.S. academic fleet (other than the Langseth) have been tied up since mid-March and will remain so at least through June, and oceanographic expeditions originally planned for this calendar year are being rescheduled for later in the year or for 2021. The division is expecting that many agency-funded science projects will need supplemental funding to complete the work for which their grant was originally awarded. Whereas proposals for such supplements are normally funded out of the division’s science programs, the much greater number of supplemental funding proposals expected once universities and research centers open fully will require additional support from the foundation.

    Lamont’s Education and Outreach Office this week launched a new online video series, Earth Institute Live. The series consists of 60-minute videos targeting K-12 students and educators and featuring experts from across the Earth Institute discussing and demonstrating aspects of their work. Monday’s video, the first in the series, has been posted online. Future videos in the series will feature Elizabeth Case, Genevieve Coffey, Sheean Haley, Jonny Kingslake, Cari Leland, and Laurel Zaima.

   For another week, Lamont scientists were cited in media stories on the impact of coronavirus-induced sheltering in place on the emission of greenhouse gases and other atmospheric pollutants, including Dan Westervelt in a New York Daily News story on Monday and a Nature story yesterday, Wade McGillis in an article Monday on, and Róisín Commane in a Scientific American article on Tuesday. The findings from last week’s paper by Ruth Oliver, Natalie Boelman, and colleagues on the impact of climate change on the migratory schedules of American robins were the subject of stories in Newsweek last Friday and Inside Climate News on Tuesday. Jason Smerdon was quoted in a Bloomberg story Tuesday on the uneven response of the American populace to the recent recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wear face masks in public during the coronavirus outbreak. A Rebecca Fowler interview of Kevin Uno on the project for which he was named a Center for Climate and Life Fellow last year was added to our web page yesterday. And posted today in Eos is an obituary for Walter Pitman, written as a tribute to the man and his scientific impact by three of his former students and Lamont colleagues: Bernard Coakley, now at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; Steve Cande, recently retired from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and John LaBrecque, now affiliated with the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas, Austin.

    After four weeks of sheltering in place for most of the Lamont campus community, may all of you remain healthy and as productive as current conditions will allow.