Lamont Weekly Report, August 14, 2020

     Hello Friends,  Black Lives Matter.  If you click on those words you will be taken to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s statement on our commitment to anti-racism and institutional change.  As we strive to create a progressive, anti-racist, inclusive community at Lamont, we must each uphold the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our daily practices.  Lamont has already begun to take concrete steps to embed anti-discriminatory actions and protocols within our existing academic and research infrastructures. These include ongoing efforts to increase diversity in our speaker pool; making more aggressive attempts to recruit under-represented minorities to our faculty and staff; and, through DEES, eliminating test requirements and wording that has been shown to discourage minority applicants to our graduate student pool. These actions have been taken on top of the numerous and impactful programs Kuheli Dutt and colleagues have enacted over the last few years. However, these actions are just the tip of the iceberg and, as said in the statement, we simply must do better.

     Invoking a cliché, it takes a village. For instance, the Earth Institute has announced that a post-doctoral fellowship competition targeting under-represented minorities will open on August 24th.  With 169 PhD-level scientists working at Lamont and dozens of grad students, each one of us should be interrogating our memory banks and professional networks to identify potential candidates that, with one well-worded email, we could encourage to apply.  The same is true for our own annual postdoc competition and, indeed, for any advertised position at Lamont.  Here are three of my favorite hashtags, all relevant here:  #StrongerTogether, #EverForward, #TheFutureIsNow.  Let’s work together to change the status quo.

     I also want to say that the impetus for the Anti-Racism statement came in no small part from our graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, and early career researchers.  I am grateful for their passion and commitment to this issue.  They passed a draft statement to the DEI Task Force, who then passed a draft to the Directorate who, with minor modifications, published the statement yesterday.  Thank you also to my fellow Lamont leadership for their partnership in this important statement.  We hope that we are all one with this statement and together can build a stronger, more impactful Lamont that is better able to address the profound challenges society now faces in its fraught relationship with Mother Earth.


LDEO gender and diversity data provided by Kuheli and based on 2020 personnel records


     Speaking of it-takes-a-village, our 2020 “Summer-of-COVID” interns gave their final project presentations, on Zoom, this past Tuesday.  Thank you to all the mentors (seven research scientists, four DEES professors, eight Lamont research professors, three graduate students, and four postdoctoral scientists) who spent the time to make this a unique, often life-changing experience for each undergraduate.  From program co-Director Dallas Abbot: “Thirty-three undergraduate students presented their research in slide and poster presentations in the first ever virtual LDEO Summer Intern program. As usual, projects spanned a wide range of disciplines across the Observatory. Although not the same as an in-person program, a virtual summer research experience allowed interns to participate from far-away places, including Singapore, Ghana, Puerto Rico, and across the western United States. Interns overcame many obstacles to succeed: intermittent and slow home internet, intermittent access to data due to UNI turnoffs, a regional power failure six days before final presentations, and learning new techniques largely on their own.”  Dallas, co-Director Mike Kaplan, and I want to particularly thank graduate students Clara Chang and Sean Kinney for their incredible contributions to the success of the program.  Kudos Repo peeps!

     One part of the program that I found inspiring (geeking out on logistics here) was that we were given permission to buy computers (four) and computer supplies for the interns based on surveyed needs (using the money saved on housing, travel, etc.).  Lamont’s IT group helped with deciding the criteria for adequate computing and internet access and finding students the lowest cost equipment. They also found online methods to evaluate the student’s internet adequacy.  In addition to Mahdad’s IT group, thanks go to Karen Hoffer in purchasing who was invaluable in helping to level the playing field on computers and internet access across the student cohort.  In summary from Mike Kaplan: “Everyone did great, just like in a normal summer!”

     In other news, Lamont Research Professor Marco Tedesco is running for the Columbia Faculty Senate.  From Marco: “I have noticed that, as of now, there is no representation of Earth Sciences in general and of Lamont more specifically. I think it is important to have our seat in the Senate as a “field”, especially in view of how things might evolve with the Climate School”. The Faculty Senate makes policy on a range of issues including educational programs, budgets, academic freedom and tenure, research conduct, information technology, Columbia's external relations, rules governing political demonstrations, and the welfare of faculty, students, and research officers.  Having a Lamont representative on this important committee would be excellent.  Thank you for taking this on Marco—I’d say a vote for Marco is a vote for Lamont! 

     Lastly, as we head into the weekend and give our brains an opportunity to recover from Zoom fatigue, please don’t forget to register for next Tuesday’s Summer Stars Lecture featuring Hope Jahren and her talk "Be as a Tree Planted by the Waters: The Magic of Roots, Leaves, and Everything in Between. You can register here.  As a junior woman scientist Hope won both the AGU Macelwane and the GSA Donath Medals, a singular achievement and a testament to her creativity and spark.  As a senior scientist Hope has morphed into one of the most respected science writers in the nation with her debut book Lab Girl landing on both the NYTimes bestseller and Barack Obama’s summer reading lists.  Everyone at Lamont should feel welcome to attend this non-technical talk.  Please come be inspired and join me in welcoming Hope to Lamont. 

     Have a peaceful weekend.   Mo








Marie Tharp’s Maps Revolutionized Our Knowledge of the Seafloor
The Washington Post
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Article features pioneering Lamont geologist Marie Tharp.

Enhancing the Impact of Well Testing for Fluoride
ArcGIS StoryMaps
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Story map co-authored by Lamont geochemist Lex van Geen.

40 Years Ago, the Titanic Was Found, and Lost
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Article on expedition co-led by Lamont oceanographer Bill Ryan.

Greenland Ice Sheet: Indian-Origin Scientist to Lead Drilling Project to Understand Ice Sheet Bedrock
Financial Express
August 5, 2020
Article on research co-led by Lamont geochemist Joerg Schaefer.

La Geologa: 'La Terra Si Riscalderà Ancora. Va Tolto il Carbone dalla Nostra Economia'
La Repubblica
August 5, 2020
Interview with Lamont interim director Maureen Raymo by Lamont polar scientist Marco Tedesco.




Treading on Shrinking Ice
August 11, 2020
In a new book, glaciologist Marco Tedesco takes the reader on a personal journey through his sometimes dangerous work.

Double Trouble: The Importance of Thinking About Compound Risk
August 11, 2020
Compound risk — when multiple risks occur simultaneously, or one after another — was the topic of a recent discussion as part of the Resilience Media Project, a part of the Initiative on Communication and Sustainability at the Earth Institute.

Stronger Rains in Warmer Climate Could Lessen Heat Damage to Crops, Says Study
August 10, 2020
Intensified rainstorms predicted for many areas in the United States as climate warms could more efficiently water some major crops, which would at least partially offset projected yield declines caused by rising heat itself.