Lamont Weekly Report, August 31, 2018

    Lamont was saddened to learn this week that petrologist and long-time Lamont staff member John Longhi passed away last week. John earned his Ph.D. in 1976 from Harvard University, where he worked in the lab of Jim Hays, along with fellow students Dave Walker, Ed Stolper, Tim Grove, and others on melting relations in basaltic systems and lunar basalts in particular. After postdoctoral positions at MIT and the University of Oregon, John spent eight years on the faculty at Yale University before moving to Lamont in 1988, first as an Associate Research Scientist and later as Doherty Senior Research Scientist and Lamont Research Professor. Dave forwarded a brief write-up that he received from John’s wife, Terry (but written by John, Dave said): “John was born in White Plains, New York, raised in Larchmont, New York, and lived most of his adult life in Hamden, Connecticut. Following his graduation from Notre Dame with a BS in geology, John entered the Peace Corps and served in Kenya for more than two years, where he met and married Tess, a nurse volunteer, who had a smile that could light up a room. While in Kenya, John designed and supervised construction of rural water supplies. Upon returning to the USA, John and Tess moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Tess worked as a visiting nurse and gave birth to a baby girl, Sarah…John had a successful career as a research scientist, especially at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, where he worked on increasing our understanding of the origin of the chemical variation in lavas on Earth, the Moon, and meteorite parent bodies. John’s career and life were shortened by advancing Parkinson’s disease. He will be remembered for his calm disposition and timely sense of humor.”

    Even as we pause to remember a friend and former colleague, our attention is directed as well to the many changes that have occurred at the Observatory during the last week of the academic summer calendar.

    Atmospheric chemist Róisín Commane joined the Lamont campus full time this week as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Róisín’s research program addresses the impact of biogenic processes on atmospheric trace gas concentrations. She uses atmospheric and remote sensing observations in a modeling framework to quantify carbon fluxes and the budgets of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases, as well as the processes governing the exchange of these species among reservoirs in terrestrial ecosystems, oceans, and the atmosphere. Róisín holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Leeds, and for the past six years she’s been a Postdoctoral Fellow and a Research Associate in Steve Wofsy’s lab at Harvard University.

    The Marine Geology and Geophysics Division recently welcomed Shujie Wang as a new Postdoctoral Research Scientist. Shujie received her Ph.D. in geography and geographic information science from the University of Cincinnati earlier this year, with a thesis on the dynamics and stability of the ice-shelf–glacial system along the eastern Antarctic Peninsula. At Lamont Shujie will work with Marco Tedesco and collaborators at the University of Michigan and University of Montana on the nature of surface impurities on the Greenland ice sheet and glaciated regions of Mars, their signature in hyperspectral reflectance data, and their role in influencing ice-sheet albedo in climate models.

    As if to level the balance beam that tracks our cadre of postdoctoral scientists, this week was also the last at Lamont for Megan Newcombe. After spending two and a half years in our Geochemistry Division, Megan is moving to the Washington, D.C., area for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, following which she will begin an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Geology at the University of Maryland, College Park (

    The campus hosted two successful Ph.D. thesis defenses this week. On Monday, Madeleine Pascolini-Campbell defended her thesis on “Variability of hydroclimate in the North American Southwest: Implications for streamflow, the spring dry season and ecosystems” before a committee that included her advisor, Richard Seager, as well as Ben Cook, Mingfang Ting, Michael Puma from the Center for Climate Systems Research, and Balaji Rajagopalan from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Two days later, Olivia Clifton defended her thesis on “Constraints on ozone removal by land and implications for 21st Century ozone pollution.” Her committee included her supervisor, Arlene Fiore, as well as Kevin Griffin, Richard Seager, Pierre Gentine from the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, and Larry Horowitz from the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

    Both Madeleine and Olivia have positions awaiting them. Madeleine will be heading to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to take up a postdoctoral position with their satellite groundwater measurement team. Olivia has received an Advanced Study Program postdoctoral fellowship at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where she plans to work on processes driving variability in the terrestrial ozone sink.

    To Drs. Pascolini-Campbell and Clifton: Congratulations!

    On Monday, Nicole deRoberts joined the Lamont Directorate as Executive Assistant to the Director. Nicole received a B.S. degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University in 2010, after which she worked in the medical and water quality industries for five years. Since 2015, Nicole has been the Senior Research Staff Assistant in the Organic Geochemistry Laboratory managed by Pratigya Polissar and Billy D’Andrea. Her change in positions at Lamont contributes toward her long-term goal to pursue a career in outreach or development. On your next visit to the Monell Building, please join me in welcoming her to her new position!

    Elections for officers of the American Geophysical Union for the 2019-2020 biennium opened on Monday and will remain open for four weeks. Suzana Camargo is running as a candidate for Secretary of the Natural Hazards Section, and Suzanne Carbotte is a candidate for Secretary of the Tectonophysics Section. I hope that those of you who are AGU members will consider supporting your campus colleagues with your vote. On the basis of elections two years ago, Bob Anderson will be President of the Ocean Sciences Section in the coming biennium, Kerstin Lehnert will continue as a member of the AGU Board of Directors, and Robin Bell will be AGU President.

    On Wednesday, the Lamont campus was visited by philanthropist Frank Pao, chairman of Atlantis Energy Systems, director at JPods, Inc., and president of E&F Realty. Frank learned about the Earth Institute, Lamont, and several of our respective research programs during two meetings I attended along with Alex Halliday, Art Lerner-Lam, Meghan Fay, Dave Goldberg, Peter Kelemen, Pat O’Reilly, and Ashley Sheed; Michael Puma from the Center for Climate Systems Research; and Keely Henderson, Vijay Modi, and Huiming Yin from the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Pat led a tour of the Lamont campus and the Hudson River Field Station; Peter and Dave discussed Lamont’s efforts in subsurface carbon capture and storage in Peter’s lab; and Heather Savage, Ted Koczynski, and Rob Skarbek hosted a tour of the rock mechanics laboratory.

    A Patch Network story Wednesday on New Rochelle’s elementary-school science coordinator Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn and her appointment as editor of the National Science Teachers Association’s journal Science and Children, mentions the two summers that Elizabeth spent working in Lamont’s Tree-Ring Laboratory ( Brendan Buckley writes, “Elizabeth worked with me for a couple of summers as part of a program that Jay Dubner ran with K-12 science teachers. She was great and worked with me on Vietnam tree core samples. We even have a poster that she did for Open House one year.”

    Also on Wednesday, one of the several oppressively hot and humid days in the New York City area this week, Radley Horton was asked by CBS affiliate WLNY what the impact of climate change will be on the frequency of excessively hot and humid summer days a decade or two from now ( His answer will encourage southern hemisphere fieldwork during future northern summers.

    In the meantime, for at least the first two days of the three-day weekend ahead, afternoon temperatures are not predicted to foreshadow climate change, so I hope that everyone will make the most of their time before classes begin next Tuesday.