Lamont Weekly Report, December 18, 2020

     Hello Friends,  I hope all are enjoying the winter wonderland we now have, and possibly even the beautiful pink sunrise this morning.  A huge thanks to the B&G crew for snow removal and for working through the night Wednesday to clear the campus.  We have lots of interesting research news, as well as accomplishments, to celebrate this week, but it is important that I—we—step back for a moment and look at the big picture.  We have been fortunate to be in, physically or virtually, our Lamont campus bubble for many months now.  We have our jobs.  We have free access to testing.  We have been almost miraculously free of infections on campus.  Art and the COVID team keep us informed of key developments as they happen.  And yet, I know the world is pushing in at every turn, and that the long-term effect of all this stress and anxiety is brutal, on our bodies and minds.  Though an empty-nester, I can imagine how soul-crushingly difficult it must be to be shepherding children through the endless weeks of on and off-line schooling, all while worrying they might get sick and trying to work full-time.  I know the depressing and frustrating reality of having elderly parents who you can’t visit for fear of getting them sick.  I know that a number of Lamonters have lost their parents and loved ones and cannot even grieve properly.  And I definitely understand the endless grind of Zoom meetings that are such a poor substitute for having a face-to face conversation with someone.

     Please everyone, just keep hanging in there.  We will get through this.  Columbia University started distributing vaccines to patient-facing medical faculty and staff this week.  I was astonished to hear that, as of yesterday morning, over 2,600 members of the Columbia community had already been vaccinated.  This news is so encouraging!  Our employer is committed to vaccinating us all, as quickly as is humanly possible, and you can find an incredible amount of info on the FAQ Covid-19 Vaccine website at CU.  Please take extra special care of yourself on this final stretch. 

     I hope each and every one of you will come to the Holiday Party this afternoon.  Use the link in the email that comes from Directorate today!  Miriam and the Directorate have planned a special program which should be lovely and uplifting.  Don’t be a stranger—lots of people are going to have a lot to say.  And we’ll have a short concert.

    Winners!  We have ‘em!  Congratulations to the Mentoring Award (scientific) winner Dallas Abbott, nominated by Mike Kaplan, as well as to the Mentoring Award (technical/administrative) winner Nichole Anest, nominated by Clara Chang.  The inaugural winner of the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Award is graduate student Kailani Acosta, nominated by Jacky Austermann.  The campus is lucky to have such great leaders who have had such a positive influence on the lives of so many—please enjoy the prize money, a small token of our deep appreciation.  Thank you also to the selection committee including Kuheli Dutt, co-chair Jerry McManus (and last year’s recipient), Jean Hanley (also last year’s recipient), Christine Chesley, Henry Towbin, Jim Davis, Daniel Westervelt, Sheean Haley, Elisabeth Kago Nébié, and Renata Constantino.  Your service is appreciated.

     Lamont Research Professor Gisela Winckler was awarded the Excellence in Research Award (Petersen Exzellenz Professur) by the Petersen Foundation during a virtual award ceremony on Thursday. This prestigious award is particularly sweet, coming with a prize of 20,000 Euro, or slightly more than 1 Bitcoin.  Now that is quite a bit of holiday cheer!  Finally, Linette Sandoval-Rzepka, the Division Administrator for Marine Geology & Geophysics, is one of the recipients of this year’s Earth Institute distinguished staff award (which also comes with a “green” expression of appreciation).  Congratulations all!

     I participated in two major Alumni events this week.  The first was with Alex Halliday where we joined the Columbia Alumni Association’s Washington DC chapter for a discussion and Q+A on “Columbia University’s Climate School:  Engaging the World’s Future Now”.  The event was moderated by Andrew Freedman, the deputy weather editor of the Washington Post.  The second event was the annual Lamont Alumni Reception at AGU.  Of course, it was not at AGU this year, but rather was another on-line social event that was surprisingly less awkward than most!  It was great to see many familiar faces and old friends and I thank Alex, Jerry, Kuheli, Christa Farmer, Stacey Vassallo, and everyone else who participated for helping to make the event such a success.  I did hear that some people had difficulty entering the Zoom room and some even failed to gain access.  I am deeply sorry about that and we are doing a post-mortem, trying to figure out what happened.

     This week’s science round-up includes many terrific links below, including on nanolites (new to me), floods, fires, sea level and emissions.  As someone with a birthday coming up, I was particularly interested in learning what an Archaic Human was—I was relieved to discover I might just be approaching Ancient.  I was very happy to hear this week that Kuheli Dutt’s on-point and topical article “Race and Racism in the Geosciences” was the most highly read Nature Geoscience paper of 2020 and was viewed 57,000 times.  That is pretty incredible!  Though The Wall Street Journal really lowered its bar last week with its editorial taking Dr. Jill Biden to task for using her well-earned title of respect, it partially redeemed itself with a review of Marco Tedesco’s new book, The Hidden Life of Ice, which can be found here.  The editorial reminded me of an experience I had as a Lamont graduate student, in ancient times in NYC, which I tweeted about here.  It is important to celebrate how far we have come in making the sciences more inclusive, as well as focusing on how much is left to accomplish.

     Thank you to everyone who donated to the holiday fund for our dedicated Lamont bus drivers, cleaners, and security guards.  Please note you can still bring a donation to the security office by Monday the 21st.  Thanks to Jeff Turmelle for organizing! 

     Finally, two more shout-outs.  First, to Hannah Sweets, who is the focus of a staff spotlight which can be accessed here.  I love these.  Fun fact: Hannah began her career as a professional dancer, which brings to 3(?) the number of former professional dancers we have on campus?  And thank you Hannah for the incredible effort you are obviously giving to campus DEI issues as part of the Task Force.  Second, to former graduate student and now Barnard Assistant Professor Logan Brenner, as well as Lamont Research Professor Brad Linsley, for a recently published paper on the ever-topical debate of the presence/absence of the Younger Dryas event in the Southern Hemisphere (reported missing on the Great Barrier Reef).  Logan, as your former marine geology professor, your use of the word “chronozone” in your paper’s title made my stratigrapher’s heart skip a beat.

     I really hope I get this newsletter out before the holiday party!   Wishing you all a peaceful, safe weekend.









'Nanolites' Can Trigger Dangerous Volcanic Explosions

Scientific American

December 16, 2020

Article quotes Lamont volcanologist Einat Lev.


When Did Archaic Humans Control Fire?


December 15, 2020

Article on study led by Lamont paleontologist Kevin Uno.


Fire and Flood Menace Parts of US and Bangladesh

Climate News Network

December 14, 2020

Article on study led by Lamont Ph.D. Mukund P. Rao.


How Will Sea Levels Change with Climate Change?


December 13, 2020

Article quotes Lamont geophysicist Jacqueline Austermann.


Antarctica's Melting Ice Shelves Are Dangerous


December 12, 2020

Article on study led by Lamont climate scientist Ching-Yao Lai.


Examining Pandemic’s Impact on Emissions

NBC News

December 11, 2020

Interview with Lamont climate scientist Radley Horton.


Two Books on Travels in the New North

The Wall Street Journal

December 11, 2020

Article features book by Lamont polar scientist Marco Tedesco.




Spring 2021 Earth Institute Research Opportunities for Undergrads

December 16, 2020

Undergraduates from Columbia and Barnard will be able to work with distinguished faculty on research projects related to sustainable development and the environment.


Spring 2021 Earth Institute Internships

December 16, 2020

Eight opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and PhD students to intern in various departments and research centers across the Earth Institute.


Staff Member Spotlight: Hannah Adrienne Sweets, Data Manager

December 15, 2020

After following an exciting and unpredictable career path, Sweets is settling in as the data manager of a geoinformatics database at Lamont.