Lamont Weekly Report, February 19, 2021

     Hello Friends,  This week’s science stories were all about dams and dinosaurs, including Adjunct Senior Research Scientist Dennis Kent’s work unraveling the mysterious movements of our sauropodian friends across Pangea and across the Mesozoic.  Perhaps you didn’t know that the non-descript small white building behind the Core Repository building is actually one of the leading centers of paleomagnetic research in the nation, with a history of transformative research reaching back decades.

     A big congratulations this week goes to DEES Assistant Professor Jacky Austermann who has been selected as a 2021 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Earth System Science. Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 early-career scientists “in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field”.  Marie wrote a lovely article to commemorate Jacky’s accomplishment here, topped by a great photo of Jacky sampling Eemian fossil reefs in Barbados.  Those same samples are being dated in Comer as I write this.

     Other honors this week go to graduate student Bar Oryan who received the news that he was selected for AGU Outstanding Student Presentation Award (OSPA) for the work he did with Lamont Research Professor Mike Steckler.  The subject of his presentation was “The Indo-Burma Detachment Geometry Constrained by an Updated Vertical and Horizontal GPS Velocity Field in Bangladesh.”  The OSPA honors are awarded for the most exceptional presentations during AGU’s Fall Meetings.  Congratulations Bar!  And another one of our early career researchers, Associate Research Scientist Dan Westervelt, was appointed as an affiliate faculty member of the Columbia University Data Science Institute. He will work with the Center for Smart Cities and Education working groups and is part of the “Data for Good” initiative. 

     We get spoiled at Lamont by the weekly parade of stimulating and thought-provoking talks and seminars available to us.  Mostly they concern scientific research, but many also delve into cross-cutting themes in the sciences.  This week I was particularly influenced by a talk in our BPE seminar by MIT’s Dr. Gabi Serrato, “Expanding Access for Disabled Geoscientists.”  If you missed it you can check out the recording here; or dip into her slides which have a very helpful tutorial, Disability 101, and can be viewed here.  All will inform our ongoing efforts to build a more accessible campus and culture at Lamont.

    Speaking of talks, I heard yesterday that there are still slots available to hear one of my favorite billionaires, Mr. Bill Gates, speak next week.  SIPA’s Center on Global Energy Policy is hosting a webinar with Gates about climate change on Tuesday, February 23, at 2:30pm. “In A Conversation with Bill Gates: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Gates will discuss his new book and its plan on how to avoid a climate catastrophe.”  I already have my copy in hand and plan to cuddle up on the couch this weekend for a nice long read.

    This week I sent out an email to congratulate long-serving members of our community for ten years of service at Columbia University. These decennial colleagues are: Billy D’Andrea, Indrani Das, Jim Davis, Jean Economos, Joaquim Goes, Helga Gomes, Martin Klein, Howard Koss, Eric Malikowski, George Milly, Frances Simpson, Kirsteen Tinto, and Qiang Yang. The traditional luncheon awaits in our post-pandemic world!  I will join not just as host, but also as another decadatarian (I just made that word up)—I don’t think HR realizes that I was a technician for 14 months prior to becoming a graduate student in 1983 and later returning in 2011.  The 2019 Honorees will also be in attendance.  And the great news is that Lamont’s annual entertainment budget is FAT and HAPPY.  Bring on the champagne!

    Speaking of happy budget news, this week we had our annual budget meeting where the Associate Directors and administrators in each division come together with the central financial team at Lamont (led by the Marvelous Mrs. Miller) to assemble our initial budget projections for the upcoming fiscal year (which, for the budgetary newbies out there, starts on July 1 at CU).  Many of the scientists already know about this process, having already been asked for their grants, funding, and personnel support projections for the upcoming year.  I can report that the news is good!  For the first time in eight years, we are projecting growth – approximately 5%.  Given that this exercise is typically very conservative, this is excellent and optimistic news for Lamont.  Let us all hope that better days lie ahead.  Our advocates in D.C., Joel Widder and Meg Thompson of Federal Science Partners, tell me that the Director of NSF, Sethuraman Panchanathan (or “Panch” as he is known), is actively campaigning for a dramatic increase in the NSF budget supporting increases in both award size and length (5 years vs 3 years—oh happy days, wouldn’t that be great?).  And of course, much investment will be happening around climate and sustainability across the federal government, areas where our fundamental research will be crucial in making sound decisions and investments.  Now is a time for us to be optimistic and ambitious.

    In closing, I’ll share a haiku – thank you to my Aunt Anne for the poem, Snowflake Bentley for the science, and the hard-working team in B&G for keeping our campus open and safe.

    When shoveling snow

    It’s helpful to remember

    No two are alike

    Have a peaceful weekend.  









Dinosaurs Went from South America to Greenland Thanks to Less CO2

Europa Press

February 16, 2021

Article on study by Lamont paleomagnetist Dennis Kent and colleague.


Climate Change 200 Million Years Ago Helped Dinosaurs Walk from South America to Greenland, Study Suggests


February 15, 2021

Article on study by Lamont paleomagnetist Dennis Kent and colleague.


Himalayan Disaster Explained


February 15, 2021

Article quotes Lamont geochemist Joerg Schaefer and cites research by Schaefer, Lamont Ph.D. students Josh Maurer and Joshua Russell, climate geologist Nicolás Young, and colleagues.


Huge Dip in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide 200 Million Years Ago May Have Helped Dinosaurs Migrate from South America to Greenland by Changing the Climate

Daily Mail

February 15, 2021

Article on study by Lamont paleomagnetist Dennis Kent and colleague.


Drop in CO2 Helped Dinosaurs Migrate from South America to Greenland


February 15, 2021

Article on study by Lamont paleomagnetist Dennis Kent and colleague.


Uttarakhand Dam Disaster: What Caused India's Deadly Flood?

Sky News

February 11, 2021

Article cites research by Lamont Ph.D. student Joshua Maurer, geochemist Joerg Schaefer, and colleagues.




Jacqueline Austermann: Exploring the Deep Earth, Modeling Future Sea Level

February 16, 2021

She studies Earth’s past warm periods to try to understand the future, and was just named a 2021 Sloan Research Fellow.


CO2 Dip May Have Helped Dinosaurs Walk From South America to Greenland

February 15, 2021

A new study identifies a climate phenomenon that may have helped sauropodomorphs spread northward across the Pangea supercontinent.


Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

February 11, 2021

In honor of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, meet just a few of the extraordinary women scientists of Lamont.


Angelica Patterson: The ‘Shotgun Scientist’ Studying How Forests Respond to Climate Change

February 11, 2021

The doctoral candidate tells us about her research and some the challenges of being a woman of color in the sciences.


At the Intersection of Hudson River Microbiology and Environmental Justice with Elise Myers

February 11, 2021

She’s trying predict fecal bacteria contamination of the river, and researching how environmental degradation disproportionately harms disadvantaged communities.


Video: Meet Some of The Incredible Women Scientists of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

February 11, 2021

These women are helping to unravel the mysteries and mechanics of Earth.