Lamont Weekly Report, January 29, 2021

     Hello Friends,  Welcome to what promises to be a very cold weekend.  Let’s break out our Bernie-gear and reflect on the fun we had with the many Bernie mitten memes circulated over the last week.  My favorite was the one of Bernie sitting, alone, in front of his poster in the cavernous AGU Poster Hall.  Too funny.

     I am happy to announce that Lamont-Doherty Senior Research Scientist Dr. Vicki Ferrini was selected as one of inaugural Explorers Club 50, Fifty People Changing the World that You Need to Know About. This initiative aims “to recognize and amplify 50 remarkable explorers changing the world and extend the meaning and impact of exploration.” Despite the accomplishments of Marie Tharp and others, humanity still knows more about the surface of the Moon than we do the seafloor. Vicki is on a mission to change that and her work is focused on mapping our vastly underexplored global oceans, a crucial step to saving them from escalating environmental threats and preserving ocean health for future generations.  Vicki was selected from over 400 nominations from 48 countries in a program established to not only reflect the great diversity of exploration, but also to give a voice to trailblazing explorers, scientists, and activists doing incredible work.

     A few more details about what our colleague Vicki is doing—she has the aspirational goal to chart the entire accessible part of the ocean floor to a resolution of 100 meters or better by 2030. When she began this project in 2017, only about 6-percent of the ocean was mapped in accurate detail.  By this past summer, Vicki and colleagues had mapped a full one-fifth of the seafloor. Among Vicki’s additional distinctions: NOAA has appointed her to the Ocean Exploration Advisory Board; she was co-convener of the 2017 National Ocean Exploration Forum - "Exploration in a Sea of Data"; and she also contributes to the US Deep Submergence community as the first ever Data Manager for the National Deep Submergence Facility at Woods Hole where she was an active member of their oversight committee.   Vicki is an extraordinary maverick of exploration continues to build upon our global legacy of breakthrough discovery in the world’s oceans.  Congratulations Vicki! 

     In the OCP division, I’m also happy to announce that Lamont Research Professor Mingfang Ting was awarded the 2021 American Meteorological Society Distinguished Scientific/Technological Achievement Award in Climate Variability and Change “for important contributions to our understanding of climate dynamics, often drawing upon ingenious generalizations of the stationary Rossby wave concept.”  This citation is so intriguing and makes me want to better understand Mingfang’s research.  When I think of generalizations, I think of the mundane—indeed, a generalization: sky is blue, poles are cold, etc.  So, for a generalization to be ingenious sounds incredibly intriguing….more like an E=mc2 type generalization!  Congratulations Mingfang—I look forward to hearing more someday soon.

     But wait, there’s more!  At next week’s UN Ocean Decade Launch Meeting, hosted by the National Academies, DEES Associate Professor Ryan Abernathey is giving an invited plenary talk entitled "OceanCloud: Transforming oceanography with a new approach to data and computing".  His invitation was the result of rising to the top of a competition run by the U.S. National Committee for the Ocean Decade that called for submissions of “Ocean-Shots”, defined as ambitious, transformational research concepts that draw inspiration and expertise from multiple disciplines and aim to fundamentally advance ocean science for sustainable development. Ryan’s concept was selected from among hundreds of applications for one of the few plenary talks.  His proposal builds on his work in Pangeo for developing new ways for scientists to interact with large complex datasets, opening doors to ambitious new research questions.  Congratulations Ryan!  (And for the rest of us, the next RFP for Ocean-Shots is April 1, 2021.)

     From individual actions to the university at large, Columbia and Lamont continue to strive to make the world a better, healthier, more sustainable planet.  Columbia University just announced that it would no longer hold any direct investments in publicly traded oil and gas companies for the foreseeable future.  It also stated that the University will not make new investments in private funds that primarily invest in oil and gas companies.  I think many on our campus will find this welcome news.  Closer to home, Dave Walker, DEES Professor emeritus at Lamont, has shown that dust particles from the Norlite toxic waste incineration facility in Cohoes, NY, pose a significant health hazard to the surrounding community.  You can read more at a number of links below and listen to a podcast interview with Dave here, where he explains why the incinerator is like having a volcano in your backyard.

     In celebration of February’s Black History Month, the Directorate is sponsoring a special screening of the movie John Lewis: Good Trouble. This inspiring documentary (which I watched last year) provides “an intimate account of legendary US Representative John Lewis’ life, legacy, and extraordinary activism”. You can watch the trailer hereRegistration is required and the screening window is from February 4-7th. Log in instructions will be sent out after you register (by Wednesday February 3rd).  Thank you, Kuheli, for organizing and to John Lewis, may he rest in peace, for reminding us that “sometimes change calls for a little trouble”.

     Attention all sea-going scientists, after operating in the Pacific since late 2016, the R/V Marcus G. Langseth expects to move to the Atlantic in early 2022 to support NSF-funded science. Now is the time to get in proposals to use R/V Marcus G. Langseth in the Atlantic and adjacent seas in the 2022-2024 timeframe (e.g., at least 18 months prior to the requested start date of the cruise).  More info can be found here.  I’d like to especially encourage early career researchers to consider this opportunity.  As a Lamonter you would have incredible resources, human and otherwise, to help you craft a competitive proposal.  You can do this.  Make your scientific dreams come true!

     I’ll end with final congratulations for two newly minted doctors within our midst.  Xiaochuan Tian successfully defended his thesis “Structural and Climatic Effects of Large-Scale Basaltic Magmatism: Constraints and Insights from Geodynamic Models.” He plans to accept a postdoc at Boston College working with Professor Mark Behn and Garrett Ito on a mid-ocean ridge modeling project.  And earlier today Alexandra Boghosian successfully defended her thesis “Ice Shelf Stability: New Insights into Rivers and Estuaries using Remote Sensing and Advanced Visualization”. Congratulations to you both!

     Wishing you all a warm, peaceful and restful weekend.









The Iconic Explorers Club Honors 50 Members Including 21 Remarkable Women


January 28, 2021

Article features Lamont marine geophysicist Vicki Ferrini.


The Scientist Who Mapped the Seafloor: Marie Tharp | Great Minds


January 28, 2021

Video features pioneering Lamont geologist Marie Tharp.


Neighbors Worry about Hazardous Dust around Norlite Plant

Times Union

January 28, 2021

Article quotes Lamont geologist Dave Walker.


Norlite Dust Health Risk

Sanctuary for Independent Media

January 28, 2021

Interview with Lamont geologist Dave Walker.


Environmental Advocates Claim New Health Threat at Norlite Plant, Officials Respond

CBS 6 Albany - WRGB

January 28, 2021

Article quotes Lamont geologist Dave Walker.


Searching for the Dust that Cooled the Planet

Hakai Magazine

January 25, 2021

Article on study co-authored by Lamont climate scientist Gisela Winckler.


Earth Is Now Losing 1.2 Trillion Tons of Ice Each Year. And It’s Going to Get Worse.

Washington Post

January 25, 2021

Article quotes Lamont polar scientist Robin Bell.


Revitalize the Sciences

Columbia News

January 21, 2021

Opinion piece by Lamont climate scientist Adam Sobel.




How the Biden Administration Can Revitalize the Sciences

January 28, 2021

Three goals for the Biden administration as it seeks to put science-based responses at the center of its policy initiatives.


You Asked: If the Science is Clear, Why Do We Need More Climate Research?

January 26, 2021

Climate scientist Gisela Winckler explains the link between climate science and solutions, and shares some of her research adventures.


Supercomputers Simulate 800,000 Years of California Earthquakes to Pinpoint Risks

January 25, 2021

Scientists are working to improve their calculations of earthquake danger by combining maps of known faults with the use of supercomputers to simulate potential shaking deep into the future in California.