Lamont Weekly Report, July 2, 2020

    Hello Friends,  What a great week!  It has been a true pleasure to step into the role of Interim Director of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and spend even more of my normal workday interacting with all the talented professionals and students on our campus.  Thank you for all the welcoming messages of support as well.

    My transition was made particularly smooth by the generosity of Sean, Art and the rest of the Directorate in briefing me on issues large and small, and including me in an ever-increasing number of zoom meetings over the last three months.  It is greatly appreciated.  And as Sean goes off to a much-earned vacation, I want to thank him especially for his ongoing support, always sage advice, good humor, and especially his foundational commitment to the scientific excellence of LDEO.   For those of you who may have only ever known Sean in his capacity as Director, you should know that since his first research paper in 1968, Sean’s scholarly activities have spanned a broad array of geophysics, particularly focused on the interior of the Earth, but also the other terrestrial planets and the Moon. He is perhaps best known for his research discoveries and scientific leadership concerning the planet Mercury, about which he has published more than 200 scientific articles. Thus, when you next see Sean in the cafeteria, hopefully this fall, be sure to ask him what the temperature is on the surface of Mercury.

    Over the coming weeks I’ll be announcing a number of new initiatives and I am beginning to meet with groups across the campus.  Please reach out to Nicole deRoberts if you would like to meet.  I, like many of you, am so happy to see our labs reopening and want to give a special shout-out to Art Lerner-Lam, Pat O’Reilly, and Steve Goldstein for leading the herculean effort to make it all work.  Thank you also to the incredible admin team led by Edie Miller who are working harder than I could have imagined had I not seen it myself.  I will write more about that at a later date.

    This week saw three successful Ph.D. defenses on campus.  Daniel Blatter, working under Kerry Key, defended his thesis on "Constraining fluid properties in the mantle and crust using Bayesian inversion of electromagnetic data" and says “I've accepted a 2-year position as the John W Miles postdoctoral fellow in computational and theoretical geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. I'll be starting in September.”   Jan-Erik Tesdal (working under Joaquim Goes) defended his thesis “Circulation changes associated with freshwater and heat content variability and implications for biological productivity in the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean."  And lastly, Joshua Maurer (working under Joerg Schaefer) successfully defended his thesis “Mountain glacier change across regions and timescales."  I have not heard what Jan-Erik and Joshua’s plans are but hope that all three of you enjoy a long and relaxing summer vacation.  Congratulations all.

    Please also join me in congratulating our colleagues Laia Andreu-Hayles, Solange Duhamel, and Park Williams all of whom were promoted to Lamont Associate Research Professor, Senior Staff as of July 1.

    Lamont science and scientists were featured many times in the media and around Columbia University this week and a full list of links follows.  Among other highlights, you can watch Chris Zappa teaching students about climate science with his flying robots, ponder a picture of Ben Bostick with his new cow pal in an article about how COVID-19 is disrupting fieldwork, and read about Vicki Ferrini’s efforts to fully map the ocean floor by 2030 that includes a picture of Vicki in an unidentified room at Lamont that I clearly need to visit.

    Finally, as I prepared for my transition to Interim Director this past week, I also spent time writing a proposal to the Data Science Institute at Columbia.  I proposed to apply the theory and methods of data science and AI to address the singular challenge of writing a weekly Lamont newsletter.  I plan to build an algorithm that compiles the “big data” of the weekly accomplishments and activities of our faculty, students, and staff, mixes it with the collected quotes of Yogi Berra, Winston Churchill, and “Anonymous” (women across the centuries?) and outputs an engaging and informative weekly missive anticipated by all.  Through the machine-learning skill of my algorithm I hope to eventually achieve renown across campus as a witty erudite elder statesperson.

    In the meantime, and until my program is fully functional, I would invite everyone to send news of their weekly accomplishments and successes to  Sightings of unusual wildlife on campus would also be of interest.  I hope everyone has a relaxing and safe holiday weekend.                                                                               

                                                                              My best, Maureen





It’s Time to Rethink the Practice of Whale Watching

July 2, 2020

A scientist reflects on the potential harms of chasing whales with boats to try to get that perfect snapshot.


Geologists Identify Deep-Earth Structures That May Signal Hidden Metal Lodes

June 30, 2020

Previously unrecognized structural lines deep in the Earth appear to signal the locations of giant deposits of copper, lead, zinc and other vital metals near the surface.


Announcing ‘EI Teach’ for K-12 Educators

June 29, 2020

The Earth Institute’s inaugural professional development training effort will provide cutting-edge content and tools to prepare K-12 educators to teach climate change in the classroom.



Ocean Sensitivity May Lower Carbon Emissions Cuts

Climate News Network, Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Article on research led by Lamont oceanographer and carbon cycle scientist Galen McKinley.


Earth's Final Frontier: The Global Race to Map the Entire Ocean Floor

The Guardian, Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Article features the work of Lamont marine geophysicist Vicki Ferrini.


The Sustainability of Arsenic-Safe Groundwater in the Bengal Delta

ScienceX, Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Article by Lamont geochemists Rajib Mozumder, Alexander Van Geen, Benjamin Bostick.


It’s Getting Hot in Here

BYU Radio, Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Interview with Lamont climate scientist Radley Horton.


COVID-19 Has Disrupted Fieldwork. Here's How Environmental Chemists Are Coping

Chemical & Engineering News, Monday, June 29, 2020

Article features Lamont geochemists Benjamin Bostick and Alexander van Geen.


How Communities Can Adapt to Climate Change

PBS NOVA, Monday, June 29, 2020

Interview with Lamont climate scientist Radley Horton.


Toxic Algae Blooms Are on the Rise, Fueled by Climate Change, Pollution

Columbia News, Article by Lamont microbial oceanographer Sonya Dyhrman.

Monday, June 29, 2020



Climate Research with Flying Robots (Grades 6-12)

Christopher Zappa

Monday, June 29, 2020