Lamont Weekly Report, June 29, 2018

    Today marks the last business day of Columbia University’s fiscal year, and there have been myriad financial, personnel, and associated programmatic issues to address and resolve, particularly for Lamont’s cheerfully hard-working administrative staff. It is well that the coming week includes a Wednesday holiday that will enable long weekends off for many.

    Late last week, the Trump Administration released a draft report on priorities in ocean science and technology for federal agencies. Prepared by an interagency committee, Advancing a Vision of Science and Technology for America’s Oceans highlights several “immediate ocean research and technology opportunities” (, including (1) fully integrating big data approaches in Earth system science, (2) advancing capabilities for monitoring and predictive modeling, (3) improving data integration in decision support tools, (4) supporting ocean exploration and characterization, and (5) supporting ongoing research and technology partnerships. The Administration has requested comments on the report from the community by 27 August.

    On Monday, Kyle Frischkorn successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis on the “Physiological ecology of Trichodesmium and its microbiome in the oligotrophic ocean.” Kyle’s committee included his thesis advisor, Sonya Dyhrman, as well as Hugh Ducklow; Keven Griffin; Duncan Menge from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology; and Ben Van Mooy from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Kyle will be a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Sonya’s lab until early this fall, when he will take a postdoctoral position in Chris Bowler’s group at the Institut de Biologie de l’École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Congratulations, Dr. Frischkorn!

    Also on Monday, Nature Geoscience published a review article by a 59-author team that included Jacky Austermann, Kelsey Dyez, Julia Gottschalk, and Alessio Rovere on the implications of the paleoclimate record for a world in which greenhouse gas emissions have warmed the atmosphere by 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the upper of two aspirational caps on global warming set out by the Paris climate agreement. From a synthesis of changes during past climate intervals when temperatures were within the range of projected future warming, the group deduced that even with warming limited to 2°C we can anticipate major shifts in climate zones and the distributions of land and ocean ecosystems, marked reductions in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and increases in sea level of several meters or more on millennial timescales. The team also concluded that current models for the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, because of the omission of important feedback processes, may substantially underestimate warming and consequent sea-level rise. A story about the paper’s findings has been posted on our web site (

    On Monday and Tuesday, Roger Buck represented Lamont at a symposium on “50 Years of Plate Tectonics: Then, Now, and Beyond,” hosted by the Collège de France in Paris. Roger spoke on “The role of magma in continental breakup and seafloor spreading.” The symposium ( echoed one held at Lamont two years ago ( The Lamont event counted 50 years from the breakthrough paper by Lamont’s Walter Pitman and Jim Heirtzler (1966) reporting the discovery that seafloor magnetic anomalies are remarkably symmetric about the axis of the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge, whereas the Paris event counted 50 years from the publication by Xavier Le Pichon (1968) – at the time also at Lamont – of the first global plate kinematic model.

    On Wednesday, the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, published a paper by Julia Tejada-Lara, John Flynn from the American Museum of Natural History, and their Peruvian and American colleagues on the factors controlling isotopic enrichment of light carbon in the enamel bioapatite of mammalian herbivores. A variety of physiological effects enrich light carbon in animal tissue relative to the isotopic make-up of ingested plants, and it had long been generally assumed that such enrichment is approximately constant among all mammalian herbivores. From a combination of controlled experiments with sloths in a Peruvian zoo and fossil records of teeth and dung from extinct sloth species, as well as an extension of their statistical analysis to other mammalian herbivore groups, Julia and her team showed that isotopic enrichment varies across the population studied and that body mass is a good predictor of that variation. Their proposed body mass model will improve paleoclimate estimates derived from carbon isotope records of fossil bioapatite. A press release on the paper’s findings has been posted on Lamont’s web site (

    The July issue of GSA Today, which arrived in Lamont mailboxes this week, contained announcements about this year’s awards by the Geological Society of America.  Sid Hemming and Cecelia McHugh have been elected GSA Fellows, Frank Pavia is the recipient of a 2018 GSA Research Grant, and Steve Richard is to receive the Outstanding Contributions Award from the GSA’s Geoinformatics Division. Kudos to Sid, Cecelia, Frankie, and Steve!

    In its Periodic Update issued today, Federal Science Partners – Columbia University’s federal lobbyists – reminded us that the National Science Foundation’s Prediction of and Resilience against Extreme Events (PREEVENTS) Program is again soliciting letters of intent to propose. According to NSF (, “PREEVENTS seeks projects that will (1) enhance understanding of the fundamental processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events on various spatial and temporal scales, as well as the variability inherent in such hazards and events, and (2) improve our capability to model and forecast such hazards and events.” Letters of intent are due on 27 July.

    As of next week, the Lamont shuttle will be supported by electric buses, recently purchased by Columbia as part of the university’s overall efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ( Riders will notice a number of changes: seating arrangements will differ from those on the existing diesel-powered buses, Columbia IDs will be required of Lamont staff and students, the midday schedule will change slightly to permit the buses to recharge at the new charging station that Lamont has installed, and the buses will be equipped with a system that permits tracking via a smart phone app.

    In the meantime, may you all find a way to enjoy the hot weekend weather as we all look forward to next week’s holiday.