Lamont Weekly Report, November 6, 2020

     Hello Friends,  I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely late warm weather.  I’ve made it onto campus a few times this week, with the highlight being the morning a fox walked right by my office, behind Monell.  I also enjoyed multiple walks with colleagues around campus this week.  It seems like more people are coming to campus more often—if this is you, please feel free to request placement on the Group A List if you are not already there.  But given the observations across the nation, this is no time to relax our guard with COVID.  Yesterday we had our first day of COVID surveillance testing at Lamont, and Pat O’Reilly reports that due to overwhelming demand, the hours were extended to 1:30, and 81 slots were scheduled.  The next scheduled test date on campus is Thursday, November 19 and we will let you know if that changes.  Keep in mind, the University actively discourages non-essential travel, especially as the holidays approach.  I think we will be having many small intimate Thanksgiving dinners.  Watch out, tiny turkeys!

     As I write this, we still don’t know who won the election.  As if the stress of COVID isn’t enough.  I hope that whatever happens we can take some peace away from the fact that it might actually be over soon. 

     I’m happy to announce that Gisela Winckler assumed the role of Geochemistry Associate Director this week. Gisela is a Lamont Research Professor who studies climate and biogeochemistry, with a focus on unraveling the basic processes driving climate and environmental change in the past, the present, and the future. She examines timescales ranging from millions of years to decades. Fun facts: Gisela earned her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Heidelberg in 1998. She was a Research Associate at the Institute of Environmental Physics at the University of Heidelberg and worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency before joining LDEO as a postdoctoral fellow in 2001.  Thank you, Gisela, for agreeing to take on this important role in the service of Lamont-Doherty.

     Exiting stage left is Steve Goldstein, who will shortly begin as a rotator at NSF where he will serve as the Director of the Division of Earth Sciences. His appointment coincides with the release of the National Academies decadal report "A Vision for NSF Earth Sciences 2020-2030 - Earth in Time", and one of his tasks is to oversee its implementation. Steve is hoping to have a positive impact on geosciences research, is looking forward to working on behalf of the community, and invites anyone to contact him about any and all issues relevant to NSF and particularly EAR.  He is all “EARs”.

     In the past six months, we have received many email communications and training session announcements from LDEO IT about information resource access controls and data protections.  I know the easy thing to do is delete and move on, but it is critical that the campus fully comply with Columbia Information Technology policies.  Ultimately, by engaging in this process you not only protect your own research data, following national level best practices, but you also allow us to document compliance as required by a recent security audit. Please recognize how great it is that our IT services are literally standing by ready to help you through this process.  I encourage you all to examine the documents on LDEO IT Security Policy Compliances website, and to reach out to LDEO IT to learn more about the Information Resources Asset Inventory spreadsheet, Endpoint Registration form, and System Registration steps for server level computations.  Just do it!

     Even though it was a very slow news week for Lamont (the election effect?), there was a very interesting story on the mystery of the 26-second pulsation of our planet.  Is this real or fake news?  It seems unbelievable to me that, if this is real, that we still don’t know the cause after 60 years.  “The pulse, also known as a ‘microseism’ was first discovered in the 1960s by researcher Jack Oliver at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory. He observed that this ‘pulse’ was originating somewhere from the southern or equatorial Atlantic Ocean and it got stronger during the region’s winter.” Hmmmm. This sounds like a scientific mystery worthy of another Lamont contribution!  Or at the very least, it sounds like the premise of a Hollywood horror blockbuster starring Jason Statham. I am totally looking forward to someone writing me back about this topic!

     There is also a great interview with Senior Staff Associate and engineer Nick Frearson about his adventures in Antarctica and another interview with Special Research Scientist Kim Kastens  about her research on student question-asking (done with Margie Turrin and Melissa Zrada of Teachers College).

     Some final miscellanies, in a quiet week…in the Directorate we are looking ahead to January and hoping that we might get enough enrollment to reopen the Bright Horizons daycare center.  If you can see your family using the daycare center, should it be able to reopen safely, please send me and Pat O’Reilly an email.  Communication and collective planning will be essential to getting our daycare center back into business.  This will be a numbers game! 

     Secondly, we are in the early stages of planning some pollinator garden/spaces at Lamont.  If anyone knows anything about this and has some expertise to lend, we would appreciate hearing from you.  Please reach out to Sheean Haley or myself.  Thirdly, Nick Frearson asked me to add a plug for the new bike repair station at the Machine Shop that is now officially open. It has a nifty bike stand, shop air to blow up your tires as well as a clamp and tools to do maintenance on your bike.  Thank you to Nick and the Campus Life Committee for making that happen!

     I’ll wrap up by saying that I talked with three foundations and two major donors to Lamont this week.  I woke up this morning and, in the quiet pre-dawn hour, reflected on how lucky Lamont is to have so many committed supporters.  With so many important causes in the world, having foundations and individuals choose to invest their resources in basic Earth and climate research at Lamont is humbling. It is also a testament to the impactful and ground-breaking work done on our campus—past, present, and future.  

     And speaking of the future, I’ll end with a TGIF toast to a brighter future for science and for a more sustainable world.  I’m putting on my sunglasses.  Please have a relaxing and safe weekend.

     Best, Mo







Our Earth Pulses Every 26 Seconds, and No One Exactly Knows Why

India Times

November 4, 2020

Article features late Lamont geophysicist Jack Oliver.


Finding Prehistoric Rain Forests by Studying Modern Mammals


November 4, 2020

Article features research led by Lamont Ph.D. Julia Tejada-Lara.


More Megadroughts Are Coming

November 2, 2020

Article cites research by Lamont scientists Park Williams, Edward Cook, Jason Smerdon, Benjamin Cook, Kasey Bolles, Seung Baek, and colleagues.


Higher Education Expands Its Climate Push


October 30, 2020

Article references Columbia Climate School.




Rooftop Camera Will Track How Local Forests Change With the Climate

November 03, 2020

Installed on top of Lamont’s oceanography building, PhenoCam will help track how trees grow and change with the weather, seasons, and climate change.


Nick Frearson Designs Devices for Earth’s Most Extreme Environments

October 30, 2020

An engineer at Lamont-Doherty, Frearson builds instruments that help scientists collect vital data in Antarctica, the deep sea, and at the top of volcanoes.