Lamont Weekly Report, October 2, 2020

     Hello Friends,  Wednesday marked the end of my third month on the job as LDEO Interim Director and I would like to reflect on what these three months have meant to me and what we have accomplished together.  It was an incredible honor and privilege to be asked to lead this world-leading research institution.  Especially during such an unbelievably stressful time, with siblings, close family friends and acquaintances who were affected by the virus, I reflect daily on how grateful I am for my health and for my job.  I also deeply appreciate the faith and confidence that many of my colleagues have put in me and I am quite humbled by that support.

     In my first week I shared some of my hopes and ambitions for what I wanted to accomplish as director in a Town Hall meeting.  I would like to revisit those goals and the progress made.  But first I would be remiss if I didn’t point out our greatest challenge and accomplishment has been keeping our campus and our employees safe during the pandemic.  The incredible efforts by our staff, and the consideration and cooperation by all of us has allowed many Lamonters to return safely to work.  To my knowledge there has not been a single positive COVID-19 case or test on campus since those early dark weeks of March.  I want to thank everyone for their ongoing cooperation in this herculean effort.

     For myself, working to ensure that Lamont remains, and continues to grow, as an international leader in the Earth and Climate Sciences is my driving goal.  A critical part of that goal is attracting the best, most creative minds to our campus and, just as this clearly wasn’t happening 25 years ago when women were a miniscule fraction of the scientific faculty and staff, we also are not achieving that goal today if large swaths of under-represented communities are not attracted to Lamont or do not feel supported at Lamont.  The pursuit of a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and collegeal Lamont motivated the establishment of the Lamont Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (LDEI) Task Force which has been working hard throughout the summer and will soon be reporting their preliminary recommendations and findings.  In addition, Kuheli’s office has reinstated the Mentoring Award competition that was postponed in the spring and we have initiated the first annual JEDI award to recognize and reward individuals who have advanced the cause of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion on our campus.

     I also want to thank Kuheli, Kevin Uno, and others for working to revise guidelines for both job searches and colloquium speakers in ways that promote the recruitment and participation of under-represented minorities.  The Directorate is supporting the seminar diversity initiative as well as sponsoring inspiring events such the Summer Stars Lecture Series and the “Picture a Scientist” screening.  I am also proud that we now have an anti-racism statement on our website and I hope I have made my personal intolerance of bullying or micro-aggressions on campus clear.  My “door” is always open, stop by if you want to talk.  Finally, we are improving disability access across campus through the installation of automatic door openers, a new accessibility map of Lamont at the bus stop, and the establishment of gender-neutral bathrooms being prioritized for every building.

     Two other motivating challenges are keeping our research and educational programs the best in the world as well as navigating our transition into the proposed Climate School.  To this end, the Lamont Vision Committee has been crucial in creating a roadmap for future scientific research and hiring priorities and we will all see the final version of the new strategic plan soon.  Other actions taken that will strengthen our research efforts include movement of the Center for Climate and Life into the Directorate as the new Climate and Life Initiative.  We plan to announce a new CLI Fellow competition shortly.  (Peter, we miss you!)  The research vessel R/V Marcus Langseth was purchased by Columbia and some of our faculty have been deeply involved in ongoing planning for the new Climate School, including major new scientific initiatives. We will be hearing more about these activities in the days, weeks, and months to come. 

     A topic I’ve been particularly committed to is evaluating and working to modify pathways for advancement for our junior scientists.  This includes creating more opportunities to participate in the governance of Lamont as well as creating clear pathways for career advancement.  You will be hearing more about this in the weeks to come.  I deeply appreciate the advice (and debate) with ExCom and with our Associate Directors while thinking about some of these thorny issues.  Finally, with much help in appealing the hiring freeze, we were able to make an offer to a full-time specialist to continue the build-out of a new (and much needed) Lamont web-site that should be launched by summer of next year.

     Of course, crucial to our success in all things is providing the financial resources needed for each Lamonter to achieve their highest and best impact along their chosen path.   Getting Lamont back onto a financially robust trajectory consumes much of my mental bandwidth.  I have to give a huge shout-out to Meghan Fay, John Palmer, Marie Aronsohn, and the entire development team for their support.  It has been a special pleasure to meet and talk to so many external supporters of Lamont.  We have already had some terrific philanthropic successes that you will hear more about in the future. And please don’t forget to save the dates for Lamont Open House and Columbia Giving Day

     I’d like to give a special shout-out to a campus group that I call the Earth Elders (they have a more irreverent name for themselves).  This is a group of Lamont “lifers”, people that have spent their entire careers at Lamont—some are retired, some still work—they all care deeply about Lamont and I value their counsel and friendship.  Please know that as some lovely Adirondack chairs start showing up around campus, their generosity was behind this gift (and a special thanks to Mark Cane, Jim Hays, and Klaus Jacob).  The lawn chairs will be added to the small family of rocking chairs that I boldly authorized for some of our more neglected looking public spaces.  Finally, I also would like to thank the CCL, EI, and DEES for partnering with LDEO in establishing the SIRF fund (Scientific Instrument Repair Fund) that is now available to support Lamont scientists.

     I know this missive is getting a bit long but I want to touch on my last major priority, enhancing the scientific and laboratory infrastructure on the Lamont campus, so that our scientists can do their best work, while we move purposefully towards a carbon-zero campus that is a beautiful, well-maintained and functional environment within which to work.  I hope that any of you returning to Lamont will notice the new signage, freshly painted bins, picnic tables and benches, new bus-stop kiosk (and absence of three sad-looking signposts), butt containers, and generally improved landscaping.  In other words, lots of elbow grease on the part of our great B+G team.  Thank you!  We have also begun the installation of two car charging stations, one by Oceanography and one by the Borehole Building (a big thank you to a committed Lamont donor!). We instituted the power outage alert system across Lamont, and Nick Frearson is installing a bicycle repair station near the newly renovated Storke Labs (the old Machine Shop).  Finally, I would like to thank Mahdad Parsi for leading a committee tasked with envisioning the best options for supporting computing and data infrastructure on campus as we move toward the future.

     (The bad news is there is still millions of dollars’ worth of deferred maintenance across the campus but I am committed to finding the resources we need to move confidently and effectively into the future.)

     I’ve written enough though obviously the next step would be to look forward.  I will save that for another newsletter.  Today, I would like to end with some heartfelt congratulations for a number of Lamonters.  First, Kaylee Secor, the SGT administrative assistant, and Tom Burke, of our Buildings and Grounds team, were married on September 26th at Kaylee’s family's farm (Secor Farms) in Mahwah with just their closest friends and immediate family present. They met at Lamont and Mercedes Paulino set them up on a lunch outing before their first date.  That makes me smile – a toast to many wonderful years together!  And lastly, congratulations to Galen McKinley for winning AGU’s Ocean Sciences Voyager Award and to Arnold Gordon who is being honored with the Harald Sverdrup Lecture, also by AGU.  Hip-hip hooray to all!

     Have a peaceful and relaxing weekend.  #everforward!

                  Best, Mo








The Jet Stream Is Bringing Fire Weather to the West and a Chill to the East

National Geographic

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Article by Lamont graduate research fellow Alejandra Borunda quotes Lamont climate scientist Kai Kornhuber.


Does Our Vision of Diversity Reduce Harm and Promote Justice?

GSA Today

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Article co-authored by Lamont paleoclimatologist Benjamin Keisling, glaciologist Laura Stevens (now University of Oxford), and colleagues.


South African Seas Up to 30m Higher Show a Wet Planet Under Siege

Daily Maverick

Monday, September 28, 2020

Article features research co-led by Lamont paleoclimatologist and interim director Maureen Raymo.


Could the Sahara Ever Be Green Again?

Live Science

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Article quotes Lamont paleoceanographer and Center for Climate and Life director Peter de Menocal.


Do Earthquakes Mainly Occur at Night?

De Standaard

Friday, September 25, 2020

Article quotes Lamont geodesist James Davis.


Antarctic Melting Will Increase Sea Level by 2.5m Irrespective of Paris Goals: Study

Republic World

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Article on study co-authored by Lamont climate scientist Anders Levermann.




Greenland on Track to Lose Ice Faster Than in Any Century Over the Last 12,000 Years

September 30, 2020

If human societies don’t sharply curb emissions of greenhouse gases, Greenland’s rate of ice loss this century is likely to greatly outpace that of any century since shortly after the end of the last ice age, a new study concludes.


Celebrating 150 Years Since the Birth of Thomas W. Lamont

September 30, 2020

The philanthropic banker donated the estate that now houses the history-making Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.


Lamont Open House at Home

September 28, 2020

Join us for fun, informative events, activities, and an awesome interactive game right from home!


How Will the Ocean Carbon Cycle Evolve in the Future? New Project Aims to Find Out

September 28, 2020

A new effort to analyze the ocean’s ability to take up CO2 will be important for predicting the effectiveness of climate change mitigation efforts.


Project Will Delve Into How Climate and Tectonics Shaped Human Ancestors Over 25 Million Years

September 25, 2020

A new project will investigate the relationships between tectonics, climate, and the evolution of humans’ primate ancestors in Kenya’s Turkana Basin.