Lamont Weekly Report, October 30, 2020

     Hello Friends,  And welcome to the end of another busy, rainy week as the dregs of Hurricane Zeta pass through the region.  Reports of snow from the north, but here on the Palisades Sill it is just rain.  At the start of the week I was happy to join Alex Halliday and SEAS Professor George Deodatis for a live, and lively, panel discussion: “Under Water: Coastal Fragility and Our Rising Seas”.  We discussed the topic of sea level rise and the impacts of climate change on our society “in front of” an audience of 730 viewers, from 37 different countries, who followed up with over 100 questions!  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to answer them all but, to me, these events speak to how important it is to communicate our science broadly.

     On Wednesday, another panel discussion aired as part of EI’s Sustain What series, focused on the topic of harassment in STEM. Based around the film Picture A Scientist, the panelists included Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Jane Willenbring, Associate Professor, Stanford, and one of the scientists whose experience with harassment is outlined in the film; Sharon Shattuck, Co-Producer and Co-Director of the film; and Angelica Patterson, doctoral candidate at Columbia and Science Educator at Black Rock Forest Consortium. The session was moderated by Kuheli Dutt and Andy Revkin, and a recording of the event can be found here.

     Wednesday was also Columbia University’s Giving Day, the ninth annual 24-hour fundraising event.  Thanks to the generosity of Ed Botwinick and Vicki Brown, Lamont had a $100,000 challenge match that was met and surpassed.  I am delighted to share that on October 28, 2020, LDEO received 199 gifts totaling $272,444.50. This total is more than double the amount raised on Giving Day last year and a 93.2% increase in donor participation over last year!  As you might imagine, our data analytic brains will be analyzing these results to understand where our new supporters came from.  And, of course, we are so deeply grateful to all for this support of Lamont’s mission and research – it is truly inspiring, especially given how economically fraught times are.  In addition to donations, LDEO raised/won $8,000 in challenge funds offered by the University from a selfie submission by Cassie Xu (Cassie, is that an emotional support pony?  Can he visit Lamont?), an origami challenge submission by local Tutor’s Link Learning Center, and placing second in the “Raising the Bar” Challenge for surpassing our total gifts from 2019.  A great big thanks also goes to Jonny Kingslake and Nick Frearson for organizing another terrific “campus” selfie.  While that submission may not have won the selfie challenge, it certainly was huge fun and, when I get the final version, we will print, frame, and hang it somewhere on campus.  I believe you can still get your selfie in to Nick or Jonny and be memorialized at Lamont for decades to come!

     Most importantly, a very special thanks to the Development Team, and especially Stacey Vassallo, who led the Giving Day efforts as well as to all the members of our community who contributed or participated in the day’s activities.   #LamontRocks

     Earlier this week, graduate student Mukund Rao wrote, “If you are missing being on the Lamont Campus, we just installed a new Phenology Camera (PhenoCam) on the roof of the Oceanography building just for you. Our camera continuously monitors the state of the forest canopy of the Palisades Interstate Park with its red/green/blue (RGB) and infrared (IR) channels. We hope to collect these data over the next few years to understand how climate influences forest vegetation (and tree-growth) in our local forest. You can see fall colours, trees swaying in the wind, and even spot a peregrine falcon or two! Livestream:”.  It is actually quite soothing to watch.

     On the other side of the campus, Meredith Nettles forwarded me an amazing account of science in action, unfolding over decades.  As I read this story of today’s Seismology Record Reading, shared here with you, I could only imagine how exciting this summer must have been to a wide swath of Lamont seismologists.  Today’s Record Reading meeting was the third focused on a series of large earthquakes that have recently occurred in the Eastern Aleutian Arc of Alaska.  The first event was a magnitude M=7.8 on July 22 and the second, just a few days ago, was a M=7.6 on October 19. The earthquakes occurred in the "Shumagin Seismic Gap," which has been a focus of intensive research by the Lamont Seismology group for more than two decades. In the 1970’s, Lynn Sykes and colleagues proposed the concept of “seismic gaps” –  areas along plate boundaries that are ripe for large earthquakes because the time since the last large earthquake is approaching the average recurrence period for large events. At that time, Lamonter Klaus Jacob established a seismic network in the Shumagin Islands that kicked off an intensive research program on the seismotectonics and volcano seismology of this major subduction zone plate boundary.

     The program produced an entire generation of seismologists gaining their research and field experience in this remote and challenging environment. Lamonters doing research as part of this project included Frank Gumper (ex-Chair of Lamont’s Advisory Board and generous donor),  Vernon Cormier (now U of CT), Jim Mori (U Kyoto), Tom Boyd (U Colorado), Gerardo Suarez (UNAM), Chuck Estabrook (until recently with NSF), Roger Bilham (U CO Boulder); Leigh House (Los Alamos); Stephen McNutt (U of FL), Geoff Abers (Cornell), Vadim Levin (Rutgers); and even petrologists including Bob Kay (Cornell) and Steve Goldstein (Lamont). More recently, Donna Shillington, Jim Gaherty, Geoff Abers, and Spahr Webb have led community-wide experiments to characterize nearby sections of the arc. The long-standing debate about whether the Shumagin segment was a permanent seismic gap, where plate motion is taken up largely by aseismic slip (as other researchers had proposed), or whether it was just waiting for the big one appears to be resolved.  The recent events have shown that at least a good part of the plate motion occurs via large earthquakes.  Spahr Webb currently has geodetic instruments on the sea floor very close to the two events and, as those data are recovered, expect further Record Reading updates.

     Today, SGT also bids farewell to long-time Senior Staff Associate Mitch Gold, who has supported the Lamont Cooperative Seismographic Network (LCSN) for more than 15 years, in every capacity from field to hardware to software support. Mitch moves on to a position with Instrumental Software Technologies, Inc. (ISTI), a geophysical services and software company headquartered in Saratoga Springs.

     And speaking of dedicated staff, the annual Earth Institute Distinguished Staff Award nominations are due next week. The details of the nomination form, eligibility and award process can be found here. Full time officers of administration and non-union support staff at the Earth Institute, and its affiliated units and programs, at grade 13 and below are eligible for the award. The awardee will receive $1,000. Completed nomination forms are due electronically by Friday, November 6th, to Alex Halliday.

     Finally, being cognizant of “too many notes”, I’d like to end by touching on mental health during the pandemic, a topic discussed at today’s ExCom meeting.  Please, everyone take care of each other.  Make an effort to check in with someone working by themselves, unnaturally, in a lab all day alone.  Have outdoor meet-ups and meals.  Offer yourself as a “work buddy” to someone you may not know very well.  Organize small online social meetings, tea times, or one-on-one check-ins.  Be kind and be attuned to signs of stress in your friends and colleagues.  If you are not sure about how someone is doing, let your AD know.  The pandemic still swirls invisibly and stressfully around us, days are getting shorter and darker, and not everyone has strong support networks nearby.  Even with strong social networks, life is hard.  I encourage all to adopt the noon to 2pm window as a no-Zoom zone, a time for a walk in the mid-day sun or to meet up with a friend.  And finally, many types of helpful resources can be found here.

     Wishing you all a peaceful weekend.  I plan to knit, read, and plant some daffodil bulbs.


     Best, Mo








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