Lamont Weekly Report, September 20, 2019

    Next week will be Climate Week NYC (, timed to include Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations next Monday ( In anticipation, and spearheaded by Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, more than 250 news organizations have committed to run one week’s worth of climate coverage this week as part of Covering Climate Now ( This week also culminates today in the Youth Climate Strikes planned in New York City and at hundreds of other locations across the country (

    On campus, the Biology and Paleo Environment (BPE) Division recently welcomed several new arrivals. Lamont Postdoctoral Fellow Jacqueline Goordial arrived last month from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow she worked for three years on the habitability of extreme environments, including permafrost regions and the deep ocean. Jackie received a Ph.D. in environmental microbiology from McGill University in 2015, and she holds earlier degrees in cellular and molecular biology and in molecular ecology from the University of Toronto. At Lamont, Jackie’s research will focus on the fate of ancient carbon released by coastline erosion in Arctic permafrost regions.

    Rachel Lupien joined BPE in July as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist supported by the Center for Climate and Life. Rachel, who worked at Lamont as a Research Assistant in Steve Goldstein’s laboratory between 2012 and 2014, received her Ph.D. in organic geochemistry and paleoclimatology from Brown University earlier this year. At Lamont once again, Rachel is working with Peter de Menocal and Kevin Uno on the application of chemical and isotopic measurements on organic molecular biomarkers to improve our understanding of the dynamics of hydroclimate and vegetation changes in Africa over the past ~12 million years on the timescales of variations in Earth’s orbital parameters.

    Helen Habicht joined BPE in late June as a Staff Associate and manager of the Organic Geochemistry Lab. Helen received her Ph.D. from the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst earlier this year. Her thesis investigated the paleoenvironment of northeastern Russia as reconstructed from isotopic and molecular measurements on organic biomarkers in sediments from Lake El’gygytgyn, which partially fills a 3.6-million-year-old impact crater. Helen spoke about her thesis work at the BPE seminar on Monday.

    Ann Olsson joined BPE in July as a Staff Associate managing Peter de Menocal’s inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer and -optical emission spectrometer lab to work on the trace-metal analyses of biogenic carbonates. Ann was previously the lab manager for Erika Marín-Spiotta’s biogeography and biogeochemistry group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and before that a research assistant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she monitored hydrologic and biogeochemical fluxes at the Long-Term Ecological Research station in the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed in Alaska.

    Following the meeting last week of the Lamont Advisory Board, I’ve begun one-on-one meetings with individual Board members, to answer their questions about changes underway across the Observatory and the Earth Institute and to discuss their continued engagement with Lamont after the final meeting of the current Board, scheduled for next March. I met with Florentin Maurrasse on Monday and with Todd Sandoz on Tuesday.

    On Monday, Lamont and Columbia University’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) jointly sponsored a lunch for the Observatory’s postdoctoral scientists, to celebrate National Postdoc Appreciation Week ( About 15 of our postdoctoral scientists attended, along with Kuheli Dutt and OPA’s Director and Assistant Director, Ericka Peterson and Anna Womack.

    On Tuesday, the Geochemistry Division circulated a reminder of the symposium planned next month to celebrate the life and science of Wally Broecker. The symposium will begin with a reception on Thursday afternoon, 24 October, and invited talks will fill the day on Friday, 25 October, and much of Saturday, 26 October. The program is in the final stages of preparation by an organizing committee that includes Bob Anderson, Mark Cane, Sid Hemming, Steve Goldstein, Jerry McManus, Dorothy Peteet, and Michael Bender from Princeton University.

    The Geochemistry Division is also organizing a symposium to be held at Lamont on Friday, 15 November, to celebrate the scientific career – more than six decades long – of Taro Takahashi. The symposium will include science talks, historical anecdotes, and a reception at the close of the day. Please mark your calendars for this event. A complete program will be announced soon.

    Columbia University President Lee Bollinger yesterday announced to the university community “the creation of a task force to consider what more the University should be doing with respect to climate change.” He specifically asked if this is the right moment to create a “School of Climate Change.” Alex Halliday has agreed to lead the task force and to produce preliminary findings by the beginning of December. In an e-mail to the Earth Institute community sent about three hours in advance of President Bollinger’s announcement, Alex listed five meetings on the Morningside and Lamont Campuses at which task force representatives would be collecting ideas on and discussing ramifications of possible changes.

    The fall issue of Columbia Magazine carries a story about fieldwork by Conny Class and Steve Goldstein on the provenance of quartzite found on Anjouan, one of the Comoros Islands ( On Monday, our web site gained a story coauthored by Lex van Geen on a project he co-led with colleagues from the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Development to recruit local social science students in India to test village well water for hazardous levels of fluoride and communicate their findings to villagers ( On Tuesday, Radley Horton was interviewed by Al Roker for a portion of an NBC Today Show segment on climate change and its impact on sea level and coastal infrastructure ( A Marie Aronsohn interview of Radley, originally published in Lamont’s 2018 Annual Report (, was also posted to our web site this week.

    On Wednesday, Indrani Das was quoted in a National Geographic story about a study by others of reductions in the permeability of the top layer of the Greenland ice sheet resulting from past episodes of surface melting and the consequences of those changes for the fate of new meltwater ( The author of a Science News story on the same study sought Laura Stevens for a quote ( Also on Wednesday, Park Williams was quoted in an LAist story on the fate of the marine layer – the low, gray clouds that hang over Los Angeles between May and September – in a changing climate ( Park was quoted the same day in a story on the impact of climate change on the severity of wildfires in the American west posted by The Climate Reality Project (

    An answer by Bärbel Hönisch to a question about the causes of changes in climate prior to the Industrial Revolution ( was posted to our web site yesterday. Also posted yesterday was a story by freelance writer Renee Cho on the two recent expeditions to the Southern Ocean by the drill ship JOIDES Resolution led by Mo Raymo and Gisela Winckler ( And Robin Bell was quoted in a News 12 Connecticut story yesterday about efforts that the firm Amazon is taking to reduce its carbon footprint (

    Lamont’s annual Excellence in Mentoring Award ceremony, originally scheduled for this afternoon, has been rescheduled for next Monday because of today’s Youth Climate Strike NYC. This year, for the first time, mentoring awards will be given in two categories, mentoring by a member of the scientific staff, and mentoring by a member of the technical and administrative staff. In the first category, the finalists for this year’s award are Mike Kaplan, Jerry McManus, and Park Williams. The finalists in the second category are Nichole Anest, Jean Hanley, and Naomi Manahan. I hope that you will be able to attend the ceremony, at 3 pm in the Monell Auditorium, to celebrate all of our outstanding mentors. A reception will follow the ceremony.

    On Thursday next week, Adam Sobel will testify before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in a hearing on “Understanding, Forecasting, and Communicating Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate” ( Other witnesses at the hearing will include J. Marshal Shepherd from the University of Georgia, James Done from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Berrien Moore from the University of Oklahoma, and Ann Bostrom from the University of Washington.

    Whether you will be part of Youth Climate Strike this afternoon or simply a supporter of the imperative to improve our understanding of our planet and its future, may you enjoy the final weekend before the formal change in seasons.