Lamont Weekly Report, September 25, 2015

     A week punctuated by the autumnal equinox was an extraordinarily busy one for New York City, with a visit by Pope Francis, the confluence of more than a hundred world leaders, a United National General Assembly session, Climate Week NYC, and the beginning today of the UN Sustainable Development Summit (

     There are advantages to being tucked away on a bucolic campus in Rockland County.

     Lamont’s Human Resources Office welcomed Rebecca Kenny this week as a new HR Payroll Specialist. Becca is a graduate of SUNY Oneonta and brings work experience in benefits administration and recruitment. Until recently she worked in the Human Resources Department of Flight Centre USA of Ramsey, New Jersey. She lives in Orange County and has worked as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

     The Biology and Paleo Environment Division welcomed Matthew Harke this month as a new Postdoctoral Research Scientist. Matthew is working in Sonya Dyhrman’s group on problems in phytoplankton ecology, genetics, and biological oceanography. He obtained his Ph.D. earlier this year from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at SUNY Stony Brook, where his supervisor was Christopher Gobler.

     Please join me in welcoming Becca and Matthew to our campus!

     Yesterday, Raj Moulik successfully defended his thesis, completed under the supervision of Göran Ekström, on “Earth’s elastic and density structure from diverse seismological observations.” Congratulations, Dr. Moulik!

     On Monday, I visited the Department of Earth Sciences at ETH Zürich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) to give the opening colloquium in their fall series. My hosts were cosmochemists Maria Schönbächler and Henner Busemann, and my visit included discussions with Taras Gerya, Domenico Giardini, Andy Jackson, Amir Khan, Tapio Schneider, and Paul Tackley. The department boasts on their website that they were ranked number one in the world in Earth and Marine Sciences this year by QS Top Universities ( (Columbia ranks eighth in that survey, but the accompanying write-up never mentions Lamont.)

     In the 15 October issue of Quaternary Science Reviews, Linda Heusser, Jonathan Nichols, and Matthew Kirby of California State University, Fullerton, report an analysis of pollen in a sediment core recovered from Lake Elsinore in southern California that resolves ecological changes at the sub-centennial time scale from 9000 to 32,000 years ago. The team identified a 2000-year interval of megadroughts during a glacial era between about 25,500 and 27,500 years ago, demonstrating that California megadroughts can occur when climatic boundary conditions differ substantially from the present. A Stacy Morford story on the article is on our web site (

     The September issue of Lamont’s electronic newsletter ( was distributed last week and is posted on our web site. The newsletter features articles on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Tree-Ring Laboratory, the work of Park Williams and colleagues demonstrating the role of global warming in California’s current drought, and the analysis of Meredith Williams and her collaborators of a glacial calving event and its lessons on how global seismological observations can now be used to estimate rates of ice loss by similar events along the edge of the Greenland ice sheets. There are links to other stories on research findings, recent fieldwork, books published, and awards garnered by Lamont scientists, as well as a variety of recent campus events.

     At 1 pm today in the Monell Auditorium, in lieu of the regularly scheduled meeting of the Lamont Senior Staff, there was a Town Hall meeting open to everyone on campus. Presented there were updates to the Observatory’s budgetary, communications, and development plans, and opportunities were provided for attendees to raise issues of general interest to the campus.

     This afternoon, the Earth Science Colloquium will feature geochemist and 2015 Macelwane Medalist Matt Jackson, from the University of California, Santa Barbara ( Matt will be speaking on “Geochemical and geodynamic consequences for a non-chondritic Earth.”

     To cap an unusually event-filed week locally, we will be treated Sunday night to an unusual celestial occurrence, the coincidence of a full “supermoon” at lunar perigee with a total lunar eclipse ( If you can minimize the light pollution from the city and all the visiting luminaries, enjoy the show.