Lamont Weekly Report, May 23, 2014

    This week, of course, was Commencement Week at Columbia University. One of the notable events amid the gown-filled ceremonies was the presentation of the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Achievement to Wally Broecker at the Convocation Ceremony of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences on Sunday (
    On Monday, Art Lerner-Lam was the featured speaker at the graduation ceremony of the School of Continuing Education ( A video of the event includes his address, beginning with his introduction by Dean Kristine Billmyer around minute 29:30 ( 
    With every commencement there is a consummation. This week also featured the completion of annual performance reviews. On Thursday and Friday, Lamont’s Associate Directors met with Kuheli Dutt, Virginia Maher, Art, and me to discuss the reviews of all members of the Observatory’s scientific staff. The exercise provided a wonderfully affirming overview of all of the scientific progress that our scientists have made over the past year.
    In related news, Virginia recently received certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources from the Human Resource Certification Institute. That certification is the highest given in the human resources field. Congratulations, Virginia!
    The Geochemistry Division welcomed Chandranath Basak last week as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist. Chandranath previously was a postdoctoral researcher with the Marine Isotope Geochemistry Research Group of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Oldenburg, Germany. His host at Lamont is Bob Anderson.
    On Tuesday, Pete Sobel, Art Lerner-Lam, and I were visited by Sylvia Humphrey, recently appointed Director of Development for The Columbia Science Initiative. That initiative ( aims to expand and enhance Columbia University’s programs in the sciences in a number of broad areas, including Earth science, and Sylvia was eager to learn about Lamont’s strategic initiatives.
    In the news this week, Bill Ryan was quoted in a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times by Bill Broad on the extensive offshore oil and gas reserves to which Russia gained control with their annexation of Crimea ( Also on Sunday, The Journal News ran a story on Mo Raymo, her groundbreaking research in paleoclimate, and her trip to London next month to receive the Wollaston Medal from the Geological Society of London (
    Dennis Kent is the lead author of a paper, recently posted online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reporting paleomagnetic evidence and radiometric ages in support of the conclusion that Late Triassic dinosaurs in South America predated their North American counterparts by 13-19 million years. The two modern continents were attached at the time as part of the supercontinent of Pangaea, so Kent and his colleagues suggest that faunal dispersal was hindered by a tropical “Sahara-like desert” during a period of high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and high average global temperatures 220-230 million years ago. An online story posted on Tuesday by National Geographic focused on their findings (
    Next Friday, instructors from Columbia’s Environmental Health and Safety office will be at Lamont to give two courses, one in Laboratory Safety and Hazardous Waste Management and one in Hydrofluoric Acid Safety Training. The courses are required for those working in laboratories or with HF, respectively, who have not previously participated, and they can also be taken by anyone who wishes to refresh their training. Please contact Lamont’s Safety Office for more details.
In the meantime, whether you are celebrating a graduation, another scientifically successful year at Lamont, or merely warm temperatures and spring rains, may you enjoy the long weekend ahead.