Lamont Weekly Report, September 12, 2014

    The first full week of the fall semester has been a busy one.
    Over the weekend, Terry Plank co-organized a workshop at Lamont on the geology of the Manhattan Prong, a tongue of ancient continental crust that outcrops in Manhattan, the Bronx, and segments of Brooklyn, Staten Island, and several adjacent areas. Terry writes that the workshop was “started as a grassroots effort to learn more about the local geology and pass the baton from senior geologists to the next wave.” There were about 50 participants at talks given in Comer on Saturday and on a Sunday field trip. A central question of the workshop was “What are the rocks of Central Park called, and how old are they?” Answers ranged from the Ordovician Hartland Formation to the Manhattan Formation, Neoproterozoic to Ordovician in age. Terry concludes, “New geochronology and geochemistry data are needed to resolve basic questions about the rocks millions see every day.”
    Cassie Xu, Senior Program Manager in the Office of Academic Programs and Research Programs at the Earth Institute, has begun working two days a week on our campus as Lamont’s Education and Outreach Coordinator. Cassie will coordinate our ongoing K-16 programs across the Observatory to better leverage our existing programming in support of more competitive broader impact statements on proposals to the National Science Foundation and other agencies. She will also work on connecting and integrating the Observatory's educational activities and scale those programs for greater impact for students and educators. At the central offices of the Earth Institute, where she has worked since 2011, Cassie contributes broadly to a variety of research, educational, and practice initiatives led by Earth Institute faculty. Prior to moving to New York City to pursue graduate studies, Cassie taught elementary and middle school overseas. Cassie is a graduate of the MA program in International Education Development at Teachers College and also holds Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
    Lamont’s Advisory Board met on campus on Wednesday afternoon. Following meetings of the Board’s committees on Membership, Marketing, Risk, and Education, the full Board heard reports on scientific progress and fundraising at the Observatory. The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by Jim Gaherty on Lamont’s initiative on Earthquakes and Faulting. The Board meeting was followed by a Director’s Circle lecture by Göran Ekström, who spoke on the topic of “Remote analysis of catastrophic landslides using seismology.”
    The principal agenda item at a meeting of the Council of Deans on Thursday morning was Columbia University’s new policies on gender-based misconduct and the organizational changes made to implement those policies. Brief presentations were made by Jeri Henry, Interim Director of the Gender-Based Misconduct Office; Melissa Rooker, Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action; Donna Fenn, from the Office of General Counsel; and Suzanne Goldberg, Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law and Special Advisor to the President for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. Attention was drawn to the university’s website on Sexual Respect ( ), which includes Lee Bollinger’s announcement last month of Columbia’s new policies, a link to a description of those policies, and extensive lists of resources for reporting incidents or simply learning more about expectations and procedures.
   Many from Lamont joined the friends and family of Ken Hunkins in Monell Auditorium on Thursday afternoon for a celebration of Ken’s life and scientific contributions. The event began with a lute concert by Ken’s stepson, Kenneth Bé. Dale Chayes then served as a master of ceremonies as personal remembrances were offered by a series of speakers. Ken’s daughters Sarah and Ann spoke of growing up in Tappan, trips to Lamont, and letters their father sent them from Arctic ice stations. Doug Martinson explained Ken’s pioneering observations of Ekman spirals in the ice-covered Arctic Ocean. Bill Ryan remembered fondly what he learned about and from Ken over many lunches together. Tom Manley, a former student of Ken now at Middlebury College, recalled arriving at Columbia hoping to work in tropical oceanography and learning that Ken had arranged for him to spend his entire first summer in the Arctic. Former Lamont engineer and long-time Hunkins collaborator Jay Ardai spoke of Ken’s mastery of field equipment and his cheerful encouragement of colleagues. Following the talks, a reception in the Monell lobby capped the occasion.
    On Thursday evening, the R/V Langseth completed its current survey, led by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, of the outer continental shelf of the U.S. Atlantic margin. After retrieving seismic gear, the ship headed for an arrival tomorrow in Norfolk, Virginia. Through Wednesday, nearly 2600 km of two-dimensional seismic profiling had been completed, along with multibeam and other geophysical measurements. All of the major objectives of the cruise have been met, and chief scientist Deborah Hutchinson writes, “After a bumpy start, we have more than made up for the lost time. Data quality has been outstanding, weather (now) unbelievably benign, and the ship and crew great to work with.” Next week, the Langseth is scheduled to embark on the Eastern North American Margin (ENAM) community seismic experiment of the GeoPRISMS Program ( ). Donna Shillington, Anne Bécel, Jim Gaherty, and collaborators from other institutions are participating in that experiment.
    Also on Thursday, the R/V Atlantis completed the Volcano Ocean Ice Climate Experiments (VOICE) project and reached Astoria, Oregon, with several from Lamont and Columbia aboard. Among the scientific party were Suzanne Carbotte, Marty Fleischer, Jerry McManus, Gisela Winckler, and graduate students Bridget Boulahanis, Kassandra Costa, James Gibson, and Gene Henry, as well as Columbia engineering graduate Christina Hernandez, DEES and Lamont alumnus Rich Katz, and former DEES professor Charlie Langmuir, who served as chief scientist. The VOICE project was designed to explore links between glacial climate cycles and ocean ridge volcanic and hydrothermal activity through a combination of paleoceanographic, geochemical, and geophysical measurements.
    In a recent paper in Frontiers in Microbiology , Kyle Frischkorn, Sonya Dyhrman, and their collaborators at Stony Brook University documented with laboratory experiments and RNA analysis how blooms of the phytoplankton Aureococcus anophagefferens create the “brown tides” that have plagued the coastal embayments of Long Island and other areas for the last several decades. Sonya’s group was part of a team that mapped the A. anophagefferens genome four years earlier. The new study confirms that the organism’s unusually abundant genes that control light harvesting switch on in murky water, and other genes act to scavenge nitrogen and phosphorus from organic compounds in waters depleted in the usual inorganic nutrients. A Kim Martineau story, complete with a video ( ), provides a good summary of the work.
    In a paper published Tuesday in Nature Communications , Helga Gomes, Joaquim Goes, and their coauthors reported on the results of experiments designed to address a different sort of marine bloom, that of the green dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans , in the Arabian Sea. Until recently, the base of the food chain in the Arabian Sea was occupied by photosynthetic diatoms. The diatoms are being replaced by N. scintillans , which fixes carbon and draws energy from algal endosymbionts and feeds on a broad range of other organisms. Gomes and her colleagues showed that carbon fixation in N. scintillans increases in oxygen-poor water, the reverse of the reaction of local diatoms, and that N. scintillans grows faster in light than in darkness because of its endosymbionts. The Arabian Sea has seen a rise in oxygen-poor waters as the influx of fertilizer and untreated sewage from coastal population centers has grown, and over the last decade the N. scintillans blooms have turned large areas of the Arabian Sea green each winter. Kim Martineau has written an excellent summary of the work and its importance to the local ecology and fishing industry ( ), and several articles on the paper’s findings have appeared in the media (e.g., ).
    Elsewhere in the media, an article Monday on carbon capture technology in Yale e360 discusses the work on this topic by Peter Eisenberger and Dave Goldberg ( ). Park Williams is quoted in a story in the Great Falls Tribune on the findings of a report issued this week by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization on the response to climate change of Rocky Mountain forests ( ). Mo Raymo (or a cartoon version of her) is one of 97 climate scientists who each offer concise commentary on 97 Hours of Consensus , a climate awareness campaign by Skeptical Science ( ).
    This afternoon at 1 pm there will be a meeting of the Lamont scientific staff in the Monell Auditorium. Topics of discussion will include Lamont's budget for the current academic year, the status of ongoing searches for Lamont research faculty, the upcoming recruitment of new postdoctoral fellows, and responses to Columbia’s new policy on gender-based misconduct.
    Later this afternoon, the fall season for Lamont’s Earth Science Colloquium will kick off with seismologist Maureen Long from the Department of Geology & Geophysics at Yale University ( ). Maureen will speak on “Adventures in anisotropy at the base of the mantle: Seismic constraints on deep Earth dynamics.” If, like seismic body waves in the lowermost mantle, your characteristics change with the direction you are headed at the moment, you should find something familiar in her talk. I hope to see you there.