Spring 2009 Public Lectures

Sunday, March 15

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Michael Studinger, Ph.D.
Doherty Research Scientist
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory


Extreme Science


An Antarctic Expedition in Search of Lost Mountains

The AGAP (Antarctica’s Gamburtsev Province) expedition is the first systematic study of our planet’s last unexplored mountain range, which lies about 2 1/2 miles (4 km) under the most massive ice sheet on earth, deep in the interior of the Antarctic continent. Working against time in a forbidding climate, scientists have created the first detailed maps of the Gamburtsev Mountains using geophysical survey aircraft equipped with RADAR, laser, and other instruments to look down into the ice sheet.




Sunday, March 29

Lava flow

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Dorothy Peteet, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist, NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Adjunct Senior Research Scientist
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

New York’s Piermont Marsh:

A 7,000-year Archive of Climate Change, Human Impact and Uncovered Mysteries

Digging deep into tidal marshes one discovers their important role as recorders of major environmental change in the Hudson Valley. Taking sediment cores and analyzing the peat, we count pollen grains, plant macrofossils and charcoal—all of which document the dramatic and abrupt shifts in the Hudson Valley’s regional climate such as the Medieval Warming drought that occurred between 800-1350 AD. Other studies show the impacts of human disturbance since the 1600’s, such as the effects of regional forest clearance and the resulting spread of invasive species.




Sunday, April 19

Nicholas Christie-Blick, Ph.D.
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University

Byrdie Renik
Ph.D. Student
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University

Continental Stretching

A broad region of alternating mountain ridges and valleys—the Basin and Range Province of the western United States and northern Mexico—provides us with clues about how continents and tectonic plates stretch, and eventually break apart to form ocean basins and new plate boundaries. Death Valley, California, is among the field locations currently being studied by Columbia University scientists.

This lecture is sponsored by the Lamont-Doherty Alumni Association.


Sunday, April 26

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Brendan Buckley, Ph.D.
Doherty Associate Research Scientist
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The Tree Ring Project

Seven Centuries of Mega-droughts in Southeast Asia and their Impact on Regional Civilizations

Climate records from the Asian tropics are limited, and the data often lack sufficient quality for detailed analyses of climate variability. These monsoon affected regions are among the world’s most heavily populated and most dependent on water resources for agriculture. We have produced Asian tree-ring records which span more than 700 years. We find evidence for a mid-18th century “mega-drought” that spanned at least from Thailand to Vietnam. More compelling still, the time leading up to the collapse of the great 15th century Khmer civilization at Angkor Wat appears to have been marked by the most severe drought of the past seven centuries.