2018 Scientific Projects for Lamont Researchers

On every continent and in every ocean, Lamont researchers are studying climate, geology, natural hazards, ecology and more. This year, expeditions are taking these curious explorers to the far reaches of the earth. They will be traveling to India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Antarctic, Alaska, Chile, Patagonia, Sicily, Comora Islands off southeast Africa, North Sumatra, China and more. The following are a number of Lamont projects closer to home.

Coring of bogs and wetlands, New York metro area and Catskill Mountains
Paleoecologist Dorothy Peteet is studying New York region’s past, present and future environment, using sediment cores taken from lake bottoms, marshes and bogs. Her latest project focuses on wetlands around New York City - how they have been affected by urbanization and how they may respond to the sea-level rise, higher temperatures and greater storm surges with climate change. The cores contain old pollen, plant remains, charcoal and other information spanning the end of the last ice age to the present. She and colleagues will be working in the Bronx and Queens at sites including Udall’s Cove and Pelham Bay. In June they plan to drill to bedrock through an ancient bog near the high Catskills village of Maplecrest.

Real-time forest monitoring, Hudson Valley and New York City
In the Hudson Valley, the extreme ranges of many southern trees rub against those of northern species, making the region a sentinel for how warming climate may affect North American forests. Some northern species such as sugar maples and beeches may already be getting edged out, while oaks and hickories move in. Plant physiologist Kevin Griffin is studying long and short scale changes, wiring more than a dozen trees in the lower Hudson Valley’s Black Rock Forest with instruments that transmit daily changes in growth to his lab. The network will soon expand to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the main Columbia campus.

New York earthquakes - Seismometer installation, monitoring
From Central Park to the Canadian border, Lamont- Doherty runs seismic instruments to monitor earthquakes in the U.S. Northeast 24 hours a day. The region sees a surprising number of small quakes. New instruments have been installed near Albany, N.Y., where recent unusual tremors have been felt, and in the Adirondack Mountains, where quakes have long been routine.

A billion oysters - Restoring New York Harbor
Oysters once populated New York Harbor before waterways were overrun with pollution and shoreline construction. The Billion Oyster Project is a long-term initiative to involve young New Yorkers in restoring New York’s marine environment by growing one billion oysters. Working with middle-school teachers, Lamont- Doherty educators and scientist Bob Newton have designed protocols for monitoring oyster growth and marine conditions. At 32 shoreline sites, teachers and their students are now growing oysters on different kinds of substrates and measuring oyster growth, along with water chemistry, wildlife health and weather conditions.

Piermont Marsh secondary school programs
Starting again this summer, this project involves groups of high school students working in marshland along the Hudson River at Piermont to collect data on carbon flux, nutrients, sediment accumulation, heavy metal contamination and wildlife, for a long-term study on the marsh’s health and evolution in the face of sea-level rise and other forces.

Air Sensors being developed
Air sensors have been developed by environmental health scientist Steven Chillrud for several groups to study what triggers pediatric asthma. They are designed to be worn by test subjects to measure real-time exposure to pollutants. Pilots will take place by summer in New York City, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

Hudson River sewage - Water sampling by boat
In cooperation with Riverkeeper, biologists are mapping sources and fates of sewage in the Hudson River with periodic sampling from the Riverkeeper vessel. Water quality has improved dramatically in recent decades, but human waste still sweeps in during heavy rains and a recent study showed that pharmaceuticals routinely carried in treated sewage are spread in worrisome quantities at some sites. Tributaries with particular problems include outfalls at Kingston, Orangetown, Newtown Creek and the Sparkill, Roundout and Esopus Creeks.

Tiny plastic pollution - Sampling for microbeads, studies of aquatic organisms in Hudson River and coastal waters
Microbeads, tiny plastic spheres commonly used in shampoos, soaps, cleaning supplies and cosmetics, are entering local waters in vast quantities, but no one knows how many. Using a newly developed method, oceanographer Joaquim Goes and geochemist Beizhan Yan are sampling the Hudson River by small vessel to map microbead quantities to enable colleagues to undertake experiments to determine their potential effects on aquatic life.

For more information on these projects and those worldwide go to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory website, www.ldeo.columbia.edu