State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Building Blocks from the Mississippian Sea

For the last decade or so, Columbia University geologist David Walker has led students and colleagues on a tour of the geologic gems hiding within and around the Columbia University campus in Morningside Heights. The tour wanders from an inner sanctum in Low Library to the porch of St Paul’s Chapel, the facade of Russell Hall at Columbia Teachers College to the polished pink granite cornerstones of the engineering school’s Seeley W. Mudd Hall, from the foyer of the new Northwest Tower building at Broadway and 120th to the stairwell in Lewisohn Hall and the Alma Mater statue, back on the front steps of Low.

David Walker, Columbia University
Geology Professor David Walker talks about Mississippian limestone.

Along the way, Walker takes his flock on a tour of how the Earth has evolved over its 4.5 billion-year history: the first appearance of red rocks, the secret behind ancient blue quartz, the alpha predator of the Ordovician.

Walker, a professor and research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory since 1982, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of numerous awards, including the 2010 American Geophysical Union’s Harry Hess Medal for outstanding research on the makeup and evolution of Earth and other planets.

This series of videos continues in Part 2 with a trip back 350 million years to the shallow seas of the Mississippian that covered what is now the U.S. Midwest — the source of the beautifully crafted limestone columns and facade features of St. Paul’s Chapel and many other of the university’s McKim, Mead & White-designed buildings.

Stay tuned next Monday for Part 3: How did the quartz locked into the pink granite of Mudd Hall get to be so blue? (You can watch all of the videos on YouTube here.)

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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