State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Highlights from 2023’s Open House at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Last Saturday, October 14, almost 2,000 visitors braved the elements—pun intended—for a rainy Open House at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It’s a yearly tradition that stretches back over half a century, and an opportunity for adults and children of all ages to learn about our planet. Lamont’s scientists share their research with the public via hands-on demonstrations, discussions and lectures, and interactive exhibits and videos. It’s a great place to get your hands dirty—and many kids did with the Oobleck-filled bathtub, sticky glacier goo, and a delicious “earth-cake” demonstrating how subduction zones lead to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. There was also a soil-testing station, spooky glacier art, rocks from the bottom of the ocean and the surface of the moon, a rambunctious polar bear, and exploding volcanoes. Below are some highlights from a messy and wonderful time at Lamont this year.

Kids play with cornstarch and water (i.e., “Oobleck”) for a sticky investigation into the properties of rheology. Rheology is a branch of physics that deals with the deformation and flow of matter. Photo: Adrienne Day


Looking at 3D images of the asteroid Bennu, from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Photo: Jessica Waverka


Lamont graduate student Rose Oelkers illustrates how trees can record earthquakes and other disasters in their growth rings, using a sample from a pine tree that lived near the San Andreas Fault. Photo: Francesco Fiondella


Edward Cook, the director of the Tree-Ring Laboratory, describes the countries he has visited to collect tree cores and cuttings for his research. Photo: Francesco Fiondella


Jacob Tielke of the rock mechanics lab inspects an “earth cake” representing an oceanic tectonic plate (left) subducting underneath a continental plate. Cake created by lab head (and expert baker) Christine McCarthy. Photo: Kevin Krajick


Artist and scientist Elizabeth Case’s art at the ‘Communicating Science in a Distracted World’ panel. Photo: Olga Rukovets


Hanna Anderson, a grad student studying ocean microbes, describes the chemical and biological qualities of different water samples. Photo: Kevin Krajick


Space rocks! NASA recently designated the Lamont Geoinformatics Research Group to sort and store all data from extraterrestrial matter curated by the agency, including from meteorites, asteroids and the Moon. Photo: Kevin Krajick


Part of an art exhibit by Rhonda Babb (The Hope Symbol Project). Photo: Olga Rukovets


A rotating tank experiment simulate features of atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Photo: Francesco Fiondella


A fire proximity suit welcomes visitors to the Volcano tent exhibits. These suits are designed to protect Lamont volcanologists from the extremely high heat of their field sites. Photo: Francesco Fiondella


Kids save the town from an erupting cinder cone volcano. Photo:  Adrienne Day


Looking into the Core Repository: a collection of over 20,000 marine sediment and rock samples from all over the world. Photo: Tara Spinelli


Hung Nguyen and Max with Hung’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management class


At the Deep Sea Core Repository, former lab assistant Ashley Braunthal shows off the sites where Lamont research vessels have taken marine sediment core samples (colored dots). Photo: Kevin Krajick


Bigger doesn’t always mean older: a study in tree rings. Photo: Adrienne Day
Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments