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

Through interactive exhibits, games, glacier goo, and a few volcanic eruptions, people of all ages learned about geology, earth science, and climate change.

Adrienne Day
October 19, 2023

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.

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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


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


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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


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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
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory Hudson River Field Station (@ldeo_fieldstation)  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 My son, a second grader, was so inspired by @LamontEarth Open House that he wanted tell his friends about tree rings. He even made a worksheet for his friends. We just got this photo from his teacher. Here he is showing a tree core sample with a digital microscope. #ScienceParent pic.twitter.com/NQHPHl0WPE— Nguyen Tan Thai Hung (@Hung_TT_Nguyen) October 17, 2023

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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


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


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


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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


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


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


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



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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


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Bigger doesn’t always mean older: a study in tree rings. Photo: Adrienne Day