Scientists Dig Deep Sea Dirt Collection In the basement of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is the world's largest collection of mud from the seafloor. Marine geologist Peter deMenocal and Rusty Lotti Bond, the collection's curator, show off the collection and explain what it's good for.
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Scientists Dig Deep Sea Dirt Collection

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Scientists Dig Deep Sea Dirt Collection

Scientists Dig Deep Sea Dirt Collection

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And now Flora Lichtman is here with our Science Friday Video Pick of the Week. Hi, Flora.


FLATOW: What do you got for us this week?

LICHTMAN: This week, we dig into the world's largest collection of ocean mud.

FLATOW: Mud. We're getting dirty.

LICHTMAN: Mud. Yes, we're getting dirty. So, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which is just north of New York City, has in its basement 18,000 samples of mud from around the world, mostly from oceans.

FLATOW: Core drillings. They drill down into the mud.

LICHTMAN: They drill down like 40 feet or so and they pull up these long tubes of gook basically, and then they store them and they've been doing it for 60 years or so.

FLATOW: So they have thousands of drillings of cores.

LICHTMAN: Thousands of cores. So they show off, we go around and see the collection, and then Peter deMenocal, which is a marine - he's a marine geologist at Lamont explains, you know, what these cores are good for.

FLATOW: If you want to see the core collection and Flora's video of it, go to and look at the Video Pick of the Week there. Are there more prized parts of the collection than others, some special parts? Like any collector, right, has their favorite.

LICHTMAN: Yes, apparently, there is. And this is actually, you know, this didn't even make the cut of the video. So this is really...

FLATOW: Just in.

LICHTMAN: Just - this just in. Vema(ph), this cruise is called Vema in the '60s, has been sampled to depth apparently. I mean, there's only, you know, a few little crumbs left from this core because everyone wants it. I think because the climate data is so good and that's really the value of these cores. They give you a record of climate, so rainfall, temperature, CO2 - they can stretch back, you know, in sediments a hundreds of million of years.

FLATOW: So, you just can't walk into that library and say, I want to get the core. You have to have a good reason to go in and look at the core.

LICHTMAN: Yeah, I think so. The curator, Rusti Lotti Bond, probably would require a reason.

FLATOW: (Laughing) And do they keep adding more to their collection all the time?

LICHTMAN: Yes, they're collecting new cores all the time, and one of the researchers, Dr. deMenocal, has collected a bunch off of the coast of Africa and he's looking to see how African climate has changed because - and we've covered this before on the show. You know, the Sahara wasn't always a desert.

FLATOW: Right. And can you look at the core? I watched the video and you can actually see the progression on the video of it changing from beautiful green to a desert.

LICHTMAN: It's pretty amazing. So, this is a core from the ocean, but the sand from the desert and the sediments blow into the sea and it shows the sort of red mud and then, you know, right in the moment of time where that climate change, the mud turns color.

FLATOW: Right, going back to the green.


FLATOW: And when African deserts where green.


FLATOW: Wow. If you want to see that exciting stuff and it's really interesting, surf over to our Web site at, and the Video Pick of the Week is there and you can watch her whole collection of this week, collect each Video Pick of the Week. Thank you, Flora.

LICHTMAN: Thank you.

FLATOW: See you next week. That's about all the time we have for today.

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