So….What does a Geologist Do?
I’m writing this column after receiving a phone call from partners that a well my husband and I invested in hit pay. When I was in college, I didn’t comprehend that the stratigraphy, structure, paleontology, and geochemistry I was studying would one day help me make a decision to put our hard earned money in this well.
If you read my column last spring you may remember in high school I was unaware of geology as a vocation. In college, I discovered geology and was inspired to make it my career. The trouble was I couldn’t quite grasp what geologist’s “do” to earn a living other than teach other geologists. That all changed with a visit from Susan Landon, an alumnus from my school, SUNY Binghamton.
Ms. Landon came to give a presentation at Friday afternoon “tea”, the geology department’s Friday afternoon seminar series. She showed up in her tailored tweed suit, the model of a career woman. Susan Landon was an Amoco exploration geologist. For those of you who might not have grown up with oil company mergers, Amoco was one of the Standard Oil’s original Seven Sisters under the name of Standard Oil of Indiana ( http://www.us-highways.com/sohist.htm ). Amoco, along with ARCO, is now part of BP. It is interesting to note that oil companies, like eustatic sea level fluctuations, have a cyclicity: oil companies merge-oil companies break-up-oil companies merge.
Susan gave a talk about exploration geology. She introduced the concept of an oil prospect, how a geologist defines where to drill. Her prospect slides showed basin stratigraphy via subsurface electric logs on cross sections instead of the more familiar field trip measured sections from outcrop. As the prospect was defined, paleontology, petrology, and sedimentation were no longer just lab exercises but tools to describe oil reservoirs and seals. And strike and dip learned by measuring folds in road cuts a way to map subsurface structures. The core courses I’d been taking all came together in a prospect, source-reservoir-trap-seal. The next semester I signed up for a course in petroleum geology.
Susan was a volunteer for AAPG’s Visiting Geologist Program and my inspiration for becoming a petroleum geologist. She defined the “so what” of stratigraphy, sedimentation, paleontology, structure, and geochemistry. She was and continues to be my role model for what a geologist does.
Things have changed since I was an undergraduate. Geologists are now geoscientists. Technology has made the subsurface world come alive through total immersion, 3-D Visionariums. Even prospects have changed as unconventional reservoirs have turned the tables on source-reservoir-trap-seal. What hasn’t changed is the importance of learning the fundamentals of geology. They, along with your creativity, are what lead to prospects and the thrill of drilling your first well - but that’s a story for another time.
Visit the AAPG-VGP website ( http://aapg.org/education/vgp/index.cfm ) and request a Visiting Geologist come to your school. See if you are inspired to seek a career in petroleum geology. If you are recently graduated and reading this column, volunteer to go back to your school and share your first years’ experiences and training as a petroleum geologist. If you are a seasoned veteran and are keeping up with the Student Chapter at your school, volunteer to be a part of the Visiting Geologist Program. If you are a semi-retired oil finder (geologists never fully retire) and want to share your wisdom contact AAPG for schools that want to hear your stories. Reach out and inspire the next generation of oil finders!
Until next time, listen to people you respect, try new things, and remember to have fun!