Fieldwork forms a large part of many geologists’ undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Its prominence generally decreases, however, when students make the transition from academia to industry and become a Young Professional (YP).
Exposures in outcrop at scales comparable to that of seismic data enable better interpretations, as we can draw upon realistic geological architectures that can subsequently be applied to subsurface reservoirs. The field environment encourages critical thinking and often inspires discussion regarding alternative interpretations.
In addition to being good physical exercise, it is the excitement of discovery that attracts many geologists to the field; another piece of the geologic puzzle could be waiting just beyond the next elevation or obscured by thick vegetation.
YP groups in Europe have taken the initiative to offer fieldwork outings to members during weekends.
These trips have been made possible by the enthusiasm of numerous committed geologists who have dedicated their spare time to rocks.
♦ Last year, Aberdeen’s YP chapter took in the east coast of Scotland’s dramatic scenery by visiting localities in St. Cyrus and Stonehaven.
The trip was led by professor and AAPG member Adrian Hartley of the University of Aberdeen, and generously funded by Chevron and Maersk.
Exposures at St. Cyrus record the lava-sediment interactions occurring during formation of the Midland Valley basin. Sediment rafts within lavas and locally present pepperites demonstrate the extensive influence volcanism had on the geology.
Discussions at this locality focused on how lessons learned from these outcrops could help YPs understand the intrusive and extrusive volcanic rocks of the Faroe-Shetland Basin and their interaction with the petroleum system. Stonehaven possesses an excellent exposure of the Highland Boundary fault – and despite its historical significance, the relative timing of fault motion is still debated.
♦ A group of YPs based in The Hague visited Belgium and southern parts of Netherlands to study some of the stunning exposures in mainland Europe.
Fieldwork in the Saeftinge area involved using modern analogues to investigate the small-scale elements of fluvial and deltaic systems as well as examining aeolian sandstones from the Pleistocene era.
The group travelled to Kouterhof Hoegaarden to study world-class examples of petrified wood, which were fossilized in the area during the Eocene Thermal Maximum – and they also wisely incorporated a visit to the world famous Hoegaarden brewery!
♦ A virtual field trip recently was tested via the screening of an AAPG e-Symposium presented by Garry F. Hayes. The tour took attendees on a spectacular visual journey through geological landmarks in the United States from the comfort of a conference room in Europe.
Specifically, the trip spanned the glitter of Las Vegas to the towering spires of Bryce Canyon, and provided a remarkably detailed history of the North American continent from the Early Proterozoic to Holocene times.
The virtual field trip concept was relatively new for most attendees, but overall the event was a decided success.
The importance of fieldwork cannot be understated for the continued development of YPs. Low oil prices will make justification for field excursions more difficult, and the geologist’s “jolly” may be considered a non-essential expenditure by decision makers.
However, I encourage all AAPG members to champion the geologist’s rightful need for field-based learning during these times of industry austerity.
Ultimately, the study of outcrops allows for a sound understanding of geological concepts to be developed and applied in the office – and thereby enables us to make better business decisions.