Global uncertainties caused by war and the threat of terrorism, depressed economies and the threat of SARS combined to dent attendance at the AAPG Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, but nothing could derail the meeting's spirit -- or ultimate success.
AAPG's 88th annual meeting was held May 11-14 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City - the second time in six years that AAPG has met there for its yearly convention.
Total attendance was 4,719, the first time since 1987 (Los Angeles) that the number of attendees was below 5,000.
But the lower numbers didn't dampen the spirits in Utah.
"I feel the meeting was a great success," said general chairman Tom Chidsey.
He gave several reasons why:
- There were "17 full or nearly full field trips, some even braving blizzards, to Utah's spectacular geology," he said.
- There were 10 well-attended short courses on the latest hot topics such as shale gas and coalbed methane.
- Industry security expert [PFItemLinkShortcode|id:47481|type:standard|anchorText:Bobby Gillham's talk|cssClass:|title:|PFItemLinkShortcode] at the DPA luncheon "could not have been more timely" coming immediately after the terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia.
- And "our last day 'poster party' (where free drinks and snacks were served) was a huge success," Chidsey said. "I have never seen so many at a poster session on the last afternoon."
Chidsey also mentioned the jam-packed crowd for the All-Convention luncheon, where Amy John was recognized as AAPG's National Earth Science Teacher of the Year. That was followed by an [PFItemLinkShortcode|id:47478|type:standard|anchorText:entertaining talk by author Simon Winchester|cssClass:|title:|PFItemLinkShortcode] regarding his career and his own book, The Map That Changed the World -- The Story of William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology.
"But finally, and most important, the technical program was excellent, the topics popular and the talks were of high quality and well-attended," Chidsey said.
"This is what the meeting was truly all about."
Indeed, crowds were large at technical sessions throughout the meeting, including the sessions on management strategies and new exploration.
Crowds were large, too, throughout the exhibit hall, where the latest in technology, information services and publishing was on display. Booths featuring demonstrations and/or talks -- many that used the latest computer technology to further blend the lines between geology and geophysics -- proved to be popular throughout the week.
The meeting officially began with Sunday's opening session, featuring welcoming remarks from Chidsey and SEPM President Peter McCabe, and Dan Smith's presidential address.
Smith, who spoke on "Our Future," said it will be many decades before non-hydrocarbon sources can be used to meet the world's continuing need for energy.
"It takes energy to make energy," Smith said as he presented the case that plenty of opportunities still exist for petroleum geologists and the oil and gas industry.
(A PowerPoint presentation of Smith's talk can be found online at www.aapg.org, and at Search & Discovery, AAPG's online journal.)
Another highlight of the opening session was the awards ceremony, capped by Peter Vail standing from a wheelchair and walking to the podium to speak after [PFItemLinkShortcode|id:47468|type:standard|anchorText:receiving the Sidney Powers Memorial Medal|cssClass:|title:|PFItemLinkShortcode], AAPG's highest honor.
"It was a very moving moment for all who were there," Chidsey said.
Vail, honored for his role in helping to develop the concept and applications of sequence stratigraphy, recalled the sequences that put him in position to do his work.
"During this period in the geophysical research department I learned of an Exxon well that was drilled on a structure basinward of a well that drilled a thick sand," he said. "The reflection that coincided with the sand top was traced basinward across the structure by the Exxon interpreter, where he predicted the sand to be present, but the well only found shale and silt, and no sand.
"Why did this happen? No one seemed to know," Vail continued.
"I thought this would be a great project for me," he said. "Fortunately, management agreed."
[PFItemLinkShortcode|id:47468|type:standard|anchorText:Vail's acceptance speech|cssClass:|title:|PFItemLinkShortcode]
Next year's AAPG annual meeting will be held April 18-21 in Dallas.