Maria Capello didn’t set out to become a role model.
But AAPG’s newest Distinguished Lecturer became just that with her long list of accomplishments.
Capello said being named AAPG Distinguished Lecturer was her “hat trick.” She has now been a Distinguished or Honorary Lecturer for three major professional societies including AAPG, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and Society of Petroleum Engineers (twice).
Her tenure as AAPG lecturer will begin soon with 20-30 lectures planned, some virtual and some in person, on the topic of “Coupling Geoethics to Sustainability.” The role will once again take her to a number of countries around the globe.
“I love to speak in public” she said.
She recently spoke at the Offshore Technology Conference and the appearance was attended by about 60 people in person and another 200 online.
“I was so happy about the positive feedback,” she said.
She said the purpose of her lectures is to offer insights on how and why geoscientists can build a solid foundation for sustainability purposes.
Capello said professionals across the geoscience disciplines are called upon to assess local, regional and global risks and vulnerabilities related to main issues of the planet, people and prosperity.
”Upholding geoethics can be challenging in all stages of our career paths and is now more relevant than ever,” she said. “Our individual or corporate standings and decisions have potentially great impacts on issues like climate change, environmental health, geologic hazards, energy transition, food safety, energy poverty and the management of air, water, resources and land. AAPG’s Code of Conduct will be described, as a relevant component of ethical approaches to advance the science of geology, promote technology, and facilitate networking and collaboration between professionals within the world’s geosciences community.”
A special emphasis will be placed on explaining how the concepts of equity, fairness, professionalism and harassment have taken a new significance and relevance in geosciences, and attendees will take away from this lecture an understanding on how our personal choices are key to advancing best practices for a sustainable future, she said.
Capello aims to keep her audience actively engaged, whether virtual or in person. She often asks listeners questions or asks them to read from her presentation slides and comment on them.
She is active on Instagram, Twitter and Linked-In and receives a good deal of feedback. Her posts often include observations about that day’s events or her own findings and reflections about energy transition, leadership, resilience, women’s and other minorities’ empowerment and sustainability, she said.
At her in-person appearances, she often arranges to speak to groups of women separately.
“It’s my personal wish to connect with them,” she said.
“I have experience being a minority,” she continued. An Italian, she grew up in Venezuela. “I was different from my peers.” Pursuing her education and career, she was often the only woman and the only Latin person in the classroom, the field, or in the different work teams.
“I want to empower minorities and for them to embrace their very essence, may that be being a woman, or being from a different nationality, ethnicity or race in their teams or companies” she said.
She said minorities often are required to work harder to be included. “It is unfortunate that we have to prove our value. Once, twice … sometimes, every single time,” she said.
She was the first woman to supervise seismic crews in the jungles of Venezuela.
Later, she took on increasingly important roles in Halliburton and then with Kuwait Oil Company, “where I was certainly a maverick. They had not worked in their oil assets with anyone from Venezuela, much less a woman.”
She eventually reported directly to several deputy CEOs there, helping guide and advise a variety of corporate initiatives of the company, like coordinating the compilation of best practices in field development and reservoir management, and she was asked to design a Professional Women’s Network for KOC.
She was not particularly enthusiastic about it, but soon, she said, she had become something of an “expert in diversity.”
The Necessity of Ethics and Sustainability
Capello said it is important to take ethical stances on the personal, societal, corporate and national levels.
On the personal level, she said employees have a right to know where their corporation stands on various issues.
“Is there a match? If not, we will not be happy in our work,” she explained.
In these times, “Sustainability is not a trend, but a necessity. If the corporation does not care, the employees will not feel at ease.”
In a changing industry, there are fewer opportunities for work. “You must be flexible,” and realize your decisions might help shape the corporation’s actions.
Ethics are important to how you approach your job and your profession, she said. They are important on an individual level first, and on a corporate level second, she said.
Capello is a founding partner of Red Tree Consulting, consulting for organizations in Latin America and the United States to help create and propel their corporate sustainability strategies.
She is co-chair of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Committee for Women in Resource Management and Industry Ambassador for the University of Houston’s Consortium AIM-DEEP.
She is the lead author of two books: “Mentoring and Sponsoring: Keys to Success” and “Learned in the Trenches: Insights into Leadership and Resilience.” She was the first woman to supervise seismic crews in the jungles of Venezuela, to advance a global career with leading roles in Kuwait Oil Company, Halliburton, and PDVSA.
Capello is a cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia (knight of the Order of the Star of Italy), the highest civil honor conferred by the president of Italy, “for her outstanding career in the energy and hydrocarbons sectors.” She is an honorary member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, which is the top individual award of the SPE, and serves on the Board of Directors of Society of Exploration Geophysicists. She is a physicist from the Universidad Simon Bolivar (Venezuela), holds a master’s from the Colorado School of Mines, and is certified in sustainability management and circular economy by the University of Cambridge.
She authored the Geophysical Sustainability Atlas and leads the creation of the Geosciences Sustainability Atlas with the endorsement of AAPG.
This new atlas is intended as a way to encourage students to pursue careers in the geosciences and motivate current geoscientists to expand their activities and utilize their skills in ways that could enable their long-term employability or entrepreneurship. It maps geosciences applications and practices to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
Her colleagues on this ongoing project include Anna Shaughnessy, elected president of SEG; Emer Caslin of iCRAG in Ireland; Miriam Winsten, chair of AAPG’s Sustainability Committee; Elias Gomez of Colombia; Iain Simpson Stewart, UNESCO chair in geoscience and society, and professor of geoscience at the University of Plymouth; Estella Atekwana, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Davis; Denise Cox of Strom Energy and past AAPG president; Ludivine Wouters, co-founder and managing partner of Latitude Five; and Ted Bakamjian, SEG director of publications.
Capello said being named AAPG Distinguished Lecturer is “… an honor … to be representing the voice of my professional community.”
She hopes her appearance will be inspiring, “especially for young geoscientists. It’s up to them to carry AAPG into the future, and to that grounded on solid ethics.”