Introducing the ‘Geology of’ Series, Hosted by the AAPG Women’s Network

The pandemic has been a challenge for all networking and social events but geologists have a history of seeking interaction with our friends and colleagues, regardless of the number of people around us – whether at a conference or couch, it makes no matter!

This well-known fact inspired the AAPG Women’s Network and the Association for Women Geoscientists to kick-off a series of online networking and educational events that have fondly become known as the “Geology of” series. Everything we love has an underlying geologic aspect, and the “Geology of” series explores the links between geologic components such as climate, bedrock, soil and water chemistry.

Two events have been hosted thus far in 2021: “Geology of Wine,” which saw more than 80 attendees, and “Geology of Beer,” which drew more than 500.

‘Geology of Wine’

The “Geology of Wine” event, hosted on April 16, linked the prolific North Sea source rock, the Kimmeridge clay, with its time-equivalent cousin in France, the Kimmeridge fossiliferous limestones of Champagne-producing regions. The difference in lithology roots from the depositional environment; although the modern North Sea and the Champagne region of France are not geographically distant, the marine environments during the Kimmeridge (about 150 million years ago) time were drastically opposed. The North Sea Kimmeridge Clay was deposited in relatively deep, fault-bounded marine basins that were ideal for anaerobic conditions preserving organic matter.

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The pandemic has been a challenge for all networking and social events but geologists have a history of seeking interaction with our friends and colleagues, regardless of the number of people around us – whether at a conference or couch, it makes no matter!

This well-known fact inspired the AAPG Women’s Network and the Association for Women Geoscientists to kick-off a series of online networking and educational events that have fondly become known as the “Geology of” series. Everything we love has an underlying geologic aspect, and the “Geology of” series explores the links between geologic components such as climate, bedrock, soil and water chemistry.

Two events have been hosted thus far in 2021: “Geology of Wine,” which saw more than 80 attendees, and “Geology of Beer,” which drew more than 500.

‘Geology of Wine’

The “Geology of Wine” event, hosted on April 16, linked the prolific North Sea source rock, the Kimmeridge clay, with its time-equivalent cousin in France, the Kimmeridge fossiliferous limestones of Champagne-producing regions. The difference in lithology roots from the depositional environment; although the modern North Sea and the Champagne region of France are not geographically distant, the marine environments during the Kimmeridge (about 150 million years ago) time were drastically opposed. The North Sea Kimmeridge Clay was deposited in relatively deep, fault-bounded marine basins that were ideal for anaerobic conditions preserving organic matter.

Just south, France was experiencing shallow marine conditions (Tethys Seaway) with nutrients like calcium that were ideal for mollusks and bivalves that can be found in Champagne today. Wine-producing grapes love the calcium in limestone soils, and these chalky marls are exactly what the Chardonnay ordered.

There are a number of famous wines from limestone soils in various locations: the chalky soils of the Aube in Champagne, Chablis in Burgundy, and Pouilly and Sancerre in the Loire Valley produce bold-flavored, zesty white wines. The calcareous soils found in the Southern Rhône region are famous for making the classic Côtes du Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

In Paso Robles, Calif., the best plots of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grow on sloped vineyards in Linne Calodo soils, which are also a calcareous soil.

The Paleo-Paris area was living a life of Caribbean-style bliss, generating limestones and marls in a warm shallow open marine seaway. Spain and Portugal were not yet geographically connected to France – Spanish wines are famous for other reasons and have different soils. That is a separate lecture!

Thanks to the following contributors for the “Geology of Wine” lecture: Chris Piela Cox of Pineywoods Vineyard; Haak Vineyards and Winery winemaker Tiffany Farrell of Santa Fe, Texas; William Nardin, assistant professor at the University of Maryland and level 1 sommelier; and Fran Pontasche, viticulture specialist and agriculture extension agent for Texas A&M.

‘Geology of Beer’

The “Geology of Beer” event, hosted on Aug. 20, was a frothingly fabulous lecture combined with the sampling of four fantastic brews: a classic Pilsner beer (Pilsner Urquell), a German Weisse / Weizen beer (Franziskaner), Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada), and of course we finished with stout (Guinness).

Our three panelists were experts in various aspects of beer making, ingredient sourcing, the business of beer and the historical significance of beer. They also hold expertise in exploration geoscience, geochemistry and geo-archaeology. Geo-technical topics covered included water geochemistry and the “terroir” of hops, while non-geologic topics included an introduction to the brewing process, the intricacies of proper malting, evolving flavor preferences through time, commercial brewing and what it’s like to open your own brewery.

This event had a very large draw, due in part to the advertising done by our sponsor Midwest GeoSciences Group, who also provided free “Geo-Beer-ology” etched pint glasses to 100 random lucky attendees. During the event, there was a great deal of audience participation and interaction, through the lively Zoom chat, lots of salient questions, live polling through Menti.com (sponsored by AWG LoneStar), and an engaging happy hour hosted on the Wonder room platform. The event drew participants from 46 U.S. states and 17 other countries across the globe (no one tuned in from McMurdo, but apart from Antarctica, all other continents were represented), showing the broad and deep reach of the AAPG Women’s Network and AWG.

Thanks to the following contributors for the “Geology of Beer” lecture: Ed Hermman, executive director of the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Bloomington, Ind.; Adam Turner, isotope geochemist for GeoMark Research LTD in Houston; and Janine Weber, co-owner and head brewer at Ovinnik Brewing in Houston.

More ‘Geology of’ to Come

We are exploring more topics for this series, including chocolate, coffee and many more! Stay tuned for more events of this series. If you have any questions or are interested in volunteering for AAPGWN, please contact us at [email protected] For more information about the AWG LoneStar Chapter contact them at [email protected] For more information about AAPGWN and our events follow us on social media, find us on the AAPG App, or visit us at AAPG.org/womens-network to become a member today.

To relive the magic of these events, find them on YouTube with the search terms “Geology of Wine AAPG” and “Geology of Beer AAPG.”

Thanks to the organizing committee: Rebecca Caldwell, Kathleen Gould, Dan Kelleher, Stefano Mazzoni and Karla Tucker.

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