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Engaging Members, Promoting Professionalism

I recently attended the AAPG Rocky Mountain Section annual meeting in Denver, “Cracking the Source” – it was a fantastic meeting.

Of course, I admit to being perhaps a bit biased in that the RMS-AAPG is my “geologic home” – but in addition to having great talks, great field trips and great short courses (as usual), here’s why it was a truly fantastic event:

The RMS broke new ground in engaging and empowering its collection of young professionals (YPs).

Apparently, the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists’ (RMAG) leadership team noted that they have an enthusiastic and engaged young professional group there, so a goal was set by the Section leadership (with RMS-AAPG president Elmo Brown and RMAG president Matt Silverman leading the charge, I’m sure) to incorporate the energy and hard work of that group into helping put on a successful Section meeting.

One YP member, Peter Bucknam, was recruited to select a conference committee to help plan and organize the meeting. He in turn recruited two more YPs, Cat Campbell and Laura Johnson, to be general chairs.

This top heavy YP leadership for the Section meeting was a “step (leap?) out-of-the-box” approach to how geoscience conferences traditionally have been chaired and organized. Although these YPs were the conference chairs, they knew they had the support (and help, if needed) of the more-seasoned conference veterans/chairs.

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I recently attended the AAPG Rocky Mountain Section annual meeting in Denver, “Cracking the Source” – it was a fantastic meeting.

Of course, I admit to being perhaps a bit biased in that the RMS-AAPG is my “geologic home” – but in addition to having great talks, great field trips and great short courses (as usual), here’s why it was a truly fantastic event:

The RMS broke new ground in engaging and empowering its collection of young professionals (YPs).

Apparently, the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists’ (RMAG) leadership team noted that they have an enthusiastic and engaged young professional group there, so a goal was set by the Section leadership (with RMS-AAPG president Elmo Brown and RMAG president Matt Silverman leading the charge, I’m sure) to incorporate the energy and hard work of that group into helping put on a successful Section meeting.

One YP member, Peter Bucknam, was recruited to select a conference committee to help plan and organize the meeting. He in turn recruited two more YPs, Cat Campbell and Laura Johnson, to be general chairs.

This top heavy YP leadership for the Section meeting was a “step (leap?) out-of-the-box” approach to how geoscience conferences traditionally have been chaired and organized. Although these YPs were the conference chairs, they knew they had the support (and help, if needed) of the more-seasoned conference veterans/chairs.


The innovative approach proved to be a win-win-win situation for the RMS, the members (both YPs and older) who were involved, and AAPG.

In addition to the general chairs being YPs, nine out of 11 event committees were chaired or co-chaired by a YP member. For the most critical tasks and committees the YP leader was paired with a “seasoned conference veteran.” This way the experienced folk could pass on their knowledge and their contacts for putting on these types of events.

YP member Natasha Rigg agreed to be the technical program co-chair, along with Donna Anderson. YP John South was exhibits co-chair, along with Laura Wray. And what great professional relationships this created.

YPs also were recruited to be session chairs, and these chairs in turn actively pursued getting people to submit abstracts on specific hot topics.

The field trip I attended was co-led by a YP, Tofer Lewis (great field trip by the way, Tofer and veteran member Jeff May). And at the suggestion of a YP committee member, another field trip was held specifically for YPs and students that provided a great forum for networking among our younger members.

In addition, over the two-year planning period, four of the YPs engaged in the meeting had babies, including the two general chairs, and another YP committee chair got married.

WOW is what I say.

What a clear demonstration that YPs can and are contributing to AAPG and geoscience at a time when so many other exciting things are going on in their lives.

What did the YPs gain?

  • Valuable professional relationships with “veteran conference organizers.”
  • Forums to demonstrate their organizational and leadership skills.
  • A feeling of satisfaction about a job well done.

What did the “veterans” gain?

  • Incredible support for organizing the meeting.
  • A sense of accomplishment in having passed on their experiences to those who follow.
  • Perhaps a few hours on a weekend to pursue personal goals.

And what did AAPG gain?

AAPG gained a great meeting of incalculable value in terms of advancing the science and promoting professionalism and diversity within our community and within a host of YPs, who have gained skills, demonstrated their leadership abilities and who very well may be among the future leaders of AAPG.

Our YPs and student members are incredibly talented people. Frankly, I’m glad I’m not competing with them – they have so much to offer.

We need to welcome them – and engage them and their talents – throughout AAPG.


I hope this successful running of the RMS annual meeting will be an inspiration and a model to others throughout our Sections and Regions, to actively engage our young professionals and incorporate their visions of what our organization is – and what it can be – into our global vision.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants who have preceded us – but there is no future if we can’t engage and motivate our youth to carry on and do even better.

Give ’em a chance (with perhaps a little guidance) – then stand back and watch what they can accomplish.

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