The current roster of AAPG Distinguished Lecturers was announced last fall, but there’s still plenty of time to hear them – at your own convenience.
All speakers are available on the AAPG website, free of charge, and may be available for exclusive presentation’s, pending individual schedules.
The list includes:
● Jacob Covault, senior research scientist and co-principal investigator, Quantitative Clastics Laboratory at the Bureau of Economic Geology, the University of Texas at Austin. His lecture: “Submarine-Channel Evolution from Seismic Stratigraphy and Numerical Models: Patterns and Predictions Revisited”
● Frank Peel, research geologist for the Applied Geodynamics Lab at the Bureau of Economic Geology, the University of Texas at Austin. His lecture: “A Lost World Rediscovered: 3-D Seismic Data Reveal Spectacular Images of a Jurassic Landscape on the Eve of Louann Salt Deposition in the Gulf of Mexico, With Implications for Salt Deposition”
● Alex Simms, professor of Earth science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has conducted field work on coastlines including Antarctica, Texas, California and the United Kingdom. His lecture: “Interactions Between Ice Sheets and Relative Sea Levels: Lessons from Antarctica and Northwest Scotland”
● Roel Snieder, this year’s SEG-AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, holds the W.M. Keck Distinguished Chair of Professional Development Education at the Colorado School of Mines. His lecture, which is yet to be posted: “Measuring Variations in the Seismic Velocity as a Diagnostic of Rock Damage and Healing”
● Tao Sun, a senior principal geologist with Chevron Technology Center, Houston, who currently leads the research and development of science/technology to enable 3-D prediction of reservoir architecture. His lecture (the season’s most-viewed lecture, with 2,671 views to date): “Integrated Reservoir Characterization and Modeling with Computational Stratigraphy”
● Jennifer Wilcox, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Washington, D.C. She also is a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute. Her lecture: “The Role of Carbon Capture in Meeting Net-Zero Carbon Goals”
● Cindy Yeilding, senior vice president (retired) for BP America, Houston, and a board member for both Denbury Inc. and the Center for Houston’s Future. Also this year’s Foundation-sponsored Halbouty Lecturer at IMAGE 2022. Her lecture: “Wedges, Bridges and Hockey Sticks: Exploring the Energy Transition”
Being an AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, from the very first speaking tour in 1941, was always a prestigious achievement and a source of honor and pride for those selected as speakers.
It was always recognized and praised as an important vehicle for the profession’s top geoscientists to share the latest in industry insights and advances.
It always showcased geologists who truly were distinguished.
What it wasn’t always, was easy.
In fact, the DL pioneers who for decades paved the way for generations of geoscience presentations, especially in the program’s salad days, typically did so with great personal sacrifice and risk.
Being a DL meant facing challenges far beyond the demand for technical acumen and academic excellence. We’re talking practical, real-life confrontations. Traveling across multiple time zones on successive days. Grueling speaking schedules. Dodgy accommodations. Complex logistics.
In recalling their tours for an AAPG publication that celebrated the program’s 50th anniversary – some humorously, some not so humorously – several DLs spoke of missed flights, angry crowds who challenged their talks, universities that forgot they had even scheduled a talk and hosts who either fed them too little or regaled them too much.
At times, the challenges were even more personal than that.
Alan Scott (1987-88) remembered being in a field, lecturing a group of undergraduates on how to measure stratigraphic sections, when “the rancher’s black lab came up to me, raised his leg and used me as a fire hydrant.
“The undergrads were either too stunned or intimated to laugh, which my grad assistants almost had hernias rolling on the ground.”
AAPG giant Bob Weimer wrote of missing several connecting flights on a tour of the Dakotas in 1963, resulting in finally wrangling a ride on “a low-flying DC-3, which had a normal air speed of 110-120 MPH … (but) we encountered a head wind and storm blowing up the plains at 60 MPH, and I could literally watch cars on the highways traveling faster than the plane.”
But at least he had a plane. DL Charles L. Drake (1961) went to the airport for a flight to his next talk, but instead encountered “a strike on Northwest (Airlines), which caused me to hitchhike from Billings to Butte and take a train to Missoula.
“One thing I learned,” he continued in recalling his DL experience, “is that if you give a speech after dinner, try to keep the screen as low as possible. If it is placed so the audience has to look up, it tends to draw the upper eyelids down to meet the lower ones – at least, I think it was that rather than my inspirational lectures.”
And legendary geologist Grover Murray – whose name graces AAPG’s highest award for educational excellence – was doubly embarrassed during a visit to Wheaton College, because upon his arrival he learned he “was housed in a woman’s dormitory – and someone forgot to tell the house mother and the girls I was to stay there!”
With such challenge and adventures, not to mention the sizable costs of operating such an initiative, people may have been prone to ask, “How did the program survive?”
Three quick answers:
● The science of geology, the expertise of the profession and the excellence of the industry were indeed advanced, to audiences who said their lives had been changed for the better by the talks – and who otherwise would have never been exposed to such presentations.
● For every colorful “challenging” story by the DLs there were dozens and dozens of testimonies that being a Distinguished Lecturer was the “highlight of my career.”
● The AAPG Foundation, which shortly after its creation recognized the value of sharing geoscience knowledge and expertise, has made and maintained the DL program a cornerstone in its mission to advance the geosciences.
Foundation support meant that donors from around the world could and are ensuring the future of the program – as well as the future of geosciences.
The AAPG Distinguished Lecture program was established in 1941 as a specific way to spread geoscience knowledge and promote the profession and AAPG to professionals, students and laity around the world.
DL speakers are selected annually by the Distinguished Lecture Committee – currently led by co-chairs Julia Wellner and Jon Allen – and talks and logistics are administered by program coordinator Heather Hodges, part of the AAPG staff.
At least 600 people have had the opportunity and honor of representing their science and profession as speakers.
In its early days, the DL program had a $1,000 budget for the entire operation, which meant even great scientists like M. King Hubbert, W.C. Krumbein and A.I. Levorsen endured the challenges of early-day planes, trains and automobiles to voluntarily share their knowledge.
Sometimes the crowds were large, attracting several hundred people. Often, not so large – although that wasn’t always a bad thing.
“As a pseudo-statistical observation, I noted a rather perfect inverse relationship between the number of people at my talks and the number of questions from the floor,” noted AAPG legendary geologist/leader Marlan Downey (1986-88). “The talks that had (hundreds of) attendees had no questions from the floor; the talks to smaller societies involving 15-20 people always elicited 10-20 questions from the audience.”
In today’s post-pandemic era the program exists mainly in a digital world, although thanks to the Foundation’s support, all DLs are available by invitation for live visits to specific meetings and events. (Before the pandemic the entire DL roster was part of a special session at the 2019 annual GSA meeting in Phoenix.)
The program is funded largely the AAPG Foundation, for a good reason: It’s a program that the Foundation values and views as important to the future of geosciences.
“The DL program, a prime example of a joint AAPG-Foundation effort, is a longtime favorite of many folks – especially me,” said Foundation Chair Jim McGhay. “It brings the best, brightest and most up-to-date geoscience information to the larger geo-community audience.”
Because today’s audiences expect instantaneous access to and delivery of information, the program has undergone “a revolutionary transformation” utilizing digital platforms in recent years, McGhay said, extending the program’s accessibility, audience and reach.
“We’re proud of it,” he said, “and would love to see it expanded even more.”
Mike Wisda, chair of the Foundation’s newly formed Communications Committee, echoed McGhay’s passion for the program.
“The Foundation supports many outstanding programs and initiatives that advance the geosciences, but the DL program has a special purpose of specifically providing continuing education and expertise for our members and professionals around the world,” Wisda said. “That alone makes it a valuable part of our mission.”
A bonus, he added, was that the program also “brings awareness of geology and the industry to people far beyond the AAPG borders. The program and its tremendous lineup of speakers are a great communication tool.”
“It’s AAPG’s historic flagship program for sharing geoscience knowledge,” he said. “The Foundation is proud to support it on behalf of all our donors.”
Accessing the Program
DLs no longer are scheduled on the two- and three-week speaking tours that defined the program in pre-pandemic years. A combination of costs, technology, changing event patterns and, most importantly, individuals’ availability for extended travel forced a new way of keeping the program alive and vital.
DL presentations, all of which are presented free of charge, can now be accessed in a variety of ways:
- Most DL talks now premiere in a live streaming event, organized and promoted by AAPG, hosted by an expert AAPG member and available to the entire world. Each event includes a live Q&A time.
- All DL presentations are available 24/7 on the AAPG website for individual viewing. (See accompanying story.)
- For groups and classrooms, webinars can be scheduled to provide an exclusive virtual lecture experience. These are arranged through the AAPG programs team.
- DLs may be available for live events, such as addressing a conference, luncheon or Section meeting, subject to their personal schedules. This also is administered by the AAPG programs team.
Groups are encouraged to review the DL roster to request a preferred lecture.
To arrange for a DL visit, whether virtual or live, contact coordinator Heather Hodges of the AAPG staff, at [email protected].