Past Messages


Jory A. Pacht, Spring 2004

pachtAs I write the first column of my tenure as President of GCSSEPM, I want to begin by remarking on how I continue to be amazed by this organization. Most regional SEPM sections are lunch clubs for professors and a few of their prize students. But the Gulf Coast Section is an anomaly. Here we have what should be a two-bit organization that somehow manages to put on one of the best geologic conferences in the world year after year. The organization has an operating budget that allows it to fund student research and to aid other geologic organizations in holding their own research conferences (Ex. GCSSEPM donated money to help fund the VailFest at Rice University in 2003).

The success of this organization is not a lucky accident. It's due to hard work by a relatively few people - largely biostratigraphers. I chaired one of the research conferences. It was a ton of work, but it was also great ego-fodder. Many people came up and told me they enjoyed the conference. I got this nifty item to put on my resume and I still get to brag about this book I put out. However, I could not of done it without the help of a whole lot of people. People who don't necessarily get the ego-fodder, the nifty resume item, the book or the thank-yous. What's amazing is that these people don't just work one year - they do it every year. A classic example is Ardy Callender. Most people reading this newsletter don't have a clue who Ardy is. He is one of those "bug-pickers" I mentioned. He takes care of the poster presentations for the research conference EVERY year. I can speak with some authority here when I tell you he's not doing it for the money. There is none. If he's doing it for the recognition, he's not doing a very good job at being recognized. Like the other long-term active members of this organization, he's doing it to make a contribution to science.

There are others that I want to acknowledge. They include Nancy Engelhardt-Moore, Sheila Barnette, Mike Nault and the dynamic duo: Norm and Rashel Rosen. These are scientists who have been active in GCSSEPM for over 20 years and have helped to build it into the world-class organization it is today. You'll see them at the conferences. Although they pay full price to attend, they often don't get to hear the talks. They are busy selling books and CDs, registering attendees, tabulating attendance, dealing with the hotel and a thousand other things the rest of us don't have to deal with. It's important to keep in mind that the scientists I mentioned are all consultants. No big company or university is paying for their time. In fact, the time they spend working on GCSSEPM business is time they could have spent billing hours and making money. There are many more people that have given untold hours to GCSSEPM that I have not mentioned. My list is far from complete and it's not meant to be. Mostly, I wanted to document how relatively few people, with a lot of sweat, create something great. When I decided to run for the office of President of this organization, it was these people who inspired me.

Now that I have this job…. what the heck am I going to do? Well, any new President of any organization has to come in with some new ideas, regardless of how well the organization has been run in the past. Here are a few of mine:

Business Representatives

For years, we have had this category of personnel in the GCSSEPM leadership called Business Representatives or "Business Reps". The problem is nobody is exactly sure what they do. I suppose their mission was well defined at some time in the past - but that was before my time. This is not the fault of the Business Reps themselves. Rather it is up to the Executive Council to give them clear tasks. I will propose that every Business Rep be required to write a short (around 500 words) summary of events of interest to the geologic community for at least two newsletters per year. Currently, this is optional. In addition I want to work with the Executive Council to determine how we can best use the Business Reps to help enroll new members. I know that " required" is a strong word these days, but there is no use having the position if all we are going to do is put their pictures on our web page. I'm looking for volunteers. I may be calling you….

The Generation Gap

Remember the old generation gap? That was when the other guys were the old codgers. This is the new generation gap. Now, we're the old codgers. Like every other organization affiliated with the petroleum industry, we have a demographics problem! I suspect that the average age of our members is the same as the average age of an AAPG member - 49 and climbing. I can't say I have been terribly upset at the failure of the oil industry to hire significant numbers of new geologists and geophysicists over the past 20 years. After all, it just means more paying work for us. However, it's a huge problem for organizations like GCSSEPM. Membership has stayed stable over the past few years, largely due to the efforts of the past few vice presidents (particularly Patricia Santogrossi), but we need to do more to encourage younger members not only to join - but to actively participate in the organization and become part of its leadership. Bob Loucks came up with a great idea that I fully intend to implement - solicit volunteers to be Student Representatives or "Student Reps" from universities and colleges in the Gulf Coast area. The Student Reps would be responsible for finding new members and writing at least one short article per year for the newsletter on events of interest at their universities. I further propose that we have a contest for new members among the Student Reps. The Student Rep that signs up the most new members gets a free pass to the GCSSEPM research conference that year. Hopefully, these Student Reps will become the future leaders of GCSSEPM.


Amazing, as it may seem, much of the exploration along the Gulf Coast is NOT being done in the U.S. Nearly all of the onshore and shelf portions, and much of the deep-water portion of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico are mature. However, much of the Mexican Gulf Coast is still virgin territory. As the focus at PEMEX switches from oil to gas, and gas prices continue to rise, drilling will continue to increase. OUR ORGANIZATION NEEDS TO HAVE A PRESENCE IN MEXICO!!!!! We can begin by appointing Business Reps for Mexico City and some of the PEMEX offices that deal with the Gulf Coast. Hopefully, a member of the geologic community in Mexico will become part of our Executive Council in the next few years.

Last Word. Well, It's freezing cold in the northeast, gas is selling for over $6.00 per MCF, and I actually spotted a few scientists under 30 at the last GCSSEPM Research Conference. If these trends continue, it's going to be a great year in the oil biz and a great one for GCSSEPM. Hopefully, I can write next year that I left GCSSEPM better than I found it. That won't be easy, but I'm standing on the shoulders of giants.