Three years ago, former CSEG treasurer, Susan Eaton, debated over the future of a wad of money deposited in the CSEG bank account. "The money was in guaranteed interest certificates, earning very little interest," recalls Eaton. "It seemed to me that the money wasn't doing anything to make the organization more vibrant, so I recommended that the money be directed to further the growth of the society."
That's when the CSEG's Superfund was born. "Yes, let's do the Superfund. Make the money available to CSEG members for projects that would have to meet certain criteria. Provide seed money for initiatives that might not be placed because there was no money available," says Eaton.
With support of the CSEG executive, a goal of sustaining the fund at $100,000 per year was set; contingent on the availability of cash. In the first year 1997/98, $97,000 of the first $100,000 was divided amongst eight projects. For 1998/99, another $100,000 has been set aside. Only two proposals submitted during the first year were rejected because they failed to meet several criteria, detailed work plan and evaluation process, originality, positive impact on the CSEG membership, geophysical industry and public, and realistic budget.
A Superfund board of directors, keeps everything on track. It's comprised of CSEG president Nancy Shaw (Integra Geoservices) and treasurer Ken Mitchell (Pioneer Natural Resources). Five directors manage the projects, including Eaton and Penny Colton of Veritas, Oliver Kuhn of Geo-X Systems, John Boyd of Boyd PetroSearch and Robert Stewart from the University of Calgary: As needed, additional CSEG members have volunteered their time on the projects.
Projects Completed To-Date
One of the first projects funded was the purchase of books for U of C's Gallagher Library. "There's a huge need for money for libraries, which are facing an awful financial squeeze with budgets dropping and skyrocketing publishing costs. We felt that this was a worthwhile thing to do," says Boyd, who confirms that the library selected $6,500 worth of books from a suggested list to purchase.
The $5,000 CSEG Superfund contribution to the University of Alberta's physics department was also much appreciated this past spring. Cutbacks of 1993 had previously dosed down U of A's field school The Superfund was used to improve the memory of eight personal computers by 64 megabytes and purchase Linux/Windows systems. The CSEG funding, says Dr. Douglas Schmitt, U of A associate professor, has helped resurrect the field school, which ran a field trip to Writing-on-Stone Park this past August: "It's our philosophy that our students spend a lot of time acquiring their data. We're very hands-on." The field school targeted the igneous dikes in southern Alberta and called for collecting magnetic, gravity, resistivity data and ground penetrating radar.
When it comes to interpreting the data, Schmitt notes, "There exists canned software packages, but the problem is that they (students) don't get a feel for what's happening. So we have students (4th year and first year grad) writing up their own seismic processing program. With these kinds of data in your mind, we really want the students to know everything about seismic data - how to manipulate the data and what could go wrong. This is not just a black box. Anyone can sit in front of a terminal and make pretty pictures, but they could be meaningless."
Also, some Superfund money went to helping teachers teach. A small but significant proposal by Dorothy-Ann Reimer, sent two Calgary teachers to the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Earth Sciences Teachers Workshop in New Orleans, September 12 to 14, 1998. Bill Batycky, science co-ordinator for the Calgary Board of Education and Brendan Bulgar, representing the Calgary Catholic Board of Education and Father Lacombe High School were chosen. Bulgar, who has also been instrumental in the design of The Oil Game, was an easy pick, adds Reimer. "His enthusiasm picks him out all the time."
Projects in the Making
The next phase in U of A's push to get the course "Seismic Processing for Numbskulls" operational, will be the preparation of geophysics basics tutorials. Visitors can view the geophysics website at http://rubble.phys.ualberta.ca/.
The University of Calgary's geology and geophysics department also received $5,000 from the Superfund, which financed the expansion of their lab, from six to 25 workstations. The pe11tium powered workstations operate on the Windows NT system and will enable students to use the same tools as found in industry. This past month, fourth year geophysics and graduate students began use of the renovated lab for exploration classes and relevant research. The department's future calls for a vision to introduce continuing education courses over noon hours at a downtown location, says Margrave, "It's more convenient to professionals, who all have to meet the APEGGA competency requirements and it's a relatively pain-free way to hear up to-date technical courses in the latest geophysical techniques and participate with computer exercises via the internet."
Another $22,500 from the Superfund was given to fund course preparatory work for Pre-Stack Depth Migration of Foothills Data. This work being supervised by Dr. Larry Lines is slated for introduction May 1999. Dr. Larry Lines, U of C's geophysics chair, is working closely with Amoco's Sam Gray – a world expert on pre-stack migration.
As part of work for the Foothills Research project, this course will examine the imaging of complex structures in the Foothills, especially, on the deep reflecting overturned sediments. While Lines chuckles about the simplicity of a geophysicist's rock collection, namely granite and rocks "definitely not granite", this proposed geophysics course will hardly be superficial. "There'll be some computer modelling and processing. We're trying to conduct new research with different paths to take the effects of anisotropy on imaging and on seismic velocities in Foothills, acoustic analysis, P-waves and shear waves, " says Lines.
Fifteen thousand dollars of the Superfund funding received April1998 will support graduate student Lan Lan Yan who will be project investigator and is being assisted by Han-Xing Lu, processing technologist with the CREWES project. Lines hopes that the course will be made available to members at a deep discount, if not free and anticipates lots of volunteer work.
The High School Seismic Network project co-ordinated by University of Western Ontario's Dr. David Eaton, assistant professor of earth sciences, and Dr. Rick Secco, received $8,000 from the Superfund. It is also being supported by Support Let's Talk Science, an autonomous group at the UWO, dedicated to increasing public awareness about science. According to Eaton, "One impediment to public awareness of geophysics is the nearly complete absence of earth science and geophysics, in particular, in high school science curricula in Canada."
The vision calls for providing five high schools in the southwestern Ontario region with the essential equipment and educational material to introduce basic concepts of seismology to students. This equipment is comprised of a 486 personal computer hooked up to a ''personal seismograph" produced by California-based GEOSense. The GEOSense system consists of a 4-Hz metal enclosed geophone, complete with the hardware and cables to communicate with the PC through its serial port. The software that accompanies this system includes a "virtual drum" display, enabling the PC monitor to provide a continuous display of the several hours of seismic recording on the system. The software also includes other signal analysis tools (FFR, numerous types of plotting), permitting more in-depth study of the recorder.
"This display could be a really outreach grabber," says Eaton. "Physics experiments would be designed to demonstrate P-waves, pictures." During fall1998, a prototype of this unit is being planned for the lobby of UWO's earth sciences building activity from the earthquake recorders will be set up at five suitable London sites, such as the basement of the building away from high traffic areas. Large earthquakes and other sources of seismic energy, i.e. quarry blasts and even pedestrian traffic will be visible in the wiggle trace display, in the manner that many university earth science departments publicly display earthquake recordings. Furthermore, the seismograph can be hooked up to other computers for geophysics laboratory experiments. "We are designing and documenting various experiments suitable for high school physics students that could be used to illustrate aspects of wave propagation and how seismic methods are used to map the subsurface," explains Eaton. "We view this as a pilot program which could provide a template for similar initiatives operated by other universities, elsewhere in Canada."
Eaton is also working diligently on a second CSEG Superfund project of which $40,000 was directed towards the preparation of a mining seismology textbook, a CSEG publication, which will be made available to researchers and specialists in the seismic industry.
In recent years, the Canadian mining industry has supported innovated research, focused on the application of seismic methods for detecting and mapping massive sulphide ore bodies, an application previously not considered viable. Similar initiatives have been instituted. Consider South Africa where 3-D seismic can being used as a planning tool for developing deep gold mines. Preliminary results from this work have been recently published, but much of the experience accumulated by researchers and corporations needs to be properly documented.
With this upcoming mining seismology textbook, Eaton hopes to refine some of the oilpatch seismic techniques for export into other geological environments. The book aspires to be one source for users by compiling fundamental information, techniques and case histories.
Also, on a public education note, Science Alberta received some funding to introduce a geophysics component to its travelling kit programs. Within a two by two by three foot aluminum crate are found ten fun science activities for inquisitive science students. According to Deb Maier, community science manager at Science Alberta, there are 40 crates available, but only one on Bedrock Basics. Quakes and Quartz, geology basics, has been reported to be high in demand. Some 12 to 15 volunteers are dedicated in the crate program.
James Van Leeuwen, the CSEG representative for this project is looking for CSEG members to come forward with ideas that could make up a fool-proof geophysics science kit. "It's really important to come with ideas that can be implemented practically. Kids don't have a strong mathematical background but need a bit of abstraction, says Van Leeuwen, who can be reached at 230-9395.
The Science Alberta crate programs are very popular amongst schools, scout and guide groups, libraries and junior forest ranger programs. Some kits are booked one year in advance with 80% of the bookings completed by the end of September each year.