“Keep your mind open ... be amazed by new things ... and share that amazement with others”

An interview with Norm Cooper

Coordinated by: Satinder Chopra
Norm Cooper

Norm Cooper is an experienced geophysicist whose name is synonymous with seismic survey designs and quality assurance of field operations. After initially working for Amoco and Voyager Petroleums Ltd., Norm founded his own company Mustagh Resources Ltd. in 1983 and has since been active in geophysical consulting, survey design and general exploration.

Norm has carried out seismic programs in more than 40 countries spanning six continents. This has taken him to all of western Canada, the Arctic regions, the Appalachians, and the United States. He has also worked such diverse areas as the Green Mountains of Libya, the tropical jungles of Borneo and the basalt plains of Northern Ireland.

Norm conducts courses and special training programs in seismic acquisition, 3D design, Vibroseis theory, instrumentation and has also taught introductory courses in geophysics for SAIT.

Our request for an interview was very sportingly agreed to by Norm, much to our delight. Following are excerpts from the interview.

(Photos courtesy: Joyce Au)

Please tell us briefly about your early education?

My father worked for CN Telecommunications and every time he got promoted, we had to move to the city where his new position was available. As a result, we moved a lot throughout major centers in Western Canada. My schooling took place in a variety of schools in Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Dawson Creek, and included a short time where my Mom did home schooling for me. But my high-school years were in Dawson Creek.

The constant moving taught me how to make new friends fast and how to adapt to new environments. On the other hand, it also taught me that I could make mistakes and then move to a new city and get to start over with a clean slate (like a “Mulligan” in golf). The former is a useful life skill, but the latter can lead to bad habits.

I always had more of an interest in the sciences rather than the arts. That may have been the positive influence of my father who was always available to explain interesting scientific phenomena to me. Or it may have been the fact that, despite my mother’s best efforts to make piano lessons and school choirs available to me, I just don’t have an artistic bone in my body. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had pursued interests in the arts and humanities.

I was lucky to have a good comfort level with schoolwork and tests so I generally did well with very little extra work or study. This also formed bad habits by the time I entered university.

So, after high school, how did you decide to get into geophysics?

I left home in Dawson Creek in 1970 after high school to live in Fort Camp residence at UBC. I had thought of becoming an architect and started a program that would leave that option open. But then I took an elective in Geology and had a fascinating and entertaining professor, Ted Danner. I am sure he was responsible during his career for converting many students to a life in geosciences. He really brought the subject to life and captured my interest.

But my first love was still math and physics. So how could I still enjoy the application of those principles while enjoying my newfound fascination with geology? Fortunately, UBC also had a very active geophysics department and with a little asking around the department and I found each other.

What was your UBC experience like, both the academics and other aspects?

Living in residence on campus led to an over-active social life of parties and pubcrawls, especially since Fort Camp was a condemned set of old army huts and had a pretty wild reputation. I also discovered the steep sandy cliffs of Towers Beach and Wreck Beach below our residence. These allowed me to practice another passion I had developed early in life, climbing and rappelling. In the winters, the cliffs of Point Grey freeze up quite well and climbing the near-vertical sand cliffs is quite similar to climbing steep snow and ice in the mountains. So I used to climb during the day, drink during the night and there was no need to attend classes or study, because all that came easily to me anyway … right?

Well, after a couple of years of that attitude, my marks fell, I failed to learn some of the basics and fundamentals of math and physics that I would need later (I never did learn the difference between a quartz monzonite and a grano-diorite) and I eventually received a kind letter from Dean Walter Gage suggesting that I take a year off school and “re-consider my priorities”.

My summers and my “year off” were spent largely in the Yukon and Northwest Territories working for CN Telecommunications as a groundman, then a lineman and eventually a highrigger on microwave towers. Later, I also held a variety of jobs in a sports warehouse, as a taxi driver, a tree-topper, a rock climbing instructor and as a counselor in an “Outward Bound” type of program designed for high-offense juvenile delinquents. I enjoyed the outdoors and hard physical work.

By 1973, I found my first wife and returned to University with a much higher interest in learning. Because I had messed up my schedule so much in my first two years, it ended up taking me a total of seven years to complete my bachelor’s degree. But that meant I had lots of time to fill in with electives. My degree was in Science with a major in Geophysics, but I was also very close to being eligible for a major in Geology, or Physics, or Computer Science. With a couple more courses I could even have qualified for a major in Math. I found a passion for learning and applying these sciences that has never left me.

During my last year and a half, I worked summers and part time in the mining industry with a Vancouver geophysical consultant, Glen E. White. I even branched out and took on a couple of independent jobs including a VLF EM survey in the Coast Mountains within sight of Mount Waddington. I even had my first trip to Houston. But that Houston was a small town between Prince George and Prince Rupert. I soon found out that although the oil industry had a bad reputation at that time, the Vancouver mining industry was far more corrupt.

By 1976, I was the proud father of twin boys. Although my colleagues at school were very sympathetic, thinking that it must have been an accident to have children while still at university, it was actually something that Theresa and I had planned and were thrilled about. But trying to be a father and help at home as well as finishing my degree resulted in some pretty long days of hard work. Maybe that was when I learned to work 16-hour days.

After you got your Bachelor’s degree in Geophysics, what did you do next?

1977 was my graduating year. There were 6 of us at UBC who where receiving our Bachelors degree that year. Two of them went on to graduate studies (one in Astronomy). One of them went into the mining industry (working for my old mentor, Glen E. White). Three of us came to Calgary and the oil industry. I have lost track of Ernie Sabo. The only remaining graduate I have stayed in contact with is Rob Howey.

That year there were 5 times more job positions in the oil industry than there were graduates to fill them. (A situation pretty much envied by today’s graduates.) I was lucky to have several job offers including one from Hudson’s Bay Oil and Gas and one from Amoco. These were the two that I gave the most consideration because both had very highly rated training programs. At that time, I didn’t know the industry or the players, so I really can’t say that my final decision was based on any good insights. However, I ended up accepting the Amoco offer and I think that turned out to be a very fortunate decision for me.

Amoco was considered as any researcher’s dream at the time. Tell us about your experiences there.

My university education hardly prepared me at all for the oil and gas industry. There was so much to learn about seismic and exploration and tools and techniques … it was breathtaking. Amoco had an excellent training program that brought us up to speed quite quickly as practicing reflection seismologists and made available many resources for us to experiment and learn.

The formal classes in the Tulsa Training Center helped me fill in the technical details. Amoco’s in-house processing gave me an opportunity to experiment with basic processing and also with some specialty algorithms. I was able to interface with the software developers and modify programs and try innovative methods (always a learning experience, not always successful in producing better data.)

Amoco always encouraged young geophysicists to go to the field and spend a short time in some of the different positions. That became one of my favorite parts of our training. I was allowed to conduct several different kinds of test programs and then follow through with the processing and evaluation of the tests. I learned a great deal about how to design meaningful test programs and I started to learn what parameters make significant changes to data outcome and which do not.

We were given ample opportunity to experiment, but also to present the results of our experiments at internal and external technical conferences. During this process, I learned that I enjoyed presenting technical material and that I had a presentation style that seemed to appeal to the audience. This encouraged me to do more presentations and, eventually, to become one of the trainers available to the Tulsa training center.

Some of my principle mentors at that time included Rob Thorburn, Frank van Humbeck, Bill Marshall, Art MacLean and Norm Pullen. I was very fortunate to work at Amoco from 1977 to 1981, during a time when budgets were available, mentors abounded and learning and development were highly valued. The company really invested heavily in the development of their professionals. You just don’t see the same commitment very often any more.

I think what I gained most from Amoco (besides the obvious education and experience) was a great appreciation for learning. With each new topic learned, I found there were ten more questions to be answered. I discovered that the field of geophysics would provide me with new learning experiences every day for the rest of my life.

Norm Cooper and Satinder Chopra

When and how did you decide to start your own company, Mustagh Resources Ltd.?

The introduction of Marc Lalonde’s NEP in 1980 put a big kink in some of the plays our exploration group was pursuing. I found that Amoco had very political reactions and cut gas exploration dramatically (partly for real economic reasons, but partly as a political statement in reaction to the government policies.) I didn’t like the concept of politics playing a role in exploration. I decided a small, independent company would be free of such problems (boy, was I naïve!) I hoped to start my own exploration company, but realized I needed more experience in operations and financing.

So I went to a smaller company, Voyager Petroleums. Under the guidance of Bruce Fenwick and Darryl Birnie, I learned a fair bit more about the business of exploration. I also developed much closer ties with the service sector (both processing and acquisition). That brought me out from the shelter of a large company and opened the entire geophysical community for me. I started to really appreciate the variety of wonderful people we have working in geophysics in this city.

During this time, Mike Fung also introduced me to teaching an evening course in basic geophysics as part of the adult education program at SAIT. Again, I really enjoyed the rewards of being able to pass on information to interested participants. I also discovered that the best way to learn a topic is to try to teach it. Teaching forces you to examine your understanding of material, not only from your own perspectives, but also from the unique perspectives of each of your students.

According to my plan, I spent a couple of years at Voyager, and then it was time to get out on my own. I started Mustagh Resources Ltd. in November 1983. However, my first steps on my own were working as a consultant, interpreting data and recommending well locations for others. Some of my early clients included BowRio Resources, Joe Sefel and “Big” Dick Siegfried at ICG (Dave’s father).

I did end up participating in a few wells at a small level and setting up a couple of seismic options. Although I had often been part of a team in the past that recommended a well and watched it reach target depth (sometimes with success, sometimes without), I had never before had my own resources invested in such ventures and never before had the potential to personally gain from the success or lose from the failure. Now THAT is an emotional roller coaster.

However, a badly timed dry hole, the 1986 recession and cash calls for my share of development on properties at a time when there was no cash flow all conspired to bring an end to my attempts at working interest participation in exploration.

Tell us how easy or difficult it was establishing your own company. Your experiences might inspire some young entrepreneur and so what advice would you have for someone who would want to start a consulting company?

From 1983 to 1986, Mustagh grew as a consulting company. I found I had to continue to learn more about my profession, but at the same time I had to learn a great deal about accounting, office leases, accounts with stationery suppliers, taxation and a great many other disciplines that were foreign to me as a “scientist”. The business end of running Mustagh provided a whole new learning experience. I have always told my accountant that I wanted to experiment a bit with the company and make it my “practical MBA”.

In some ways I tried to model Mustagh after John Boyd, whom I admired and respected greatly. I liked his professionalism and integrity and he was a wellestablished interpretation consultant. We tried to do good work and expand our business through satisfied customers. In this industry, a good client often moves amongst a variety of companies, and that can help expand exposure to new potential opportunities.

So I tried to add staff and take on more contracts. However, increasing overhead can quickly turn into rampaging deficits when revenue gets cut off. The 1986 recession hit Mustagh very hard. I had too much office space, too many employees and too many bills for the trickle of work available at that time. Perhaps the hardest moments in my life were having to go to my employees who were like family to me and tell them that I had made management mistakes and because of that, had to terminate their jobs. The momentum of spending outlasted the revenues and I ended up quite deep in debt. I built an office in the basement of my house and tried to keep enough consulting projects coming in to slowly pay off the debt I had accumulated.

With the flood of interpreting geophysicists being laid off by oil companies, the role of consulting interpreter became pretty crowded. So I looked for some other niche that was not so over-populated. My enjoyment of field operations came back to me and I started to focus more in designing and optimizing acquisition programs. As it turns out, very few geophysicists are well trained in this field, so I was able to survive the tough times by revising my specialty.

Late in 1987, my wife at that time, Donna, gave birth to my daughter. I maintained my basement office for several years. Computers were slow and I often worked on two or more projects simultaneously using up to three computers. I still treasure the memory of Kristen coming to my office to “work” with her Dad on one of the spare computers.

One of my first strong clients after that period was North Canadian Oils, where I formed and renewed many good friendships. It was during that time that I worked quite closely with Vern Krause. From him I learned a great deal more about seismic operations and gained a life-long friend. By the time the recession was receding and people got busy again, we had new tools (24 bit recording systems) to work with. Many people were uncertain how to adapt to some of the new technologies and our consulting services grew. Distributed telemetry systems opened the way for sophisticated 3D programs and understanding the technology was necessary to produce effective designs. As it turns out, the 1986 recession forced me into a revised specialty at a very opportune time.

In fact it was such a unique specialty that our services drew attention not only in the domestic market, but many international doors soon began to open. After a few successful jobs, our name spread by word of mouth, and now we receive requests for work from new companies, new basins and new countries on a regular basis.

With your own company and the consulting business taking you places, how did you balance your family life and your business?

This is a tough question for me. Obviously, with three divorces behind me, I did not balance things very well. However, by 1998 I was with my current wife Yajaira who is also passionate about geophysics. Together we share family life and business life. Our international work allows us to work from our home, which means I get to see our 14-year old son off to school each day and welcome him back home at the end of the school day. Certainly, there are many international trips (which I enjoy). But the time away from home can be a little too much sometimes. Two years ago, Yajaira kept track and concluded that I was away from home a total of 10 months and was only at home for two months (in small windows of a few days at a time).

It is a constant juggling process to try to keep the business active, but to also control it so you still have a personal life. After 27 years of running my own company, I am still working on achieving that balance.

When you look back on your career, what were some of the successful landmarks?

I have been very fortunate to have many such events through my career. Certainly one of the greatest pleasures I have received and continue to receive is when the face of a student clears, a smile brightens in the eyes and they say something like, “So that’s how that works … I never understood that until now.” At that moment I am sure that not only have I done something good in that instant, but also that the impact of what I have done will result in better and happier work for that individual for the rest of their career.

As for particular moments, I find it is the little things that stick out: a full moon over a desert camp in Libya, the sight of a field of sunflowers turning their faces to the moving sun in southern Manitoba, hiking out from a heli-portable program with Mike Cardell in NEBC, carrying a utility box hung from a shoulder-pole across bridging in Borneo with Doug Goble, rappelling over a cliff on Two-bit Mountain to test drilled-in geophones with Carol Laws belaying the drill and running the generator, drinks in a bar in Minot North Dakota with Jack Curzon and Dave Chorny and discussing the possibility of using seismic to track well fractures (in 1982), a dinner with Tony Paduano and Yajaira in Bucharest, a Russian “Shashlik” with the crew after a day of testing near Volgograd. For me, the primary successes were the opportunities to share special moments with special friends in unique environments.

We will need a much larger magazine if I was to quote all such special moments. But these are what I will still remember after all the technical triumphs are long forgotten.

But you asked about major landmarks … the birth of my sons, graduation from UBC, my first job, the first well drilled on my interpretation (a success), my first public presentation, starting Mustagh Resources Ltd., my first owned house, the birth of my daughter, my fourth wife ... OK, to get that last one as a success took a little more practice than the others!

Please tell us about some disappointments also?

Some of my disappointments are centered on the industry around me. I have been very frustrated over the years to learn about the degree of corruption and fraud that exists in the exploration business, both on the oil company side as well as in the service sector. Kickbacks, double billing, “finder’s fees” (just a thinly disguised form of kick-backs) and other fraud occur on a regular basis. My best guess is that 5-15 percent of exploration budgets are lost to the pockets of individuals who feel they are entitled to more than their earned share of working revenues. Such practices are limited to a relatively small portion of the people in our industry, but it disappoints me greatly that the very large majority of high-integrity workers have less budget to work with due to the small minority of greedy members in the industry. Again, the disappointment stems from the fact that I am naïve enough to hope for an industry that is free of such practices. In fact, I imagine that we are no worse and probably a bit better than most other industries in this regard.

On a personal level, I have made enough mistakes in my personal and professional life to fill a book. I deeply regret the costs of these mistakes on my friends, family and associates. However, I have also learned to embrace my mistakes. “Never waste a good mistake” is a valid philosophy. Each mistake can be a powerful opportunity to learn, adjust and hopefully improve. Successes are often not as strong a learning opportunity because we generally do not look for the cause of success after the fact. So although I regret the impact my mistakes may have had on some people, I don’t regret what I have learned from them.

I notice that your experience weighs heavily on land data acquisition. Why is that? Did you ever think of marine seismic data acquisition also?

The simple answer is that there was never time or sufficient opportunity to learn the marine aspect of operations. I was always too busy learning about land seismic. I have often told people that I don’t do marine work because I get seasick too easily (and that is somewhat true). I think for acquisition and processing, land seismic presents a greater variety of challenges. There is lots of room in marine for innovation, but I guess I like the topographic and cultural challenges of land acquisition. I like the character of the people who work in the harsh environments to make our ventures possible.

There are more unconstrained variables in land acquisition and perhaps that is what keeps things interesting for me.

In your opinion, what is required for good quality seismic data acquisition?

Wow! I guess that’s different for every situation. It’s pretty hard to generalize. Perhaps the greatest mistake many geophysicists make is to concentrate on capturing reflection signals and not pay enough attention to the type and extent of various noise modes. Understanding your objectives, your geology and the geophysical consequences of the near surface are all important. Be prepared to study each project as a unique problem and do not fall into the habit of thinking there is one correct way to do things for all circumstances. Like a craftsman in fine woodwork, we have a variety of tools that are appropriate for a variety of tasks. The trick is to know when to use a fine chisel and when to use a sledgehammer.

Assuming that program parameters are generally adequate, then the greatest factors that separate good data from poor data fall into two categories ... coupling of the input source energy and coupling of the receivers that listen for the returning signals. The former is difficult to control in dynamite programs where the charge is buried out of our sight. The latter falls into the hands of the line crew that is planting the geophones. With all our modern technology, the juggies still make the biggest difference between good data and poor data in any given area.

Tell us about the present standing of your company and what type of work you are engaged in.

We focus about 40% of our time on designing 3D and 2D program parameters for projects spanning all types of oil and gas, mining and engineering objectives. We work in Canada and currently have produced programs in 41 different countries.

About 10% of our work involves visiting field operations, testing equipment and optimizing parameters in the field. I still love getting to the field and working with the people there.

About 50% of our work now revolves around providing training in topics ranging from basic geophysics through to advanced design concepts for modern 3D acquisition and processing. We offer a suite of public courses in Calgary in the spring, and again in the fall. We do inhouse courses around the world for oil companies and acquisition contractors.

At the moment, we are doing very little domestic work. At any given time we probably have active projects in about 10 countries. For the past few years, our busiest country has been Colombia. Through Yajaira, we have many friends and family there. The industry has embraced us in that very special way that Colombians have of making you feel comfortable and welcome. We have helped the government formalize their geophysical guidelines and standards. We have worked with the government on plans to open new basins for exploration in the coming years. We have had some involvement in the design of more than 20% of the 3D’s that have been recorded in that country and have worked with many of the companies that are active. The Colombian industry continues to strongly support the courses we offer there.

How do you look back on your life and career? Would you do anything differently, were you to start all over again?

I really don’t think I would change much. Both the positives and the negatives shaped my current position. And I am very happy with my current position. I am sure there are many other possible outcomes that I would also enjoy, but this is the position I have now and I am happy with everything it took to get here.

Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced in acquiring seismic data in some of the difficult areas from your perspective and how have you been able to overcome them?

Many of our challenges revolve around reconciling the need for high quality data with the need for low expenditures. The ongoing evolution of seismic equipment and methods is focused on ways to get more for less.

I recall one project in the San Jorge Basin of Argentina where limitations in available recording equipment resulted in a design using a narrow patch, producing lower fold and undesirable statistical distributions. The contractor was planning to use a single set of vibrators and, given the sweep parameters; the vibrators would finish their available production in the early afternoon and then would be idle while the line crew moved equipment for the rest of the day. By adding a second set of vibrators, we invoked what is known as the half-patch, ping-pong method. Basically each source point was recorded twice. Once into a half patch to one side and later a second time into a half patch the other side. Ping-Pong (sometimes called Flip-Flop or Dual- Sourcing) allows the efficient recording of a much larger number of source points per day. So even though we doubled the number of points to be recorded, the total recording time did not change (in fact, with a minor increase in equipment, the recording finished two weeks ahead of the original schedule). For the same money, the client received almost double the fold and much improved statistical distributions. The contractor finished ahead of schedule and retained more profit. And as a consultant I got a pat on the back and a small fee. Basically a winwin- win situation.

In an east-central Alberta program, we recognized that by reversing source lines and receiver lines in an early design of a 3D, we enabled much more efficient vibrator movement. This minor adjustment changed the cost of the program from 2.5 million dollars to 2.0 million dollars. A major saving with no compromise in design statistics achieved by a simple understanding of field operations given the available equipment.

As available equipment evolves and more complex processing algorithms come available, we must re-evaluate the best design and acquisition methods to best take advantage of these developments. A design that is optimum for post-stack migration may not provide all the best distributions for optimum pre-stack migration. With many companies developing 5-component COV interpolation algorithms, Stewart Trickett has pointed out that we may need to re-think the characteristics of designs in order to provide the optimal inputs for such algorithms. We are currently researching some design characteristics that may provide more chaotic distributions that some of these new methods require.

In Canada, it is not common any more to see extensive test programs of source type, source configuration, decimation and saturation tests, etc. There is a perception that we are in a mature basin and all this information should already be known. However, as equipment and methods evolve, there is much room for additional testing. Each area (and sometimes each season) is unique in its seismic response. Although good test programs can be expensive ($50,000 to $300,000), this may be small insurance to assure optimum parameter selection on 3D programs that may cost upwards of $10,000,000.

We have done several high-effort test programs in Canada and many internationally that have provided enlightening insight towards improved data quality and or lower costs.

Tell us how the technology for seismic data acquisition has changed over the last three/four decades?

Again, WOW! When I came to the industry, we were using 96 channel IFP instruments and strings of 12 foot-stomp geophones. A recording crew consisted of about 15 good men and moved from prospect to prospect pretty much with the surveyors and drillers. A good day was 100 shots and a 2D line took two weeks to process to stack. Post-stack migration was only conducted in structurally complex areas and added another week to processing.

Channel capacity increased slowly until true distributed telemetry systems were developed. A major advance occurred in 1987 when I/O brought out the System One using a PC-based interface and line interface modules in a system designed to manage up to 2000 channels. Prior to that, large channel counts were only possible using cumbersome master-slave arrangements. By 1991, the Delta-Sigma (or “24- bit”) recording systems enabled very large channel distributed systems with each channel having a dedicated A-D converter with high enough precision to allow disposal of the IFP stages. Recorded signals became cleaner (less contaminated by instrument noise, crossfeed and distortion). Later evolutions in digital transmission and cable design allowed broader bandwidth and again available channels increased. We began to reach limits due to system “service-ability”. But then networked and multi-pathing transmission paths allowed management of many thousands of channels.

With the advent of high precision Delta- Sigma systems, we recognized deficiencies in conventional geophone design and re-engineered the low-distortion (or “CT”) geophone element. In Canada, contractors re-thought the case design and eventually demonstrated that metaljacket marsh-style cases and planting poles provided superior coupling. More channels allowed us to use smaller receiver intervals for better sampling of noise. We dropped from 12 to 9 to 6 or less geophones per group and benefited from better impulse test diagnostics.

Contractors developed smaller drills (wombats and others). There has been a continuing evolution towards smaller drills, lower environmental impact, minimum cutting techniques, mulchers that do not leave behind destructive wind-rows, GPS guidance, and so on. LIS and avoidance geometries have been tested and proven beneficial technically as well as environmentally.

Scouting can now be done with highresolution satellite imagery, speculative air photography, or even Google Earth images. We frequently use LiDAR to get precise elevation models and speed survey efficiency in forested areas.

Vibrators have gotten bigger and use more sophisticated electronic control. Hydraulic modifications have been developed to reduce distortion. Sweep-bysweep quality assurance and audit trails are available. Slip Sweep and HPVA technologies allow recording of thousands of VPs per day in open terrain.

The availability of large numbers of channels at low cost has allowed 3D designs that are much higher density and generate the statistics needed for prestack attribute analysis and reservoir characterization.

3-C and passive seismic are developing and attracting a great deal of interest.

And through all of this development, the cost per record to the end user has been dropping!

What advancements can we expect in the future for land seismic data acquisition?

More channels, less wire.

Autonomous nodal systems are here and are gaining interest and reliability. We will see more hybrid systems that combine the use of cabled and cable-free systems. We will see increasing channels made available. However, in order to effectively apply a significant increase in the number of channels, we will have to develop techniques that allow widespread access to forested and rugged areas without significant environmental impact. We will have to evolve methods of access that do not damage crops, forests, grasslands or tundra and yet will provide security and safety for the workers. John Bragg has some interesting ideas that I am not at liberty to discuss right now. But some version of some of his ideas may take us in the right direction environmentally.

Are any of your children also interested in geophysics?

My two oldest sons used to work with me during the summers of their high school years. But I always encouraged them to find their own passions in life. Jason has pursued an outstanding academic career in Physics and Chemistry. Michael stayed with us at Mustagh to help develop our “DirectAid” software for 3D design analysis. He has evolved into a powerful programmer with excellent insights into the requirements for a good 3D Design tool. He has a good understanding of geophysics, but enjoys the programming side of the business at the moment. Both Michael and Jason also have a hobby of experimenting with micro-processors for a broad variety of applications. They also enjoy the mountains in unique ways and both are very accomplished base jumpers. So I am satisfied that they are both following their true passions in life and I am extremely grateful that they remain in close contact.

My daughter Kristen claimed at the end of high school that she wanted to pursue geophysics, but I think that was mostly because it was a familiar career to her. She has since begun to explore her own strengths and passions a bit more. She is currently enjoying her developing career with the Royal Bank, but I don’t think her future is settled yet.

My youngest son Melvin is in grade 10. Last year he wanted to be a professional wrestler. Yesterday he came home showing me an excellent cartoon-style seminar that he was given in science class that did a good job of explaining waveparticle duality in quantum physics. As of yesterday he wants to be a quantum physicist. He still has a lot of experiences to live through before he needs to decide on where his passions lie for a future career. (I’m still kind of hoping for the pro-wrestler thing – that would be really cool!)

Has the idea of retirement ever crossed your mind, or you would like to continue working away?

I hope to slow down over the next three or four years. My plan is to only take on those jobs that I find particularly interesting and that are for clients that I really enjoy working for. The problem is, I pretty much find every job that comes in the door to be interesting. And most of our clients are pretty great people. So how will I ever stop?

I guess retirement occurs when you no longer need to work to support your family and interests. For us, that time is still three or four years away. However, as it approaches, we hope to re-distribute an increasing portion of our revenues to charitable causes. We hope to give something back to some of the places that have supported us. Our immediate goal is to help raise funds required to rebuild a school that is needed in a small town not far from Bogota (Viani). We also want to help support a project where housing is being built for families that have lost their homes due to the unrest in those parts of the country.

What other interests do you have?

Hiking, scrambling, scuba diving, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, mountain biking, reading. I love the mountains and the outdoors. Earlier, I said I probably wouldn’t change anything in my past. However, for my future, I plan to continue to enjoy my work, but a little less of it. I want to make more time to share these other interests with Yajaira while I am still young enough to be physically capable.

What would be your message for young entrants to Geoscience? What are the most rewarding aspects of taking up a career in Geoscience?

Two things: Always keep your mind open and be amazed by new things you learn. And always try to share that amazement with others around you.

I have always liked geography and the opportunity to see new places, new cultures and new people. A career in geophysics allows us to enjoy geography in three spatial dimensions and to have a peek at the world as it has been over the past geologic history. A career in geosciences can transport you around the world, take you deep into the earth, and can be a time machine that transports you in to millions of years of past history. What can be more amazing than that?


Share This Interview