From the President | June 2021

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Quite a Year

This has been a challenging year for your society, as it has been for all of us. We will all remember pandemic times without fondness. It has been challenging for the Houston Geological Society, but we have continued with most of the same programs in modified ways. Many of these changes would have happened eventually, but were forced on us. It is easy in volunteer organizations to always do things the ways that have proven successful in the past, and delay changes, but we had few choices, and I think it was good for our future.

We discontinued in-person technical meetings over a year ago for prudent health reasons. There were adjustments for all of us, but fortunately we had been preparing for remote committee and Board meetings for a few years, so we had that experience to build on. For those not familiar with the remote format, we had chances to practice, attending Field Trip Fridays and the Continuing Education course in the summer. Last week we had our first in-person event, the Shrimp Peel and Crawfish Boil, and a great safe time was had by approximately 200 colleagues outdoors in cloudy and only rarely wet afternoon. Thanks to the committee and our sponsors, and a high bar is set for next year.

Also during last summer, the committee planning for the annual Africa Conference that HGS hosts biennially in alternation with the PESGB worked to design how a virtual technical conference could work. Travel was restricted and likely not to change by the autumn, so virtual was required, and a format of 2-3 hours each Thursday morning in October was decided, so that colleagues in Europe and Africa could attend at convenient times. This worked better than we hoped, and also allowed student posters presented by students in African universities, a first. Information on this September’s PESGB-HGS Africa Conference is page 4 in this Bulletin.

We were able to host a full program of technical presentations in evenings and midday, including live questions and answers after each talk. Our office staff facilitated these meetings, and everything went smoothly. I hope you were able to catch a few of these, and if not, reviewed the recordings on our YouTube channel. We also had two Continuing Education seminars, in addition to the one during the summer.

We restarted the Employment Committee this past year. Initial activity centered on the semi-annual SPE-GCS midcareeer hiring event, which HGS has endorsed and participated in for several years, most recently with over thirty local sister organizations. I feel it is a professional obligation to assist colleagues to stay employed and as busy as they wish in their careers, and this is an excellent event for all of us. In the past year, the AAPG discontinued their operation of the Student Expo after almost two decades. Fortunately, several of the volunteers most involved in past Expos are HGS Members here in Houston, and we are planning on the next virtual edition of Expo in September. It is vital that we encourage our early-career colleagues coming out of their university training, and since many will work in Houston, it is natural that they know HGS and become Members at the start of their careers. Colleagues interested in either of these events are welcome as volunteers.

The past several years have been challenging for Society finances, but we should finish the year with close to a balanced budget. It is easy to add worthy programs and activities over the years, but periodically it is necessary to separate the necessary from the merely nice. Our overhead is very low for a society our size, but we continually search for economies that do not hamper necessary activities. I do not expect the periodic profit share from the AAPG Annual Meetings to return anytime soon, if ever.

Earlier this week, AAPG Members received notice that the Association is in discussions with the SPE on greater cooperation and possibly a merger, if it is determined that that makes sense for all involved. The HGS is an Affiliated Society of the AAPG, but that should not change HGS significantly in any new organization, since our direction is clearly geoscience. It will be interesting to see how it all evolves.

The Houston Geological Society was established in 1923, so as we approach our centennial and the exciting activities related to that, I think we have some great years coming up.

Volunteer for something this month. Be safe.

Jim Tucker