From the President | September 2021

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From the President

Mike Erpenbeck

This is the first Bulletin of the present fiscal year (we give it a rest for the summer along with most of our monthly events and larger social events).

As incoming President I welcome back all the Society’s members, and sincerely express my gratitude to the new Board members. This is the first Bulletin that is being published in our office by our Website Content Manager, Alyssa Cushing. We thank Alyssa for taking on this task and also our longtime publisher, Lisa Kreuger, for over a decade of fine layout.

Serve the Science. ‘What a strange theme from a new President’, many may be asking. Surely a more relevant tag line would point to issues of the day, like pandemic, future of the Society, future of the energy industry, and social and political issues that geologists get themselves involved in. However, as members of HGS, as caretakers of our beloved science, we have a special goal to promote geology. We have to remind ourselves what comes first, at least when we are wearing our HGS hats. We serve the science.

I confess to having a great love for the science of geology. I don’t remember where I got the initial spark but growing up in coastal southern California surely enhanced it. The beauty of it was revealed in the oceanside cliffs alternating with the beaches and estuaries, sedimentary marine terraces further inland, igneous and metamorphic batholithic mountains to the east, and beyond that , a vast desert - all within a 90-minute drive of each other. And if this wasn’t enough, I was reminded continuously of the power and constantly changing nature of the earth- from feeling the regular earthquakes and witnessing the frequent landslides and flash floods.

And then, as a youngster, watching a TV special featuring a geologist doing field work on the side of a volcano, dirty and dangerous work, sulfurous gases swirling around. I couldn’t imagine being so fortunate as to actually land an exciting job like that -getting paid- for being able to camp and hike around outdoors- I would have done it unpaid. (Of course, the down-and-dirty aspects of a career in geology were tempered somewhat after an entire summer doing dusty and sweaty field work in the San Juan Basin for the USGS. Perhaps laboring in an air-conditioned office in Houston might provide all the adventure I really wanted.) The upshot of all this: my life path was first a love of the science, then the career opportunity it offered.

I recognize that the path has been different for many other Society members, who may have grown up in the oil patch, with perhaps less inspiring surface geology. Observing lucrative careers offered to petroleum geologists, their path took a different route. Aiming for the career, then discovering the science in the course of academic career preparation may have led to a different view of the relative importance of science and career. HGS has long offered programs for both, as we know.

The primacy of the science of geology within HGS, however, is set forth in its Constitution:

Section 2. PURPOSE: The objectives of this society are: (1) to stimulate interest and promote advancement in the geosciences; (2) to disseminate and facilitate discussion of geological information; (3) to enhance professional interaction among geoscientists; and (4) to aid and encourage academic training in the geosciences

We serve the science by ensuring that we give as many young persons as we can the opportunity to get that first spark of inspiration that exposure to geology can ignite. We serve the science by offering to share our passion with those who will follow in our footsteps as practitioners and caretakers of the science.

To that end, I would like the Society to continue its robust efforts in its community outreach programs and to increase their scope whenever possible. Many thanks to Steven Johansen who has is now heading up the Educational Outreach committee, continuing the work of Letha Slagle over several years in that committee. Ken Thies has been active in promoting the "Bones in Schools" program in area schools and other civic organizations. We are tasked with letting it be known through direct contact to all school districts throughout the greater Houston area that we can send out our geologists to educate and inspire their school or class. I am hoping Steve and his crew have to issue a large call for volunteers to go out to all these schools who take us up on our offer. I also thank Sharon Choens and Lynn Travis for offering the Earth Science Week every year, Inda Immega and Janet Combs for their programs through the Museum of Natural History, Dorene West for chairing the Science and Engineering Fair committee, and Sue Pritchett and Claudia Ludwig for representing HGS in the Engineering Council of Houston. We especially thank Barbara Hill, the Director overseeing and rationalizing the functions of these outreach committees.

It will take me a year of monthly columns to properly recognize the work of all committee volunteers who serve the science within Houston Geological Society. In the meantime, look throughout the Bulletin and the HGS website for events this month and upcoming.