Groat Will Address EMD, DEG Luncheons
Charles "Chip" Groat, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, will be the featured speaker for two luncheons during the AAPG annual meeting in New Orleans.
On Tuesday, April 18, Groat will address the Energy Minerals Division luncheon, which will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The event begins at 11:40 a.m. EMD awards will be presented before the talk.
Groat's talk is titled "USGS Energy Minerals Strategies -- A Reawakening." Tickets are $30.
On Wednesday, April 19, Groat will be speaking at the Division of Environmental Geosciences luncheon, which will be held at the University of New Orleans' University Center -- Lakefront Campus.
Groat is scheduled to present his vision of job opportunites in environmental geosciences and the USGS's role in environmental issues.
A shuttle bus will provide transportation from the convention center starting at 11 a.m. The cost is $25 for professionals, $5 for students.
With 10,000 employees and an annual budget pegged at almost a billion dollars, the U.S. Geological Survey is clearly in the realm of big business. And getting bigger.
"We're going forward for 2001 fiscal year asking for an $82 million increase, which is the largest budget request we've ever been allowed to ask for," said Charles "Chip" Groat, USGS director. "It's an optimistic sign we're getting people's attention -- and they're recognizing things we're supporting."
Groat, a longtime AAPG member who was named to the USGS top post in 1998, is on tap to speak at both the Division of Environmental Geosciences and the Energy Minerals Division luncheon meetings at the AAPG annual meeting in New Orleans.
Given all the ongoing activity and initiatives at the huge agency, he has ample subject material.
Unbeknownst to many in the geological community is the agency's involvement beyond the boundaries of the United States. Groat recently returned from an eight-day stint in Saudi Arabia, where the USGS has maintained a presence since the mid-1940s that began as an effort to help the Saudis find water.
The country is now building its own geological survey, with some members of the U.S. agency staying on as technical support groups.
On the home front, alternative energy, which had such a dedicated following in years past, is again getting the once-over. The National Research Council recently reviewed the energy resources program at the USGS, and Groat said the council questioned whether the agency should have gotten out of things such as uranium, oil shale and others -- and if some level of effort should be ongoing.
"We're back in geothermal to some degree," he said, "and they're looking at what we should be doing in alternative energy."
Petroleum Program Progress
In the petroleum arena, the longtime national undiscovered petroleum resources assessment program is still active -- in fact, it has evolved into an international program that is getting rave reviews from big companies and others, according to Groat.
"We're getting information around the world on areas everyone is interested in," he said, "and making projections such as what the potential is for undiscovered resources and seeing how this jives with what the individual companies are coming up with on their own."
He noted that resources are not easy to sell as programs now. But effort is under way to expand the agency's concept of place-base studies, which deal mainly with ecosystems such as the Florida Everglades and the Mojave Desert, into resource studies.
"We're working with a group from the West interested in the Great Basin to do an integrated study of the basin, but more from a resource point of view," Groat said. "We'll do fundamental things, like geologic mapping, structures and looking at mineral and energy producing capabilities.
"The first pilot is being scoped out now, and this will give us a way of doing things that we think need to be done with resources that we haven't been able to do in the past."
Almost everyone can be affected by natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and the like, and this is another area attracting much interest at the agency as it puts together initiatives for the coming year.
Groat said they are wanting to make information acquired from seismometers, satellite observations, stream gauges and such available in real time. Half of their stream gauges already can be read on a Web site.
"This has science value, but it's also useful when wanting to get out of a flood situation," he said, "and when an earthquake hits, even a few seconds warning to turn off pipelines can help protect people's lives."
Water, Water Everywhere
Water issues are a major focus at the agency, which has cooperative water programs with every state. Indeed, close to half of all USGS employees are involved in water-related issues, which include ground water, water quality and water rights, among others.
"Another thing we're doing is looking at the common difficulty people have in getting at information all these federal agencies crank out," Groat said, "because if you don't know where to go, you're at a loss."
Via a program called "Gateway to the Earth," the agency is asking people who use its information what they need, what form is best and easiest for them to get at it and, therefore, letting them help to design the way data are available and accessed
"We think it's important to let people tell us what's important to them and not us deciding what they want, so that the system can be truly user-friendly," Groat explained.
"If science is supposed to help people, you might want to ask those you're trying to help what they want."
The USGS is, in fact, comprised of four different divisions -- geology, hydrology/water, mapping and biology -- each with its own different divisions and planning practices. One of the ongoing thrusts, according to Groat, is to make it more truly one organization where all the components do business the same way and plan in the same kind of cycle.
Among other positives, this will enable personnel from the different groups to work together and interact more easily.
Bad News, Good News
"Another area where we're having a most interesting time and making progress is helping people understand that the basic geology is a very important part of understanding the environment in the broadest sense," Groat said.
He noted, for instance, one habitat may differ from another because of different bedrock, or there may be different surface/ground water relationships, but a biologist with no geology training might not recognize this.
"I don't think the geoscience community has done as good a job on this kind of thing as it could have, but there is a growing appreciation among biologists and life scientists for that underpinning of geology."
For anyone contemplating a career in the geosciences, there's good news and bad news.
Groat said a meeting last April involving the petroleum and environmental industries, universities and government revealed a somewhat negative attitude regarding employment potential, given low oil prices and a slowdown in the environmental business.
He noted, however, that the consensus was that those geoscientists who would be hired would have rewarding and fast-moving careers. With hiring in a slump, the rationale was that the people who would get into these careers -- who were capable -- would move up quickly.
Groat's own turf might be the place for aspiring new-hires to look.
"We think the geosciences are more important than they've ever been," he said, "and though it won't be a big numbers game, we think there will be good, steady opportunities with the USGS in the future."