June, as the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG) celebrates
75 years of petroleum exploration with its Diamond Jubilee convention,
one of the meeting's highlights will be the June 6 "open house"
of Calgary's newest AAPG-sponsored training and development center.
Residing at the University of Calgary's department
of geology and geophysics, the Geoscience Professional Development
Centre (GPDC) developed out of an AAPG-Canada Region initiative
and the AAPG Executive Committee's commitment to assist its members
in maintaining and upgrading technical skills.
The Calgary Centre is one of six mid-career training
facilities sponsored by AAPG, and it represents the AAPG's second
international training venue -- the first opened earlier this year
at Imperial College, London, England.
In 2000, the AAPG Executive and AAPG Foundation each
contributed (US) $25,000 of grants to kick off the GPDC, with the
monies going toward purchase of hardware and furnishings.
Financial support and solidarity followed from the
Canadian geoscience community:
- The CSPG and the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists
(CSEG) each contributed (CAN) $10,000 for the Centre's first year
- The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) donated (US)
$20,000 for the purchase of hardware and furnishings.
- The Association of Professional Geologists, Geophysicists and
Engineers of Alberta (APEGGA) pledged (CAN) $10,000 each year
for three years toward the operation.
Additional fund-raising efforts are under way, targeting
the Alberta government.
The GPDC boasts a state-of-the-art computer lab that
is equipped with 20 dual-monitor, high-end personal computers and
required peripherals, including a petroleum data base software donated
by IHS AccuMap Ltd. The AccuMap software provides the student with
an integrated software and data solution for oil and gas exploration
in Canada and the United States.
Negotiations are under way with other service sector
companies to obtain donations of geological and geophysical software.
The University of Calgary's department of geology
and geophysics plays a key partnership role in the GPDC, providing
not only physical space for the Centre but access to its faculty
members, and technical and administrative support staff.
AAPG member Rudi Meyer wears two hats in the operation
-- he's the director of the GPDC and an assistant professor of geology
at the University of Calgary.
Meyer explained that the GPDC's Technical Committee
and Advisory Board are made up of representatives from all of its
sponsor organizations, and include individuals like the university's
dean of science.
"The university provides faculty members who have
experience in teaching and in setting up courses and programs,"
Meyer said. "It's amazing in the sense that you have all of these
organizations sitting under one umbrella in the GPDC -- to us, it's
very important to have that industry input."
Don Lawton, professor of geophysics and head of the
department of geology and geophysics at the University of Calgary,
said that the establishment of the GPDC is consistent with the University's
mandate and new academic plan: The university must be responsive
to the community and offer post-degree, continuous learning.
"The GPDC brings a lot of integration with industry,
and it exposes industry to the geology and geophysics department,"
said Lawton, also an AAPG member. "Graduate students can sit side-by-side
with industry people; there'll be a lot of interaction."
Lawton describes the Centre's three-pronged approach
to education -- lectures, computers and rocks.
The GPDC will benefit from the use of the university's
Gallagher Library of Geology and the Tom Oliver Core Laboratory.
Furthermore, the world class Core Research Centre, run by the Alberta
Energy and Utilities Board, is just a 10-minute walk from the GPDC.
Calgary-based geologist and AAPG member Tom Moslow,
who was involved in taking the GPDC from concept to reality, said
that in 1999 the AAPG-Canada Region identified a need in Calgary
-- due to the high concentration of geoscientists -- for a professional
development facility that would provide leading edge education at
a reasonable cost for practicing geologists, particularly in mid-career.
Such an operation would focus on the integration
of cross-disciplinary skills and, in particular, on upgrading computer
The GPDC's aim is to create a made-in-Canada curriculum,
tailored to the specific needs of geologists and geophysicists exploring
in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.
"A lot of industry courses that come to Calgary don't
present the Canadian context," Lawton said. "We want to add a Canadian
flavor to the courses."
In addition to offering courses for industry, the
GPDC is in discussions with the University on how to develop post-degree
training and cross-disciplinary courses that could be credited toward
a master's degree, perhaps in reservoir characterization.
In other words, geoscientists could take credit courses
while continuing to work in the industry.
Clearly, the Centre -- while targeting the training
needs of mid-career professionals -- also represents a valuable
resource to graduate students, and underemployed and unemployed
"The students like it because it gives them contact
with the world they hope to join," Meyer said. "Industry people
like it because the students are less biased simply because they
have not been working in industry. And, sometimes you have to look
at things differently."