Sharing geology stories can have impact

Pathways to Profession Have Tales

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Maps are my passion. I’m addicted, I freely admit.

When I was four years old, I traced state highway maps. When I was nine, I created a fantasy city on my notebook cover (beats listening to the teacher).

I was given a popular geology book – Geology of New York City and Environs – that linked landscapes with the rocks that underlie them. So I went to a geology summer school and discovered the reach of geologic time and the application of scientific method, and my fate was cast – I’ll be a geologist! So I persevered through college and graduate school, and now I make maps through time, discovering the joys of well logs and 3-D seismic on the way. And people take these maps and drill wells from them, and find the energy that propels the world’s people towards a better future. Not bad!


Most of us have some sort of story of “finding” geoscience. This is mostly due to the fact that most schools don’t give geology a high profile, and many don’t teach it at all.

From my observations, the most frequent reasons we have for finding our professional career are:

  •  Passion for the outdoors, maps and/or rock collecting that is translated to the geologic story once we’re exposed to it – that’s my story.
  •  Family involvement in geosciences or in businesses that use geoscience – particularly oil and gas, but also mining.
  •  General interest in math and science, which at the university level finds a set of really challenging (and rewarding) problems in Earth’s geologic systems.

These are all great ways for people to come to professional geoscience. Once we get here, we realize that America and the world need energy, and finding and producing energy needs geoscientists like us.

So we join the community of energy resource geoscientists – and we join AAPG.

When we joined AAPG, we signed off that we adhere to the Code of Ethics enshrined in its Constitution. By joining, we became part of the professional community, and met and networked with our peers and our mentors – whatever company they worked for!

We learn lessons about what it means to be a professional and what it means to work in the energy business.

We create trust and knowledge, we build understanding and a firm resource base, we carry on a distinguished tradition of science applied to the public good.

And to express our professional pride and work on our professional concerns, we become certified and join the Division of Professional Affairs.


But along with our professional work, we have an obligation to “evangelize” – to give back to the broader community of citizens, to communicate the important insights of geoscience and its impact on world affairs.

One good way to do this is through maps and through history – the geologist’s long view of time and space.

Everyone likes stories – true stories even more so. Everyone likes to have an idea how things came to be. And many if not most people appreciate their local landscapes or seascapes and want to know how they came to be and how they might change.

And we as geologists can tell stories – how the mountains have risen and fallen, how shorelines change in a geologic eye blink, how fossil sunlight has been stored over eons until we made it serve our uses and transformed our lives.

Geology upholds our landscapes, it explains what we see, it has guided the history of our societies and the geography of our development.

And who knows? Telling stories like these may hook some enterprising young students on geoscience as a career! Worked for me.

Thanks for reading.

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Thomas E. Ewing
DPA President
Thomas E. Ewing DPA President

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