Cordilleran Section - 97th Annual Meeting, and Pacific Section, American Association of Petroleum Geologists (April 9-11, 2001)

Paper No. 0
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM


YEATS, Robert S., Geosciences, Oregon State Univ, 104 Wilkinson Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-5506,

I was lucky to start writing proposals when NSF was less competitive. I was also lucky to work for Shell Oil Co. in an area of active reverse faulting that included the future 1971 Sylmar earthquake, and I had access to oil-industry data that enabled our group to describe active faults in 3D. My first grant was from NSF, followed by funding from USGS Office of Earthquake Studies and then NEHRP and the Southern California Earthquake Center. To borrow from Field of Dreams, if you fill a need, then funding will come. Industry wanted my students after they finished subsurface theses and was willing to provide summer internships and access to well data. The earthquake community funded my proposals to do subsurface mapping, as did NSF, which also let me take my show on the road to New Zealand, Japan, and the Himalaya. In looking for research opportunities in today’s competitive market, your most important tool is the scientific method: the ability to perceive geological problems ahead of the next guy. My most valuable course was Map Interpretation, taught by J. Hoover Mackin at the University of Washington. We started with a topographic map and had to write a geological report in which we dreamed up important questions rather than answer questions by someone else. Mackin’s philosophy was described in a paper in Fabric of Geology (Addison-Wesley, 1963). I continued his course at Oregon State University. Some course survivors described the experience as "making monsters," where they learned to become "monsters" who asked probing questions that picked apart prospects brought to their company by outside consultants. Learning to spot the weak points of a drilling proposal, like fantasizing a new petroleum prospect, requires the scientific method just as much as writing a research proposal. Finally and perhaps counterintuitively, new ideas are like love and the magic penny: when you give them away, you end up having more.