Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


SMRECAK, Trisha A.1, ROSS, Robert2, CRONIN, Kelly3, AUER, Sara L.1 and HOWE, Rod4, (1)Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, (2)The Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, (3)Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, (4)Cornell University, 43 Warren Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853,

The Marcellus Shale is a methane-bearing unit underlying parts of PA, OH, WV, and NY. Extracting gas from the Marcellus requires unconventional techniques such as horizontal drilling and high-volume, slick-water, hydraulic fracturing. Because of the widespread, industrial nature of drilling and the risks associated with it, the issue has become polarized. The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) has received numerous requests for information on the science associated with this this gas extraction and its impacts, and has provided a variety of public outreach in presentations and forums. One example is a partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, to offer introductory “roadshow" overviews to interested community members.

Since the combination of horizontal drilling and high-volume, slick-water, hydraulic fracturing is relatively new, the amount of available evidence-based data on gas yield and environmental impacts is limited. Existing public information resources, often from organizations that have arisen for and against Marcellus Shale drilling, may potentially be superficial, speculative, or biased.

PRI is researching the scientific issues associated with gas extraction and presenting the best available science-based understanding to stakeholders who make decisions about gas drilling, for themselves or for their communities. PRI is developing detailed informational resources on aspects of gas drilling, commissioning science-journalism pieces on important issues, and documenting the process in a blog. These are available in print and at It is hoped that more comprehensive, evidence-based information will reduce misconceptions and community polarization. Because global population and the demand for energy sources are increasing, expanding local energy development is impacting communities across the country; shale gas drilling is just one example. Other communities may react similarly to risks and benefits associated with both unconventional gas drilling and other forms of energy production, each with a suite of benefits and risks that force communities to make hard decisions about the future of energy. PRI is thus using the Marcellus as a case study of how to provide unbiased, scientific outreach on community-changing, polarizing energy issues.