Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM


KRANTZ, Robert W., Geologic Technology, ConocoPhillips, 600 N. Dairy Ashford Road, Houston, TX 77079,

A growing body of research and literature reveals the significance and nature of spatial cognition, and the role it plays in science in general, geoscience more specifically, and perhaps for structural geology most of all. Numerous studies by cognitive scientists, in collaboration with geoscience educators, highlight how skills such as mental rotation and disembedding play critical roles in learning and performing geologic tasks, and how teaching methods can be tailored to skill levels.

In the applied subsurface realm, especially in the hydrocarbon exploration and production industry, companies and consultants are embracing the importance of spatial thinking skills, and how these impact staff development. At ConocoPhillips we have long had programs designed to teach subsurface interpretation skills to new university graduates, now mostly MS and PhD degree holders. These programs span several years, and include extensive training courses, workshops, and early-career job assignments with close mentorship and coaching. We have recently revised our structural interpretation training to make spatial skill awareness and development more deliberate, and to help new staff relate field-based experience to seismic and other “virtual” geology. Anecdotal evidence suggests much greater enthusiasm and enhanced performance with our revised approach.

My personal benefit from learning about spatial cognition and collaborating with academic researchers includes at least two components. First, it more rigorously informs my intuitive understanding about the variation of spatial skills across the spectrum of new hires, and how to best help them develop into confident subsurface interpreters. Second, I now understand my own academic and career path. From my first exposure to structural geology, to learning more advanced structural analysis, and then to early experiences with subsurface data and computer-based tools, I have probably been motivated as much by stimulating my “spatial thinking center” than by the rest of the geologic realm.