Ohio State University. Kudos.

Wow, wow, wow. What a great start to my tour.

My first stop was at Ohio State University (OSU), which is in Columbus, Ohio. A rather busy start to the morning, finishing off AAPG ICE abstracts and keeping on top of my inbox, was capped by a truly awesome breakfast at Katalina’s, a small, quirky, colourful cafe near Columbus’ ‘Short North’ district. Derek Sawyer (@dswayer17), my host, ploughed through his breakfast tacos, whilst I literally hoovered-up my “Hens in a Basket”. It was perfect.

We then headed to the OSU campus through snow-covered streets. Like most US campus universities, OSU’s campus was compact and rather beige. However, there were some striking old buildings, such as the Orton Museum, which is the oldest building on campus. Derek gave me a quick tour of the museum, which hosted a range of old-school mineral and rock exhibits, including some very cool and rather large examples of some somewhat exotic sedimentary structures (see below). One of Orton’s most celebrated inhabitants is “Jeff,” the 7-foot fossil skeleton of the giant ground sloth, Megalonyx jeffersoni. This beast, which was excavated on an Ohio farm, is named after Thomas Jefferson’s. And why not.

The day passed by in a whirlwind of meetings with several faculty and students in the School of Earth Sciences at OSU. I spent most of my time talking to Ann Cook, Derek and their students about a large and exciting project (see here and here) focused on drilling gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico, which involves co-workers at UT Austin.

Seismic reflection imaging of gas hydrate-bearing strata in the Gulf of Mexico. Source: https://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2013/08/


Key challenges in the project seem to be documenting the geological context for the specific drill site, including the recognition of coarse-grained systems/deposits that may preferentially host hydrates, and which may thus be attractive targets for drilling. Differentiating between MTCs and highly fractured but in-situ mudstones also seem to be an issue, with both potentially manifesting as packages of chaotic reflections packages of highly variable reflectivity. Now, I know vanishingly little about gas hydrates, but I was happy to point at the data  and ask dumb questions. Ann, Derek and their students were very patient with me.

The School of Earth Sciences was, again, rather beige, but the walls were brightened up with lots of incredible maps, rocks samples (see images above) and posters, the latter documenting some of the research being undertaken by faculty and students. Time-permitting, I may write a post about some of the maps (they were truly stunning and informative), but in the meantime see below.

Over a pizza lunch, I spoke to a group of graduate students about AAPG’s Imperial Barrel Award (the IBA), a exploration geology-focused project that started at Imperial College some 37 years ago. OSU have never entered a team in the IBA and were keen to know what it involved in terms of time, logistics and effort. To cut a long story very short, and to here avoid spiralling into a long tirade about the IBA in its modern incarnation,  I simply told them to forget the competition aspect of the IBA, and to focus instead on the learning objectives. I’m really hoping they manage to include something like the IBA in their study program; it’s a fantastic teaching device.


It was then time for my talk, 3D Seismic Reflection Data: Has the Geological Hubble Retained Its Focus?, which can be downloaded here (https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.4591573.v1) from figshare. I’ve already posted what this talk is about here, so I won’t repeat myself. However, linked to the talk was a few short questions for the talk attendees; I posted these on Mentimeter ahead of the talk, soliciting c. 65 responses. I find this type of poll very useful as they provide a little more interactivity for the audience (I discussed the results at the start of the talk), and because they allow you to know who is in the room and, therefore, how to pitch your talk. The questions I asked and the results of the poll can be found here. In summary, (i) unsurprisingly, Earth Science departments contain lots of different types of Earth Scientist!; (ii) few people have experience with seismic reflection data; and (iii) most people, largely correctly assume these data are used to understand the Earth’s subsurface and to find resources. Hopefully, during my talk, I showed people the power of the data for helping to answer a range of Earth Science questions.


I include some further interactivity in my talk in the form of a ‘Pick This‘ interlude. Amongst other things, Pick This, which was designed by the folk at Agile Geoscience (@agilegeo), Matt Hall (@kwinkunks) and Evan Bianco (@evanbianco), allows you to interpret seismic profiles and see the variability that may arise between different respondents. I tortured Derek by making him stand-up and interpret ‘live’ in front of a decent-size audience. He did a good job and he was rewarded with chocolate. I strongly recommend you give this online tool a go; it’s a fantastic teaching device tool, outlining how much uncertainty and variability exists when interpreting seismic reflection profiles. The talk seemed to go well (as the presenter, I always find it difficult to determine if people really enjoyed it…) and I was rewarded with numerous  IPAs, yet-more pizza and great company.

Interpretation ‘heatmap’ overlain on a seismic reflection profile from offshore Brazil.

I’d like to conclude by saying a huge ‘Thanks!’ to everyone I met at OSU. You made me feel most welcome. It was a great start to the tour. I’d particularly like to say thanks to Derek; he was the consummate host and great fun. He even met me for breakfast this morning to talk more about mass-transport complexes (MTCs), sediment waves, and gullied slopes. I could have carried on all day. See you next year in British Colombia Derek! Lucky you.


Author: Christopher Aiden-Lee Jackson

I am Professor of Basin Analysis @imperialcollege. I ❤️ 🏃🏿, 🚴🏿 and @basinsIC (⛏). I obsess about the tectono-stratigraphic development of sedimentary basins. Why? Because I'm hopeless at everything else.

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