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Geological Sciences’ Students Earn Pacific Region Imperial Barrel Award

Published: April 18, 2016

At the competition for CSULB were (l-r) professor Tom Kelty with graduate students Ben Davidson, Jack Farrell, Maia Davis, Ryan Weller and Alex Sedlak.
At the competition for CSULB were (l-r) professor Tom Kelty with graduate students Ben Davidson, Jack Farrell, Maia Davis, Ryan Weller and Alex Sedlak.

A team of graduate students from CSULB’s Department of Geological Sciences earned a second place finish in a prestigious professional Pacific Region Imperial Barrel Award competition on April 1. Seven universities from Alaska to San Diego competed in following an eight-week scientific investigation into the geologic evolution, tectonic deformation, organic matter accumulation and petroleum generation and accumulation of a specific frontier region of the world.

The teams were each provided with a multi-million-dollar set of raw data and were tasked to analyze, then present the results of their work to a panel of experienced professionals for judging. CSULB was represented by students Ben Davidson, Maia Davis, Jack Farrell, Alex Sedlak and Ryan Weller, who were advised by professor Tom Kelty in their challenge. The CSULB team won the top ranking out of the six schools that were provided with a dataset of seismic, geochemical and well log data from the offshore Taranaki Basin of New Zealand, and were only beaten by a team analyzing a different geologic dataset.

As a result of their success, the Long Beach students were awarded $500 for the student chapter’s operations. Their past winnings have been used to fund student participation at conferences, run geologic field trips and to put on mixers with working professionals to provide greater networking opportunities.

The Imperial Barrel Award competition is sponsored by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and was inspired by a “real-world” training exercise begun at Imperial College London. Teams of four or five students are primarily composed of graduate students, although a few undergrads occasionally participate. Students create their own team organization, roles, research plans and schedules, and become specialists in different technical aspects of the project from seismic interpretation to geochemistry to tectonic analysis to evaluation of the physical properties of rocks that are buried miles beneath the Earth’s surface. The winners of the 12 North American and global regions go on to present at an international competition in Calgary, Canada.

This year’s Pacific Section competition was held in Bakersfield and along with CSULB included teams from University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Portland State University; UC Santa Barbara; CSU Bakersfield; CSU Northridge and San Diego State. University of Alaska, Fairbanks won first prize overall and will go on to represent the Pacific Section in the international final competition.

–Shayne Schroeder