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CNYAPG: Professional Development for Professional Geologists

September 24, 2010

I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Central New York Association for Professional Geologists in Syracuse. The group is full of geologists, working in various fields, who come together for monthly networking and professional presentations designed to provide professional development across the field. This year, there will be a series of presentations that highlight aspects of the Marcellus Shale. Many geologists have been aware of the issue, but those working outside the industry, in academia, or in consulting have had less opportunity to make themselves familiar with the science.

The meeting I attended was the first of the fall sessions, and was an overview of the issue presented by Dr. Don Siegel, Syracuse University Hydrogeologist. His presentation, while not without bias, focused a lot on some of the scientific considerations of the issue. It was great to hear scientists discussing the science, and I think the most interesting part of his presentation was the way he discussed systematic pros and cons of drilling for gas in ‘tight shales’ like the Marcellus, and then discussed the possibilities of environmental damage as a result of the industrialization of the landscape and human error.

I have heard presentations about all of these issues before, but they are usually tied together intimately. Linking the systematics of the process with general industrialization and human impacts is warranted and understandable, but is the common method of presenting information on the Marcellus Shale. In fact, this is how PRI and CCE present the issues associated with gas drilling in our Roadshow. But for me, hearing the information presented in another way by Dr. Siegel was a good experience. Even though I was familiar with all of the information presented, hearing it reframed for geologists by a geologist allowed me to step out of my role as an educator and hear it with new ears, so to speak.

I recommend that we keep an open mind as we search out scientific information about the Marcellus Shale. We should continue to have conversations with people who are informed on the issue, and even if we don’t agree with their point of view. Remember, how we interpret data does not change the data itself. Maybe we can learn to look at old information with new eyes if we keep ourselves open to these opportunities. As an educator, I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned on this journey.

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