J. Carl Fiduk, Spring 2014
Hello Gulf Coast Section SEPM members! This is my first President's column and I am proud to follow my outgoing colleague Mike Blum. As most other President-elects have probably done I watched Mike to see how he handled the rigors and requirements of the job. I most admire his ability to herd the committee members through meeting agendas and to keep everyone on task (as much as possible). Mike's easy going personality and soft spoken demeanor allowed him to gently guide committee members back to the tasks at hand when conversations strayed wildly far afield. But much of the President's job is done outside meetings and requires good timely communication. Although Mike traveled quite a lot during his tenure, he stayed in touch and followed up on items before they could get lost. I hope that I have absorbed all the good traits Mike has shown and can now deploy them half as well. If I can do that I will consider my tenure a success. Mike has done a fine job as President and I look forward to his continued involvement on the Executive Council in 2014.
Unlike Mike and other past Presidents, I did not have the luxury of a gentle entry to the duties of this office. Typically, each incoming President takes office in January and does not have any pressing duties until the first newsletter in Spring. Things were different this year because we changed the dates for the annual Bob F. Perkins research conference from December 2013 to January 2014. That simple sliding of one month put the conference on my watch. So there was much to do even before I took office. To complicate matters more, I had the bright idea to add a student poster competition to the conference agenda. I proposed the idea for the poster competition at an Executive Council meeting six months earlier. The Trustees at the meeting were apparently NOT sitting around waiting for extra duties to fall on them from the "new guy." I learned very quickly that people with bright ideas immediately get chosen to follow through with those ideas. Hence I got to spend the following six months advertising, organizing, and securing funding to run the event. This took up a large amount of my free time. Fortunately for me, Mike, Jim Pindell, Brian Horn, Norm Rosen and the other Trustees took care of running the conference. Both the conference and the student poster competition turned out quite well.
I'd like to say a little more about the 2014 Bob F. Perkins research conference. This year's conference theme was "Sedimentary Basins: Origin, Depositional Histories, and Petroleum Systems." The technical Program co-chairs were James Pindell, Brian Horn, and Norman C. Rosen. The conference lived up to the high technical standards that have distinguished it since its inception. But the timing of the conference was different than in past years, being in January rather than in December.
For about a decade participation and attendance at the Perkins conference (and most other regional conferences) has been slowly declining. The Executive Council made the decision to try a January date to see if greater attendance could be achieved. To Norm's great distress, pre-registration for the conference was very low. By mid-December less than 50 attendees had registered. Historically, pre-registration had accounted for approximately 70% of actual attendance. This had the look of certain financial disaster. All hope was not lost. In January registrations took a previously unheard of jump almost rivaling the stampede of people to California in 1849! (Well not really, but the uptick was enough to keep Norm's heart from failing.) By the end of the conference about 150 attendees had registered and the meeting was successful from both a technical/quality standpoint and financially.
With the 20/20 hindsight gained by all who attempt something new and untested, we saw the shortcomings of having the conference in January. No matter how interesting the topic, most attendees were not going to register for the conference until the year in which it was held. This may be because of fiscal issues such as when expenses must be accounted for the year from which cost can be attributed.
Now I would like to say some things about changes to the 2014 GCSSEPM Executive Committee. First, I want to say thank you to outgoing Vice-President Don Van Nieuwenhuise for the four years he served. We appreciate his contributions to the Gulf Coast Section and hope for his continued participation in section affairs. Second, I want to say thank you to outgoing Past-President Ursula Hammes. Ursula has served on the council for the past three years and we will miss her contributions. Next I would like to welcome incoming Vice-President Thomas Hearon. Thomas has just completed his doctorate at Colorado School of Mines and is starting work with ConocoPhillips in Houston. Thomas is energetic, highly motivated, and willing to work long hours for the section. He is part of a much needed infusion of younger blood to the committee that started with Charlotte Jolley (secretary) in 2010 and Brandi Sellepack (treasurer) in 2011. The Section and Executive Committee are very fortunate to have him onboard. I'm hoping this trend of younger volunteers will eventually allow some of us older workhorses to peacefully go out to pasture. Finally, I want to welcome incoming President-elect Paul Post. Paul is a longtime friend who works with the BOEM in New Orleans. He has contributed a lot of time and effort to the success of two past Bob F. Perkins Research conferences in 2004 and 2005. He is also one of the technical co-conveners for the upcoming conference in 2015. I admire Paul's willingness to work so hard for the section. Anyone who has organized a research conference knows the amount of work involved to successfully pull one off. I know Paul will do his best with the 2015 conference and I look forward to working with him this year to help make that happen.
I'll conclude this column by asking everyone in the section to participate as much as possible during 2014. Active participation is the easiest and best way to gain value from our society. Volunteer for a committee, become a business representative, or help recruit new members to the GCSSEPM. Any and all of these things will provide you with more satisfaction from membership and benefit the society. Until next time.