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John Suter, Spring 2017

I’ll begin by saying that it is a privilege to serve as the President of the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM (GCSSEPM). One of the duties of the position is writing this column. I’m not sure if anyone actually reads these articles—for the most part, I never really have. I went back through some of those available online, written for newsletters of various societies to which I belong. There is a surprising amount of good content, so not being a regular reader has probably been to my detriment. This observation does not mean that anything worthwhile will come out of this effort, but you will need to read the rest of this to find out.

We are now several years into one of the worst downturns in the petroleum industry’s checkered history. Geological societies, especially those with a strong petroleum industry connection, are struggling to stay relevant and useful to their membership. GCSSEPM has been hit hard. Industry sponsorships are now thin on the ground, and all our members have been impacted, many directly. For example, every member of the current Executive Council worked for a major or super-major company at some point in 2015. Now, only two are so occupied.

Anecdotally, most people who belong to scientific societies do so to “support the science.” However, the society needs to provide some real benefits to its membership to be viable. So, outside of the satisfaction of supporting geoscience, what benefits are available to GCSSEPM members?

GCSSEPM is one of the regional sections of the international organization, SEPM—the Society for Sedimentary Geology. There is a total of 12 or 13 sections of SEPM, depending on how one interprets the listing on the SEPM website. Of these, ours is the largest and we like to think, the most active. It also seems to be unique in that, like the parent organization, ours has a dual structure—the Section itself and an affiliated Foundation. The Section and Foundation have both joint and separate activities, which represent opportunities for professional development and networking, all available to interested members.

The Section’s major activity each year is as a co-sponsor of the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies (GCAGS) Annual Conferences and its published Transactions. GCSSEPM helps with conference organization and contributes substantial technical content. We also assist with program composition, session organization, paper editing, judging, and awards. We sponsor a GCSSEPM Luncheon, wherein we have a timely topic of geological interest. This year’s GCAGS will be held in San Antonio from November 1–3, 2017, and hopefully will feature named sessions and short courses sponsored by GCSSEPM. Visit for more information. We hope to see as many of you as possible there.

Each year, the GCSSEPM Foundation conducts the Perkins-Rosen Research Conference in December. This conference is what really sets the GCSSEPM apart from other regional societies, as it is often international in scope and has historically had impact beyond the Gulf Coast region. Thel 2016 conference “Mesozoic of the Gulf Rim and Beyond: New Progress in Science and Exploration of the Gulf of Mexico Basin” was highly successful. The Technical Program Committee for the 2017 conference “Sequence Stratigraphy: The Future Defined,” is working hard at getting the program in place for the 2017 conference.

What else do we do? We award the Doris Malkin Curtis Medal each year at GCAGS to honor career contributions to Gulf Coast Geology (and Doris Curtis). Please nominate anyone you consider worthy. We offer free student short courses. Most recently this has comprised a course on seismic interpretation, taught by members Bruce Hart and Carl Fiduk. To relieve some of their burden, we are working to expand the roster of offerings. If you would like a short course presentation or have an idea for a short course, be it a free student offering or not, please let us know. Every year, GCSSEPM’s major public outreach activity is a display at the opening of the Houston Museum of Natural Science Earth Science Week, introducing the public, especially children, to the wonders of geoscience. This activity is always in need of volunteers. Contact Tony D’Agostino, now the Executive Director of the GCSSEPM Foundation, for more information. Historically, the Foundation has awarded Ed Picou Fellowships to deserving students, but financial constraints forced the suspension of the program in 2016. We hope to resume the awards in the future. Finally, we are working to revitalize our corporate and student representative programs. Anyone wishing to serve in this capacity should contact Joe MacQuaker at

No volunteer professional organization can succeed without full participation (and dues) from its membership. Please let us know if there is anything we should be doing, and tell us whether anything that we are doing (or trying to do) is working. Should you wish to be a candidate to serve as an officer of the Section, please let us know. Go to our website and click on the contact us button, and select anyone on the Executive Council to contact via email, or get in touch via LinkedIn. We look forward to hearing from you.

John Suter
GCSSEPM President