An interesting discussion has been evolving on the SEGmin list server in recent weeks. It posed the age-old question: how can geophysicists and geologists work together and understand each other?
It’s certainly an enduring topic. The integration of geophysics and geology, and the co-mingling of geophysicists and geologists, continues to draw attention and debate within the geosciences. Each time it comes up, there are new issues and perspectives. This time is no exception.
As a geophysicist who experienced those silo days first- hand, I can say with great veracity that things have changed for the better! I recall when we were kept on the sidelines in exploration projects. We worked in isolation, and we focused on solving geophysical challenges largely without any context of the geology or the benefit of interaction with our geologist colleagues. Back then, it wasn’t unheard of for project teams to simply disregard the geophysics if it didn’t fit with their geologic model, rather than investigating to understand why. Today, it’s well understood that if your geological model can’t explain the geophysical results, then the model is not yet complete.
The end goal of exploration is an improved understanding of the earth beneath. We never have all of the pieces to put the puzzle together. It is an ongoing, iterative challenge, even under the best conditions. It involves extracting as much insight as you can from all the resources available to you. Most industry veterans will tell you that the better the teamwork, the more successful the exploration team. Achieving the right team dynamics often depends on the different skill sets and approaches of individual team members – and when the geologist can’t speak geophysics, the geophysicist needs to speak geology. The two perspectives do need to come together, however, for discoveries to happen.
My goal today as a product director is to help deliver an integrated software solution for exploration which encompasses geology, geochemistry, GIS and geophysics—one that works for all team members. Through the course of its development, it’s only natural that I work together with all of these professionals. With such a mix of mindsets, there have been challenges: times when we didn’t speak the same language and struggled to see things from the others’ perspectives. But, and this happened without my even thinking about it, I no longer see it as a something to overcome. It’s a fact of life, and both the benefit of having different viewpoints and the quality of the outcomes speak for themselves.
There is evidence that mindsets are converging, as well as software. One indication of this progressive trend is, we are getting away from saying I am a geologist, I am a geochemist, or I am a geophysicist. Instead, we are all increasingly calling ourselves explorers. We are working as exploration teams, and multidisciplinary research teams. We each have our strengths and we are trying to solve a problem together—there is more of a collaborative spirit and effort. It’s simply the better way to work. And there is no doubt we will be missing opportunities and making expensive mistakes if we are not working together as a team.