2016 SEG Convention at Dallas
Every year there are at least five prominent Conventions (GeoConvention, CSEG, SEG, AAPG, EAGE, and URTeC) that are put on, and as we geophysicists may not be able to attend all five of them. So we need to pick and choose on which ones we would be able to attend. For doing this we get to think about what we intend getting out of these by attending. One reason everyone gives is the personal one – about learning and career development. Are there other benefits that we can accrue by attending one or more of these conventions?
I believe the SEG Convention is everyone’s favourite for applied geophysics applications; EAGE comes next with similar fan following and both these shows cater more for the regional members who may find it difficult attending the other across the Atlantic. For us members based in Calgary, the local GeoConvention (CSEG/CSPG/CWLS) is a must-go show and then we are left with AAPG and URTeC. Attending the AAPG show is a good opportunity to understand the geological aspects of some areas that one is working in, and also for the integration of disciplines, as a number of session themes are dedicated to them. Finally, URTeC is more tailor-made for the attendees interested, or working in shale or heavy oil plays.
As I look at it, the main motivation for attending any convention is learning, sharing and networking. For many of us working in service companies we like to make poster and/or oral presentations, so that we share with others the work that we have been engaged in. We also choose presentations from the Technical Program Schedule that fall within the purview of the topics of our specialization, which we can attend.
Air travel to and from Dallas
This time I attending the 2016 SEG Convention that was organized from October 16th through 21st, at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in downton Dallas. I took an early direct flight from Calgary to Dallas.
As we hear pilots announce the height during our flights, usually, the commercial jets fly at high altitudes between 30,000 to 45,000 ft. There have been only a couple of instances during my international flights when I heard the pilot say ‘we are flying at an altitude of 42,000ft’, but usually it has been below 40,000ft. Basically, the height at which an aircraft flies is dependent on its weight and the atmospheric conditions. As the height increases, the air becomes rarified, or thin. Thin air has less drag on the aircraft to reach a certain speed, and so saves fuel. But there is also less oxygen in it and so less power is generated. The higher an aircraft climbs requires more fuel to be burnt. Longer flights fly higher to save on fuel. Usually, the Air Traffic Control decides on the ideal heights at which the planes should fly, given the current weather conditions. The jets are usually separated by about a 1000ft or so in their flying heights.
On my recent trip to Dallas I noticed this first hand, as while going from Calgary to Dallas our jet flew at 35,000 ft and while coming it maintained a height of 36,000 ft. But what I found very interesting is that even at that height our aircraft was sometimes skimming the clouds and sometimes flying through them. This in-and-out travel through the clouds created turbulence for our aircraft. It started off as we reached the cruising height of 35,000 ft and continued for almost one-and-a-half hours into the flight. Thereafter, it was sunny till we reached Dallas with only a thin layer of clouds at much lower height, which is usually the case.
I found out later that there is a difference in the type of clouds at the lower and higher levels. The clouds at lower levels (called cirrus) are typically thin, and usually indicate fair weather. The clouds found at dramatic heights reaching 50,000 ft are called cumulonimbus, or thunderheads. They produce rain, hail and lightning. As they are at significant heights, their top portions can encounter high winds, and cause them to spread out sideways. I saw this on my return flight from Dallas to Calgary, just a few hundred kilometers from the start of our journey.
Dallas is a beautiful city in North Texas with a population of close to 1.3 million people. There are several high-rise buildings (over 200m) in the downtown area. After reaching the hotel I went off for lunch with my colleague and saw some parts of the city.
I attended the icebreaker on Sunday evening, which is essentially the exhibits floor where some eatables are available as well as drinks, and the opportunity to meet colleagues from the industry and see some booths, etc. The attendance at the Convention seemed lower than previous years as one could gauge from the number of attendees as well as the size of the exhibit floor. The technical program was strong with 16 parallel sessions running at any time. While the quantity was there, the quality of many of the presentations was average.
For me, this year I had a poster and an oral presentation at the SEG. The poster presentation on Monday afternoon (Oct 17th, 2016) went off very well given the crowds that flocked around our poster and the engaging discussions that followed after the presentation. The oral presentation on Wednesday afternoon on Duvernay Shale characterization and induced seismicity considerations went off well too, but unlike previous years, in the last few slides of this presentations our results were not yet conclusive, given the drilling results, and the induced seismicity measurements, coupled with the current level of our understanding about reactivation of faults and fractures outside of the Duvernay Formation, when the latter is hydraulically fractured. Other than this the rest of the time from Sunday to Wednesday afternoon was spent in attending other talks.
The one common thread in all the other talks I attended is that the speakers from outside North America and Europe, whose native language is not English (excluding Indians) struggled to make their points or convey their messages. This becomes very irritating at first, and annoying/frustrating later when you are continuously making an effort to gauge the underlying message. In most cases such presentations just don’t hit the mark and fall short of our expectations.
Most of these speakers read off from their slides and later when many of them are asked a question, they either pose to not understand the question, or struggle to understand it. This is a very serious problem, considering the Convention attendees pay hefty registration fees, airfare and hotel bills for attending, not to mention the time taken off work.
Networking with some clients and workers from different countries having similar research interests, besides being visible and connecting with other software vendors and attending booth presentations. Such networking is a great feeling of integrated into our professional community. Overall your professional network tends to expand with attendance at each convention.
Attending a conference at a different city/country might be an attraction for learning about a new place or a new culture. Getting back from the conventions with newer ideas that were picked up, or a few leads for some new business could make the investment worthwhile. A new idea or an approach makes an individual more effective and efficient at work. Besides, sometimes taking a break from work helps you sharpen your skills, as sitting in the same chair day after day can keep us from fresh thinking and new ideas or cut through the clutter. Conferences are just the platform to mix and mingle, form new relationships, strengthen existing ones, and grow and challenge yourself. With each presentation you gain confidence in your ability.
On the whole, it was a very good experience attending the 2016 SEG Convention at Dallas, and I look forward to attending the 2017 SEG Convention at Houston.