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MMRG 2008 Summary Meeting

Summary of Marine Micropaleontology/Quantitative Stratigraphy Research Group Meeting
AAPG Annual Meeting, San Antonio, April 21, 2008

The theme of this year's meeting was "Discipline Health of Stratigraphy and Paleontology in Industry, Academia and Government", which served as a follow-up to an earlier meeting convened by Jim Bergen (BP), Dave Watkins (U. Nebraska, Lincoln), and Tim Bralower (PSU) October 2007. Invited presentations by Martin Farley (UNC-Pembroke), Rich Lane (NSF), and Bergen and Watkins were followed by discussion of ~40 attendees. The main points made are:
Industry must be pro-active in supporting student research and recruiting in micropaleontology and biostratigraphy because of age demographics: there are very few young biostratigraphers now being trained as replacements or (less likely) as new staff. Turnover in industry, especially among super-majors, will be high during the next 5-10 years. The same is true among academics: Meso-Cenozoic micropaleontology and biostratigraphy expertise has greatly declined and Palezoic expertise has nearly disappeared while turnover in academics will increase during the next 10-15 years.
The Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology section of NSF is highly unlikely to support geologic problem solving using microfossils and biostratigraphy. Several new NSF initiatives have been proposed which, if funded, will be devoted to high profile "deep time" studies. Of these initiatives, only the Deep Time Life Observatories might be suitable for industrial collaboration because geochronologists will be involved.
Immediate long-term forward planning is therefore critical to the health of micropaleontology and biostratigraphy. Industrial support of students must increase and be consistent (possibly via consortia and internships; see action item below) in order to demonstrate long-term commitment by industry and avoid future shortfalls in recruitment. at least some consultants are willing to train new hires themselves. An alternative to recruiting in North America is to recruit qualified candidates overseas. However, this appears to be a short-term solution to what is a more chronic problem, particularly if micropaleontology and biostratigraphy were to be unfunded overseas.
The tasks facing micropaleontology and biostratigraphy represent a resurgence of tremendous opportunities. For example, industry can provide much higher temporal resolution than many published academic studies. At least one company reports that 248 primary events for the Neogene with resolution down to 93 kyr for the GOM and two Miocene wells with resolution down to procession (27 kyr) scales; by contrast, the ICS website reports only 87 Neogene events with resolution down to 340 kyr.
These studies should be integrated into academic research. Academic geoscientists are largely unaware of industry results because they are mostly unpublished. Given that biostratigraphers new regularly cooperate across companies, such data bases can (and should) be standardized (a point also made at the meeting). If these results were then made available to academic geoscientists for integration into their studies, they might reciprocate, thereby establishing better industry-academic cooperation and providing research, "real-world" training, and job opportunities for students.
Action Item: A follow-up meeting was proposed for the near future to review the consortium proposal and evaluate alternatives.

Ron Martin
President, NAMS
May 1, 2008