UL Lafayette’s School of Geosciences: Pioneering Geology Education with New Concentrations

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is forging ahead in the realm of geosciences education with exciting additions to its undergraduate geology program. As the world’s energy needs evolve, so does the demand for specialized knowledge in the field of geosciences. To address this evolving landscape, the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences at UL Lafayette has introduced two new concentrations for students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in geology: Energy Resources and Paleontology. As per this news release from the school, these new concentrations complement the existing offerings in Earth Sciences and Environmental Geology, ensuring students receive a well-rounded education tailored to meet industry demands.

Dr. Brian Schubert, a respected professor and the interim director of the School of Geosciences, emphasized the strategic nature of these additions, stating they are designed to “maximize opportunities for our students.” This sentiment is echoed by Dr. Azmy S. Ackleh, Dean of the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences, who highlights the diverse career paths available to graduates of these concentrations. From federal and state agencies, surveys, and laboratories to museums, energy industry roles, mining, and geospatial consulting firms, these concentrations open doors to an array of exciting opportunities.

The new Paleontology concentration, for instance, offers courses in Micropaleontology, Invertebrate and Vertebrate Paleontology, and Museum Techniques. With UL Lafayette overseeing the UL Lafayette Science Museum, graduates will be well-prepared for careers in museum staff positions, paleontology laboratory roles, and more. Additionally, the program’s multidisciplinary approach ensures that students without prior backgrounds in geology or earth sciences can thrive in this field.

Meanwhile, the Energy Resources concentration leverages Louisiana’s central role in the energy sector, making it an ideal choice for students aspiring to work in the ever-expanding and diversifying energy industry. Graduates of this concentration will also find opportunities in federal and state agencies, surveys, the mining and mineral industry, and geospatial consulting companies.

One fascinating aspect of these new concentrations is the unexpected overlap between Paleontology and the Energy sector. Dr. Schubert points out that paleontologists are often hired in the energy sector for their expertise in correlating and dating economically viable deposits using fossils preserved in sedimentary rocks. As a result, the Energy Resources concentration even requires students to take courses in Paleontology or Micropaleontology, illustrating how UL Lafayette is equipping students with highly marketable skills. Underlying these specialized concentrations are core courses in geology, such as structural geology, field methods, stratigraphy, geophysics, and geochemistry. These foundational courses ensure that graduates possess a broad knowledge of geology while having in-depth expertise in their chosen area.

The School of Geosciences at UL Lafayette is committed to staying responsive to the dynamic and ever-changing field of geology. By doing so, they ensure that their students are prepared for the evolving workforce needs of the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 5% increase in employment opportunities for geoscientists through 2031, underscoring the relevance and demand for geology professionals.

Geology, as Dr. Schubert emphasizes, is not limited to a single niche but finds applications in various sectors, including Engineering Geology, Environmental Geology, Geohydrology, Oceanography, Climatology, and more. As technology evolves, new career opportunities in geology continue to emerge, reinforcing the adaptability and relevance of this field.

In conclusion, UL Lafayette’s School of Geosciences is taking bold steps to ensure that its geology graduates are well-prepared for the demands of a rapidly changing world. The new concentrations in Energy Resources and Paleontology, alongside the existing offerings, create a diverse and adaptable geology program that equips students with the skills they need to succeed in a wide range of exciting careers.

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UL Lafayette Geosciences Team named Top Oil Prospectors

Recently, a group of geosciences students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette competed in the 2023 North American Region Competition, where they were named the best team of students in North America who can determine where to drill for oil, according to this feature article from the University.

UL Lafayette’s team of competing geosciences students included Savana Anderson, Peyton Dardeau, Margaret Dittman and Abigail Watson, also known collectively as the University’s Imperial Barrel team. The team’s faculty advisor was Dr. David Oppo, an assistant professor in the School of Geosciences. This four-student team, which consisted of both undergraduate and graduate students,  placed first for the Imperial Barrel Award for the 2023 North American Region Competition, which is a competition for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Dr. Carl Richter, Associated Dean of Ray P. Authement College of Sciences and Professor at the School of Geosciences, spoke about the team saying, “this doesn’t place the School’s teams in exclusive company. It’s more like a private club. Over the years, the teams achieved a level of preeminence that’s not likely to be equaled anytime soon. It reflects the quality of students the School of Geosciences attracts and the strength of our graduate program.”

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ competition functions as a competitive showcase for students to collaborate as they analyze industry data, make key determinations about energy resources, and make vital decisions about sustainable extraction methods. Because the University’s Imperial Barrel team won the North American Region competition after winning the Gulf Coast sectional, they will be coming on to the world competition.

Last year, the ULL’s Imperial Barrel team placed second in the world and have won the overall event three times in the past: in 2012, 2014, and 2018. It should be noted that they are the only team to claim the title of “world’s best” three times in the history of the award.

The competition involved the students analyzing real datasets including information on basin’s geology, petroleum system elements, geophysics, and production infrastructures over the course of eight weeks. Throughout the competition, the four team members used state-of-the-art technology, received feedback from industry advisors, and networked with potential employers. The competition’s main goal includes identifying a prospective oil reservoir and determining its overall viability. The team then reports its verdict during a 25 minute presentation to industry experts, who then select a winner based on technical quality, clarity, and the originality of the presentation.

Joey Grimball was a previous winner for UL Lafayette during the 2012 competition, and he had the following to say about his involvement in the competition and the impact it has had on his career: “the IBA experience has been the culmination of my coursework at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. By using the knowledge we attained from previous courses we as a team were able to put together a prospect evaluation starting at the Basin analysis level with the understanding of regional geology, paleogeography, maturation of the source rocks, trapping mechanisms, reservoirs and seals in our area.

These past three months we have grown as individuals and gained insight into how real world petroleum prospectsare put together. Through our interaction with Industry professionals and advice given to us through our Advisor we have a better understanding of how Industry operates. Also the presentation skills along with the networking that we have been able to do through this process have added up to be the best experience of my academic career. I hope to be a part of the IBA experience for years to come.”

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