Explorers at sea: Investigating marine geology with seismic waves

Author: Stephen Ball (M.S., 2019)

While plenty of geologic information may be reasoned from rocks at the Earth’s surface, geoscientists rely heavily on geophysical surveys to understand subsurface geology. In January-February of 2018, I spent five weeks onboard the research vessel Marcus Langseth for a seismic survey of strata at the Hikurangi plate boundary off the North Island of New Zealand. The ship deployed kilometers of receivers to detect return times of generated seismic waves; while onboard, we began the process of translating those return times into a 3D visual representation of the rocks beneath us. The project will foster greater understanding of deformation processes and natural hazard risks related to subduction zones.

Launching an XBT probe to depths of >700 m in order to establish a temperature-depth profile for the ocean water column.

The experience at sea helped familiarize me with types of data that I subsequently interpreted during spring and summer internships in the petroleum industry. Each internship included ten weeks with a business unit focused on characterizing geologic properties that affect oil and gas accumulations. During my time in Houston, I used seismic data to constrain models of fault and fold development around oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. Both companies provided training on interpretation software and invited interns to workshops on salt tectonics, well logs, and other relevant short courses.  Our department’s American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) chapter organizes interview workshops and alumni speakers to prepare students interested in careers as petroleum geologists for on-campus recruitment in the fall.

Stephen Ball

Return to Geo-Badgering