An interview with Doug Schmitt

Coordinated by: Satinder Chopra
Doug Schmitt

On a recent trip down to Calgary, Doug Schmitt, coordinator of the University of Alberta’s Geophysics program, made time to drop by and chat about his career and various geophysical topics with the RECORDER editors. His relaxed and down-to-earth manner belies a keen scientific mind. One of Canada’s top applied scientists, he is also one of the main factors behind the phoenix-like rebirth of the U of A Geophysics program. The following are excerpts from the humorous and interesting discussion with this man.

[Oliver]: I understand you’re a native of Milk River. Could you tell us about your experiences growing up in Southern Alberta?

Well, I grew up on a farm near Writing-on-Stone Park. That’s actually where we take the University of Alberta summer field school now. I know the people there, so it makes it easier to house the students. The farmers are also interested in what the students are doing, and not getting angry and shooting at you or that kind of thing! So yes, I grew up as a normal farm boy, but I was very interested in science. There’s a funny story about what got me into this — maybe not appropriate given what happened September 11th — but we lived about 80 miles from the military range, Suffield, and when I was about 4 years old they were exploding these huge, huge bombs there. When I heard them exploding from our farm, the low rumbles, my mum said it was the “scientists” doing it. Well that was it; I wanted to be a scientist! That is what got me interested in science, and it’s been that way ever since. I did the 4H thing, I did the Science Fair thing, and all of that; I drove the tractors a lot — it was a grain farm, mostly wheat and barley, but lentils now — and so I was exposed to mechanical things, and nature, and I always wanted to figure out how things worked.

I went to a country school mostly — 4 rooms, 8 grades. Incidentally, that school has produced one of Canada’s Nobel Prize winners — Dr. Brockhouse, who won the prize in the early 90’s. He went to the same school. It was a good environment, you knew everyone for a long time, and the teaching was actually very tough, with some fairly rigorous teachers. Our marks were better than the town kids when we went to High School later on.

If I could live on the farm and still do science, I would. But you can’t.

[Oliver]: You had a fairly early interest in science, but what attracted you to physics in particular?

Just the physical sciences in general attracted me. With my involvement in the Science Fairs, I really liked applied physics applications where you would build something, test it out, and see how it actually works. My math is OK, but I’m not the best theoretician around, that’s for sure! It was more just a desire to make things work, and understand how nature works I guess. When you’re 18 it’s pretty hard to put an intellectual spin on why you make a certain decision.

[Satinder]: I’m going to ask you about geophysics. We had a major breakthrough with the CDP method way back in the 60’s; then we had 3D seismic that revolutionized things. What do you think is the next area where we’ll see the next major breakthrough?

I guess you’re expecting me to say time lapse or 4D seismic, and that is an area that I really enjoy, because we’re starting to look at dynamic instead of static processes. The other part of it that interests me, going back to the physics, is that you really have to understand the properties much more than we did before. Up to now we’ve been very successful making beautiful structural images, but we don’t need to do that so much anymore in production based geophysics. You guys perhaps would know better than I would whether things are shifting more to the production-based geophysics in order to figure out just where these fluids are going. Whether that’s really going to be a big breakthrough I don’t know. Maybe it’s going to be a slow development as with 3D. In that case, people tried a few things, some worked, and that generated new ideas. However, it took 10 to 15 years of that slow development before it reached the state it’s in now where 3D has become the sensible thing to do.

There’s a lot of inertia, people like to do what they’re doing, so with 4D there’s going to be a lot of resistance until there’s some good case studies out there that tell us how it really works, and where it does or doesn’t work well. It won’t work everywhere — even 3D has its problems, say like in the foothills. So I see a long growth there.

That’s on the applied side. On the fundamental side the issue of dimensional scale really interests me. We make lab measurements at these very tiny scales, and then the sonic logs at an intermediate scale, then finally seismic measurements at much larger scales. I don’t think we’re really there yet in terms of integrating this wide range of scales. How do we take the sonic log and add up its numbers so that they correspond meaningfully to seismic observations? We’re putting efforts into that, looking at the scale of the structures versus the wavelengths we’re analyzing. Can we do that better? That’s a fundamental question, not an applied one, but it has implications on how we do seismic down the road.

[Oliver]: In the mid- to late-80’s you were down in California doing your Master’s and then your Doctorate. What sort of field work and research were you doing down there?

I actually did two major topics for my thesis. This was after I’d worked at Texaco, so I was already into Geophysics. One of them was not applied at all; it was looking at upper mantle properties. We had huge cannons in the lab. We’d shoot projectiles at mantle minerals in the lab, and then we’d see what happened to the minerals; we’d measure how fast the shock waves would travel through them at these extremely high pressures. This can tell you something about the properties of the materials at mantle pressures.

The other project was a really neat one, one that I keep working on today and which got me into rock mechanics and rock physics. The project is optical interferometry and its application to stress determination in the earth. If you go to my website you can see these little interferometric movies. I hate to say I keep this project as my hobby, because it’s a really tough technical problem, but I keep working on it. The aim is to measure the stress in the earth from a borehole. We’re getting close to solving the problem, with a tool that helps measure the stress. The application will not so much be in petroleum boreholes but more in the hardrock mining world.

After my doctorate, I continued working on the problems in stress measurement; that was what led me to my post-doc work related to hydraulic fracturing at Stanford. That got me into various borehole and rock physics issues, with Mark Zoback and Amos Nur, and then it just kind of grew from there.

[Oliver]: The interferometer work, was that involved in the Cajon Pass project?

No, that was a deeper scientific borehole where it would be difficult to apply the method. Cajon Pass is right on the San Andreas Fault. One goes down this pass from the Mojave Desert into San Bernadino. We didn’t use interferometry there, but working on this project exposed me to drill rigs and geophysical logging. Actually, logging got me kind of scared! The guy I was working with, Mark Zoback, had this great big old Schlumberger logging truck, and I’d never logged before. They basically had me go out and learn how to run this thing in a day. I ran a simple kind of geophysical log on an 8500’ open-hole well the first day, because there was no one else to do it. We were trying to get stress measurements on the San Andreas, with hydraulic fracturing and borehole breakout analysis, but not interferometry.

[Oliver]: That’s one area where the general public comes into contact with geophysics — there’s always a concern about when the next “big one” will hit California. Did that project bring you into contact with the public much?

Not me personally so much, but the lab we were working at, the Seismolab at Caltech, actually had a person hired to deal specifically with those kinds of issues. She became kind of a minor star in Los Angeles, because whenever there was an earthquake, all the cameras would run in, and they’d talk to her! With the Cajon borehole there were a few incidents like that, with the TV crews up there to see what was going on. Whenever you talk about earthquakes in California, everybody’s quite concerned, understandably.

[Oliver]: The last couple of years have seen some outstanding work coming out of the University of Alberta. This is right on the heels of losing several key professors — Dr. Kanasewich’s and Dr. Hron’s untimely deaths, and a number of early retirements. It seems like the Geophysics department is going through a period of rebirth. Could you tell us a bit about some of the faces and ideas that have been part of this?

Sure. We went through a rough time in the early 90’s in Alberta. Universities are not as isolated from the general economy as you might think. We went through this big discussion in our Physics department. We had to cut back staff, and we had to decide who should exist, where should we focus. Should we have Geophysics? Is there a reason for it? So we basically had to justify our existence. I think there are compelling reasons why we should exist. We complement the U of C groups. Geophysics is a very high tech industry, but nobody seems to know about it — we’re kind of the unsung hightech industry in Alberta. I may be wrong, but I believe it’s true. So there’s room for a couple of programs.

Doug Schmitt

So we justified ourselves, but as you mentioned, for various reasons we lost professors, and for a period I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. We thought we were going to be just a small group. But then U of A basically overturned completely, and lately we have been able to rehire and rebuild. We’re in that process right now. One of our focuses during this rebuilding is that we want the students coming out to have a broad grasp of Geophysics. Things are changing so fast, we need to give them the skills to keep learning. Then we’ll kick them out the door and they can go from there! We can’t train them, everyone wants a different training package. One company says use this software, another says that’s impossible. All we can do is give them the skills to keep learning.

And so, with that in mind, and realizing we do have a big applied component, we were able to get Mauricio Sacchi. He’s an excellent addition; his brain just seems wired for signal processing, decon, and migration. We’re also trying to get into the area of geodynamics. We hired a guy named Moritz Heimpel two years ago. He’s studying how the earth is convecting, how the plates are moving. What I like about him is that he differs from the standard geodynamics mold. He’s trying to connect earthquakes and the motion of the plates to what’s actually happening below the crust.

[Oliver]: Sort of similar to Jerry Mitrovica at U of T?

Yeah. Jerry’s focus is a little different. He looks at convection and how it connects with crustal faulting. Moritz is looking more at how the earthquakes and crustal movements are going to impact back on that. He’s also more of a numerical modeler — finite element models where you study the deformation and how the faults move over time, and how that’s going to relate to what’s happening below. Much of his work is similar to Jerry’s and others, but more in a complementary way. And there’s some interaction with Patrick Wu here at U of C.

The most recent hire we’ve made is Martyn Unsworth. The U of A has had a tradition of deep electrical sounding. Martyn is the latest addition to come into that area. He travels to Tibet and carries out deep magnetotelluric sounding there in order to look at fluid content deep in the crust. He’s involved in quite a range of projects, several with US universities. We’re quite excited about the ‘big picture’ geophysics he is involved with.

We have an ad out for two more positions. We’re still not at the point where we want to be in terms of staffing levels; we need more people to cover the whole Geophysics program. If somebody got sick we’d be in trouble right now. We need another seismologist, and perhaps someone doing environmental Geophysics. We’re also hoping for a third position. It’s called the CRC Chair, a research position that NSERC announced. That may go towards near-surface Geophysical studies. We just have to see what kinds of people apply

Finally, I must mention the contributions of Tim Spanos and Walter Jones to the Geophysics program. Walter has been very busy running the interdisciplinary Institute for Geophysical research and has put enormous efforts into organizing speakers and funding for students. As well he has been getting our undergrads into Industrial internship positions. Ted Evans and Edo Nyland are now both Professors Emeritus but they still are here and contributing to the overall efforts.

[Oliver]: You mentioned earlier on about the summer field school down around Milk River. I think you run that in conjunction with the University of Saskatchewan.

We used to...did you go to U of S?

[Oliver]: No, I’ve just heard about it from people, mostly U of S people.

We used to, when I first started at U of A, we carried this out in conjunction with Zoli Hajnal, Don Gendzwill, and Jim Merriam. This was a great collaboration. When the cutbacks came there weren’t funds to run the field school. Saskatchewan was cutback, and we were cutback. Edo Nyland took over the field school for a period but he could only run a smaller field school in Edmonton. In the late 90’s things started to improve. I got back from sabbatical in 1997 and took over the field school again. I tried it in Edmonton at the University Farm, but the problem was that you just didn’t get the esprit de corps. People were running off for doughnuts, they were going home to their jobs, they were leaving at 5. So I really fought hard to make sure the department would fund this field school properly, to allow us to take them out of town, like a retreat.

At present it’s just us, but during the next downturn when there are fewer students it would be good for the U of C and the U of A to get together for it — it is something we keep mentioning to each other. UBC has expressed possible interest in sending their students. I’d like to get back together with the U of S again, but they’re involved quite a bit with some of their more local sources of support.

[Oliver]: What sort of things do the students do at the field school?

Well it’s quite intensive. For seismic studies, Moritz Heimpel and myself take them down there with a 240 channel system and a mini-vibe. We run a fairly realistic 2D reflection profile. Another reason for going to Milk River (Allerston District) is that we have a wide range of really nice targets. There’s the igneous Sweetgrass Hills in Montana, there’s Writing-on-Stone where the students can see some of the geology they are attempting to image, and there’s these igneous Sweetgrass dykes that are beautiful magnetic targets. We found one of those last year, and this year we really homed in on it and we ran a reflection seismic right over it. We can get down a good kilometer or more with the mini-vibe. It is worthwhile to note that this data will be available publicly for anyone as the SEG Foundation helped fund the field school this year.

The students acquire reflection seismic data, refraction seismic data, downhole velocity profiles, and ground penetrating radar (GPR) images over an old graveyard. That’s actually got a practical purpose: we’re trying to map out, maybe over a few years, where the people are buried. And there’s electrical resistivity — KOMEX helped us with that this year. The students do differential GPS surveying, and gravity and mag — the standard stuff. A pretty busy field school!

[Satinder]: How do you feel the geophysical industry is doing in environmental terms?

That’s a hard one for me to answer, because I’ m not exposed on a daily basis to that side of things. I do see in Alberta that people are making an effort to avoid cutting down trees.

[Satinder]: How do you feel about the current state of the Canadian universities in general?

A few years ago I would have been really pessimistic, but right now I’m very optimistic, at least from my perspective. We’ve been hiring excellent people, even though it’s tough because there are only so many good people out there. The funding opportunities are not bad, they’ve improved. The federal government has been really worried about the “brain drain” issue. That hasn’t benefited Geophysics so much, but I know a lot of my colleagues in areas like solid state physics are really booming because they’re able to access funding. Whether that’ll continue with what’s happened to Nortel and JDS-Uniphase, we’ll see!

So yes, I’m really quite upbeat. Funding could be better, and for my own part I’m an experimentalist, and it takes a lot of money to do what I do — expendables and so on — so that’s required coming to Industry to seek some funding, and that’s been a good experience.

[Satinder]: What about the quality of the students coming up?

Well, you can always argue about that. I look at the kids coming in, and professors always complain how lazy they are or what skills they lack, but I think that’s always been true! I don’t think the quality is bad. You can argue that, but I just look at the homework my own kids have to do, compared to what I had to do, and I just can’t believe the volume they are expected to go through. They haven’t been through High School yet, so we’ll see — maybe they’ll lose it all in High School!

Of the students we get, there are some very exceptional ones. And of the undergraduate students that have graduated the last two years a good percentage of them are continuing on to do graduate work. One’s gone to Caltech, one’s gone to Princeton, one’s gone to Stanford. So our reputation with regards to the people we’re producing is good in the North American context. Hopefully we can get those people back to Canada at some point.

[Satinder]: My impression is a bit different. I feel at the elementary level there is not much the kids learn. And the discipline in the classrooms is not up to the mark also, so that even if the teacher is willing to teach, the kids are in no mood to learn. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I have had considerable experience teaching myself, and my wife is a teacher, and my impression is that in the process of modernizing the educational system, which overall has been very positive, some basic and important teaching values have been compromised, discipline and structure especially.

My impression is that my kids’ school is quite strict, but I really don’t know whether that represents the average. How old are your kids Satinder?

[Satinder]: My son is in Grade 4, my daughter in Grade 11. I think it picks up in High School, because my daughter spends long hours working, and that is what I like. <laughter> Not just loafing around here and there. <even more laughter> Of course there needs to be other things besides study, but it has to be a judicious mix.

I went to that country school in Grades 7 & 8, and there was so much homework, and then I went to High School, and it just seemed like it was easy after that. It depends an awful lot on the individual teachers.

[Satinder]: And of course it’s at university where good education really happens.

Yes, that’s where they’re really forced to focus. I see that in the first year, when they come in. I’ve taught introductory courses, and I’ve been really lucky because I’ve got 9am classes, and there’s 120 students there, and usually those classes are pretty much on key. But you do get a few of them that can’t seem to get out of the High School frame of mind. They can be hard to teach until they realize that they are supposed to be self-responsible.

[Satinder]: I think that students entering university have perhaps not been fully grounded in what I would call the basics. For instance, I recall trigonometry, and we’d really learn the simple ratios, say sine of 30, 45, 60; they’re so trivial, we’d learn them like the snap of a finger. Here, I asked a university student — I was doing a tutorial — what the sine of 30 was. Her answer was, “I don’t have my calculator.” She would have to wait for a calculator to solve sine of 30! I think that teaching science at the university level could be difficult if the students aren’t grounded in the basics.

[Oliver]: I think that’s the classic generational thing. The older generation puts great value on whatever they experienced. I can just imagine my grandmother telling my mother, “You’re listening to the radio too much!” or, “This slide rule of yours is cheating, you should learn it the proper way.”

[Satinder]: You should learn it whatever way, hard or easy, and then it should be with you upstairs all the time.

[Oliver]: But the argument is that how you get that trivial answer is unimportant, it’s what you do with it. If your daughter knows how to manipulate sines and cosines to solve bigger problems, that’s what counts. Why clutter up your brain with sines and cosines? You just push a couple of buttons and there it is!

[Satinder]: But it’s the mental exercise that’s important!

[Oliver]: I’m just teasing, I actually agree with you! But don’t ask me any of your trig questions! Doug, did you see any noticeable differences between the North American and European universities?

Well the German universities are quite different. It takes them so long to get out — they’re 28, 29 when they finally get out. I know they’re trying to change this. They get a Diplom, which is essentially equivalent to our thesis-based Masters, but they’re 28 or 29, in part because of their military service. They’re very good though. I’ve got one German grad student right now, and he’s very competent and a very hard worker.

[Satinder]: How about comparing U of A with University of Texas in Austin?

Gee, I really don’t know.

[Satinder]: Well in terms of them being industry-funded, with more problem-oriented research, and no apparent dearth of students or money.

We’re probably not as big, but we’re doing OK. We added 8 new grad students this year, and that’s more grad students than some programs have, period. We have a fair number of post-docs too. The funding is not bad, it could always be better. Mauricio has some industry funding, and I’ve started a small consortium that is a focused research project. It’s on the heavy oil topics, and that’s going ahead quite well and I think it helps to attract students to the U of A. And you know, if you are able to get some industry money, you can leverage it quite readily within the Canadian system. You can get matching funds at the provincial and federal level, through various programs. That’s right now, but ask me again in a year! Everything could change, so who knows?

So opportunities in Canada right now are pretty good. In fact, I think I’ve seen in the Leading Edge some of the guys in the States complaining bitterly...but so far the Canadian companies, the midsize companies have been really good. Husky, PanCanadian, and others have been good in terms of trying to support Canadian content.

[Satinder]: So I would gather that being somewhat removed geographically from Calgary has not been a disadvantage for U of A?

Well it’s got its pluses and minuses. I think some people in Calgary feel we’re way too theoretical, and I’m not too sure that opinion is valid, our program has evolved as it must with the new faces. On the other hand, everyone else outside of Alberta thinks we’re way too applied! So that’s probably a pretty good place to be.

[Oliver]: Yes, you’re probably getting the right balance.

I hope. Not being here in Calgary is sometimes a disadvantage — people don’t call you up as readily. But we can just run down there, it is only 3 hours away, and I drive down quite often. We also get a pretty good flow of people coming up here to talk to the students.

[Oliver]: Have your collaborations with industry been fairly successful?

Yeah, yeah. We’ve done a lot of work with the groups that have been involved over the years with what used to be called the Underground Test Facility. Northstar operates that, and they’ve always been very accommodating, very helpful. With the Seismic Heavy Oil Consortium we are carrying out repeated seismic measurements on a property near Senlac, Saskatchewan operated by one of SHOC’s subscribers — and we are getting some interesting time-lapse results, especially since we obtained our 240 channel system and mini-vibe last year. One thing that makes collaboration difficult is that everyone is always very busy on both the industry and academic sides and I’d really like there to be more communication than there is now. Direct collaborations are the best, but they’re very time-consuming.

[Oliver]: I just had a thought. We’ve done similar interviews with folks up from the States — Bob Tatham, Fred Hilterman. The picture we get from them is that the geophysical community is really struggling to define some new model for funding R&D. I suppose traditionally the majors have had large internal R&D efforts, but that’s come to an end. Maybe we’re ahead of them in that respect; maybe Canadian companies have been big, but not big enough to support a full scale R&D effort, so they’ve always been collaborating with the universities?

It could be, maybe that’s it. There’s also esprit de corps here; I seem to use that term a lot! And that’s good. That brings us to the role of the CSEG — I think it’s very valuable, especially with all this amalgamation of oil companies. If you go to meetings, with many head offices now being in Houston, the focus is always on Gulf of Mexico issues. We have our own problems up here: small reservoirs, heavy oil, and things like that. So that’s where I see the CSEG being really important — it provides a forum where our issues are looked at in a research context. People tend to go in a herd. It’s no good if everybody’s looking at the same thing, and looking at that same thing a lot. I see that as a danger with everything being centralized down in Houston — all of us doing Gulf of Mexico research no matter where we are!

[Oliver]: A while back, about a year, we received a letter from a reader criticizing the RECORDER, or the CSEG in general, of being too Calgary-focused. That kind of hit a raw nerve, because there’s a lot of truth to it. It’s mainly a question of proximity. But is there some way we could do a better job?

Well I was glad to be able to come down and do this. But a lot of the other Canadian universities outside of the province of Alberta have excellent people and programs in Geophysics. As well, there is a lot of interesting geophysics being carried out in a variety of branches of the GSC. Perhaps sending invitations to these people asking them to contribute a little report would allow input from geophysics nodes outside of Calgary. Running one of these each month or reviewing various programs would be useful.

[Oliver]: We are just in the process of mailing out letters to all the universities asking for summaries of successfully defended graduate theses, along with biographies of the students.

That would be good in terms of giving the students exposure.

[Satinder]: And the type of work that is being carried out at the various universities. Doug, let me ask you what sort of atmosphere exists at U of A? Usually faculty members are quite possessive about their graduate students, and there can be jealousy among faculty members, and political battles for tenure and position, and so on. All these things get in the way of professionalism and effective teaching. Could you elaborate on that?

I’ve seen that kind of behaviour at a lot of universities. However, when I was a grad student it was really great in many ways because there weren’t enough rooms for all of us. This meant students working with different professors shared offices, and it was just fantastic, an osmotic learning environment. At U of A, since we’re more or less starting from scratch, most of us feel we should try to mix up the grad students a bit, and not be so competitive. We’re trying to approach it by letting the students help decide whom they want to work with. Some students coming in know exactly what they want to work on, and they’ll go to a specific professor and do exactly that. So what do you do with a student like that? It’s hard to tell them they need to work with other profs. But more than 50% don’t know what they want to do at that stage in life, so we’re trying a process where we expose them to the work that all the professors are doing, and then let them make up their own mind. And we’re not necessarily saying they have to work within the Geophysics department. They may want to do Geophysics, but with a Physics or Geology prof, and U of Ais flexible enough to allow that.

I think that you can have a great group of professors, but once they’re together for a long time, they just get tired of each other, and some of those negative things start happening. The trick will be trying to avoid that in the future.

[Oliver]: Like a married couple.

Yes, but worse! Couples can divorce, but you can’t fire people because they don’t get along.

[Oliver]: But it’s not unique to the academic world. In general males, or a lot of males, want to be the “alpha” male, and there might just not be enough room for 8 alpha males. <laughter>

But related to that, we do want to hire female professors. In Physics five years ago we had no female professors, and now we’re up to three. But of course with all these people we’ve hired, the decision is made on the basis of merit, and we’ve gone through the proper process.

[Satinder]: How about the professional jealousy part of my question?

Well the University of Alberta is a very young university now, not just in Geophysics, but the staff in the entire Physics department has just about overturned, so the mood is very buoyant and everyone is working together.

[Oliver]: There hasn’t been enough time for all those bad things to ferment! <laughter>

That’s what scares me! I’ll do my damnedest to avoid it, but it may be impossible. Right now the mood is really good, and we’re thinking of new ways to interact. We’ll probably move into a new building that will be called the Interdisciplinary Science Building. We’d be closer to a lot of the Geologists.

[Oliver]: Maybe I’ll pull back to a more technical question. We recently had a CSEG luncheon speaker, Sam Sun, talk about a heavy oil seismic steam flood monitoring project. I was wondering whether your SHOC (Seismic Heavy Oil Consortium) consortium has made any unique or exciting discoveries?

Well once again, it’s more of the growing by small steps type of research. We’re out near Senlac repeating seismic measurements and it takes some time to build a proper data set. There’s quite a bit of history though; SHOC’s only been going a couple of years, but before that we’d been funded by AOSTRA, now called Alberta Energy Research Institute. We had another site up near Ft. McMurray where we have repeated a 2D seismic profile 11 times since 1995. And that is really interesting; the problem is getting it through a whole bunch of different people who need to look at it before I can write about it in the RECORDER! We’re certainly seeing definite changes. We’re using very close CMP trace spacing — one metre. For instance, they’ve injected water, and we picked that up. We can see the water front advance through a gas sand, and that’s above the steam injection. I’m excited about things like that. And what’s coming out of it is the hope that seismic monitoring could become cheap enough that it could go almost continuously with much more repetition.

The problems we’ve run into have been cultural. In a lot of the sites we’ve worked there are these big steam boilers and steam lines bouncing up and down and there are pipelines that ring all over the sites. But we can definitely see where the steam zones exist — people have known this is possible for years. I wouldn’t say we’ve made any quantum breakthroughs; we’ve been collecting successive data sets and making more methodical progress.

Where the breakthroughs are going to come is in the interpretation of the observed changes. We can shoot the seismic and see the varying seismic character — that’s been done — but what’s causing the changes? That’s why this project is also focusing on a lot of material property measurements. One student’s trying to develop a technique where we can get down to almost seismic bandwidth frequencies in the lab using resonance. You have to take a jar and fill it with a heavy oil-like material, and find its resonant frequencies; this is the same process as the tones put out by a pipe organ.

[Oliver]: Getting back to the scale issue you were talking about.

Yes, that’s part of it. Because the frequencies we have in the lab now are up in the megahertz range, but with fluids in the pore space and viscous heavy oils especially, there is good possibility that the seismic behaviour varies all the way down to seismic band frequencies.

[Satinder]: Doug, you remain busy with your research work, and with your students. How do you spend your free time?

Well for the last few years, with everything that’s been going on, there hasn’t been a lot of that free time! But I like to go hiking when I can. I guess where I spend my free time now is with my children, 12, and 10, and 7. Making sure they’re getting to their sports and driving them here and there. I ended up coaching soccer, which I know nothing about — it was awful! <laughter> I work out at the Y, but I don’t know if that’s much of a hobby and I don’t know if it’s actually working! So the hobby right now is basically the kids. We got out camping this summer in our tent trailer, and we have a canoe, so we go down the river occasionally. Last weekend for instance we did that, and the fall colours were just beautiful. When I’m 70 or so I’ve got some ideas for hobbies. <laughter>

[Satinder]: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

Well I’d like to thank you — I really appreciate this opportunity to let the community know about what is happening at the U of A.

[Satinder]: I’ll also take this opportunity to request your contribution in the form of a paper or article.

<laughter> I’ve been meaning to, honest!


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