SEG Hydrogeophysics Webinar: So You Want to be a Practicing Near-Surface Geophysicist?

15 May 2024
10:00 AM (CDT)

If you are studying and either love near-surface geophysics or think you could learn to love it and be paid for the privilege and want to pursue it as a career, you have two main choices.

  1. Stay within the protection of a university and do valuable near-surface research or
  2. Venture out into the ever-surprising and varied world of practicing geophysicists providing geophysical services (consultants, contractors, instrument makers, software developers, geophysical service companies) doing equally or more valuable work, hopefully making the world a better place and doing your bit for sustainability.

Both are admirable and rewarding choices, but this talk is about what it is like to be a practicing geophysicist, providing geophysical services, in government and particularly in a consulting environment. The world needs plenty of bright young, keen near-surface enthusiasts to be practicing geophysicists as the baby-boomers retire. This talk is an attempt to lure you into this brave new world of geophysical service work.

Frankly, the world of providing geophysical services will be very different from a university thesis project where you might have the luxury of controlled design of your work and plenty of time to explore a subject in depth. In government, it will be a transition between a research and consulting mode of operation dictated by the administration and legislation demands of the government agency. In geophysical service work, your next project depends on the client, their needs, and your ability to win the work. You need to be flexible, adaptive, and keen to learn.

In a consulting environment, it is never dull, frequently exhilarating, often frustrating, almost always enjoyable, and sometimes challenging to first market your capability, then win the work against your competitors, and then scale your work effort to the time and budget allocated by the client to your project. Overall, though it’s a very rewarding choice and challenge of a different kind.

This requires a lot of different skills, but you will rapidly learn a lot, have some great practical and almost always worthwhile projects, plenty of routine projects to hone your craft in a range of geological environments, and plenty of chances for innovation to differentiate you from your competitors and make breakthroughs, small or large. If you stick at it for long enough, you will get to work on different applications – hydrogeology, geotechnical, mining, environmental, UXO, geological mapping, resource investigations, and infrastructure condition assessment using almost every conceivable method from airborne, ground, marine and downhole geophysical methods or you could become a specialist in one or a few methods and end-applications. You will be working sometimes in exotic places and always working for and with, and learning from, geoscientists and geo-engineers and many end-users of your services and the communities they serve.

I want to share with you my distilled experiences and learnings from 52+ years (25 years in Government and 27+ years in consulting) as a practicing near-surface geophysicist – what I wish I knew when I started out, what you need to learn, what you should know about the world you are entering to make your start easier and purposeful.

As an unashamed earth enthusiast/nerd, I hope this talk will meet its aims of getting you fired up to come and join our merry band of practicing near-surface geophysicists and open up for you a world and a lifetime of worthwhile geophysical service, experiences, and memories.

Speaker Bio

Geoff Pettifer

Geoff Pettifer is a technical principal of geophysics in SMEC, with over 52 years specialized experience in over 300 projects in the practical application of near-surface geophysics to geotechnical, groundwater, mining, environmental, UXO, bore geophysical logging and condition assessment, resource assessment, salinity, and soil mapping projects.
He has worked for 25 years in Federal, State and international geological surveys and 27+ years in geophysical consulting services in GHD and SMEC. He is principal of his own small company Terra Entheos Geoscience Pty. Ltd. – an earth enthusiast.

In that time he has been fortunate enough to gain experience in almost every airborne, land, marine, and downhole geophysical method and learn some valuable lessons about what works and what doesn’t work in a range of different geological environments. He has additional varied experience and training in irrigation review and management, water resources, remote sensing, image processing, information management, GIS and database, flood mapping, asset management, catchment management and community engagement. Geoff also has extensive groundwater, salinity, major infrastructure and international development assistance project management experience.

His consulting interests include sustainable groundwater usage, infrastructure geotechnical work, sustainable irrigation, sustainable mining and mine development, UXO, environmental investigations and international development assistance, and community / stakeholder engagement.

Geoff has worked and consulted throughout Australia and overseas in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Russia, Canada, US, the Philippines and Africa.

He is a member of IAH, AEG, SEG, EEGS, EAGE, ASEG, and KEGS and is currently chair of the SEG Near-Surface Technical Section Committee.