Episode 220: Revealing Lost Legacies with Geophysics (Rob Stewart & Jim White)

“The respect and honor that we give to our predecessors really indicate what kind of character we have.”

This episode explores the first Geoscientists without Borders project in the United States. Host Andrew Geary speaks with the project lead, Rob Stewart, and SEG Executive Director Jim White about using the power of geophysical techniques to uncover and restore forgotten African American cemeteries.

Listeners will be intrigued by the discussion on the various geophysical methods employed to detect these hidden graves, from ground-penetrating radar to metal detectors. The episode also addresses the educational benefits of involving students in such projects, instilling a sense of purpose and demonstrating the diverse applications of geophysics beyond resource extraction. We hear personal reflections on the satisfaction derived from aiding in these culturally significant endeavors and the broader impact of GWB’s work.

As we navigate the complexities of modern urban development and the preservation of sacred sites, this episode illuminates the critical role of geophysicists in humanitarian efforts, the importance of community engagement, and the profound connections we forge with our history.


  • An introduction to Geoscientists without Borders and its mission
  • The collaborative effort to preserve African American cemeteries in Houston
  • The geophysical tools and techniques aiding in the detection of unmarked graves
  • The educational and motivational aspects of student participation in humanitarian geophysics
  • The intersection of technology, culture, and history in geophysical applications
  • The significance of GWB projects in the United States and the call for community support and involvement
Seismic Soundoff · #220: Revealing Lost Legacies with Geophysics (Rob Stewart & Jim White)

Episode Links


Rob Stewart received his B.S. in math and physics from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked in several sectors of the geophysics world as an energy company employee (with Chevron’s Oil Field Research Lab in California; ARCO in Dallas; and Chevron Geoscience in Calgary), service company staff member (Veritas Software), small-business owner (GENNIX Technology Inc. and Sonderra, LLC), and nonprofit councilor (Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta). Stewart was a professor of geophysics at the University of Calgary and cofounded the CREWES Project, a university-industry consortium. In 2008, he joined the University of Houston (U.H.) as the Cullen Chair in Exploration Geophysics and is director of the Allied Geophysical Laboratories. He has received U.H.’s Natural Sciences and Mathematics Teaching Excellence and Provost’s Teaching Awards. Stewart is a licensed geoscientist in Alberta (P. Geo.) and Texas (P.G.). He holds fixed-wing and unmanned aircraft certifications. He has published over 150 articles in geoscience journals and magazines (some 45 in GEOPHYSICS, Interpretation, and The Leading Edge). He served as SEG President in 2018.

James C. White is the Executive Director of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. James’s professional career spans the geophysical industry, with experience in executive management, business development, strategic planning, risk analysis, program management, and financial strategies. He has served in several nonprofit organizations, including, most recently, the IAGC Chairman of the Board. White holds a bachelor’s degree in geoscience from Penn State University.

Show Credits

Seismic Soundoff showcases conversations addressing the challenges of energy, water, and climate.

SEG creates these episodes to celebrate and inspire the geophysicists of today and tomorrow.

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This episode was hosted, edited, and produced by Andrew Geary at TreasureMint. The SEG podcast team comprises Jennifer Cobb, Kathy Gamble, and Ally McGinnis. 

Transcription and episode summary support provided by Headliner.

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