Geologists as a group have and use above-average spatial thinking skills to interpret and communicate complex geologic structures. Interpretation challenges, especially with petroleum industry subsurface targets, come from abundant but still ambiguous data volumes, challenging geologic forms, powerful but difficult-to-learn software, and under-prepared staff. In June of 2013, 70 participants met in Reno to discuss these and related issues, and to explore how spatial cognitive science can help us better understand and develop geologic interpretation skills, software tools, and education strategies. Industry interpreters and trainers, academic structural geologists, software developers, and cognitive scientists brought complementary perspectives to three days of presentations, posters, and discussions, plus a field day with interactive interpretation modules. This Hedberg conference provided new shared insights to the interpretation process, ideas for improving skill development, and abundant opportunities for further collaboration. In 2016 AAPG will publish a special volume based on the Hedberg conference, with contributions from 20 conference participants and other co-authors. The volume provides a uniquely broad range of perspectives on 3D geologic interpretation with sections that focus on (1) spatial thinking, geologic cognition, and visualization, (2) subsurface geologic interpretation, (3) fault systems in 3D and 4D, and (4) geologic interpretation training. In addition to summarizing and expanding on material presented during the Hedberg, the volume presents results from research conducted at the conference. Some key findings from the conference have significance for improving industry interpretation practices, and training new interpreters. Subsurface and outcrop interpretation present different but related challenges for spatial thinking, and provide insights to different types of cognitive abilities. Thus the transition from academic experience for most industry new hires requires a shift in 3D geologic thinking. Novices and experts use different skills and strategies, and these differences should be reflected in training strategies. Interpretation methods, including software, can be improved to both ease cognitive challenges and improve interpretation quality.
AAPG Datapages/Search and Discovery Article #90259 ©2016 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June 19-22, 2016