By Peter Eick, President-Elect
Mr. Eick is a licensed Professional Geophysicist (#16). He is a Continuing Education Instructor for over 20 years with the SEG, and an active member of the SEG for nearly 3 decades. His activities at the SEG run the gamut from reviewing papers, to chairing sessions for the annual meeting, and participating in the Continuing Education program. He was the Treasurer for the GSH previously and a GSH member since 1999. He also participates in the AAPG. He is an Eagle scout, active photographer and spends his spare time repairing cars and rockhounding for fun. His favorite rock types are the ultramafic, and he continues his search for the perfect spinifex textured komatiite sample.
The President Elect position on the board is special in that it transcends four years. It is actually one of the longest members of the GSH board as one year you serve as the President Elect, the next year you are the GSH President, then Past President and finally your last year you serve as the Past Past President (yes, that is really the title). This four-year commitment to the GSH board tends to moderate extreme positions as you join the board as the Elect and learn about the issues facing the current President and the board in general. You then get your turn at addressing the issues when you are President and finally as the Past and Past Past President you get to help mentor those following to deal with the tough problems facing the GSH Board. This four-year running commitment allows good ideas to percolate and develop into better ideas. It also gives time to allow for extreme ideas to get filtered out, carefully considered, and abandoned for better solutions. This is especially important when facing significant problems impacting the GSH and the industry as a whole.
Today we deal with many big changes in society and the oil industry in general. As I write this, Oil prices are back up over $80 for WTI and Natural Gas of all things are regularly going for over $5.50/MCF. A gallon of gas costs me over $3/gallon today and for the inflation hit a rate of over 6% which is the highest rate in over 30 years. Covid 19 is still perking along in the US and while the rates of infection are dropping in Texas and the south in general, there is talk that the “Delta variant” is finally burning out and in the same breath we hear the “Lambda variant” is the next one to come on. Vaccines, boosters, masking and “social distancing” are still the buzzwords of the news. Is Covid a permanent fixture for the future or will it go away and become like Influenza ie: a yearly nuisance. At the same time, in the GSH board meetings we are discussing topics like, virtual meetings, “Zoom” and “Teams” online meetings and how do we manage “face to face” vs, “online” meetings. For those working at home some portion of their workweek, Internet bandwidth and video camera’s when from “nice to have” to “absolute must haves” in a very short time frame. All this change occurring over a short period of time has forced fundamental changes on the society.
So, what are the big issues that face the GSH board? One might have thought that Covid and Covid’s direct impacts on in person or “face to face” meetings would be our top concern and while that is still on the short list, the number one concern is declining membership. The pre-Covid multi-year downturn in the industry that started around 2014 costs us many of our peers and the Covid caused lack of demand has continued to whittle down our ranks. Today, as the oil prices and gas prices ramp up, we have not seen the uptick in hiring we would normally expect and while we do have some old members rejoining the society (Welcome back!), we still need more members to join and participate in our activities and events. Basically, we need dues paying members who can continue to fund our society or significant changes will become unavoidable. Our membership peaked in around 2014 and since then, we have been losing about 100 members per year and while I would have thought this decline curve would eventually become asymptotic, so far, no luck. As we all know if a producing well has a linear decline and does not go asymptotic then eventually that well gets put on the Plug and Abandon list. If I continue my well analogy, even if the decline flattens out and morphs into a “stripper well” slowing losing a few barrels/day here and there, it too will eventually become P&A-ed.
Our society much like my producing well analogy mentioned above needs a workover and we need to do it quickly before the problem gets out of hand. You might ask how bad is the loss of membership problem? Referring to the membership reports, back in 2015, we had 1539 active members and today with have 778 by the same measure. While not exact, we have effectively lost half the active members in 6 years. This is a very significant decline by any measure and frankly action needs to be taken.
My predecessor, now the current President recognized this problem when he was in my position, and he started an aggressive campaign to address the loss of members and how to manage a continually reducing headcount in light of fixed overhead and operational costs. His vision was to reform the GSH into something more relevant to all members where folks would want to be members and thus the membership would rise naturally.
Today, there are some creative ideas that are being actively discussed, considered and at times even debated on the board. They are not fully developed so other ideas may supplant them and develop over time. As the future GSH President I believe that it is my charter to carry on this vision and the efforts of our current President and board to turn around the membership numbers or implement one of the more aggressive solutions to the declining membership problem.
You might ask, how can I help, how can I, a general member assist in the effort to turn the GSH membership numbers around?
If you are reading this, you are probably a GSH member, so you can participate in on-site talks and lunches.
You can encourage your peers to join the society and mention all the great talks we have recorded that can only be viewed as a member.
You can contemplate the declining membership problem and contact anyone on the board and offer your suggestions as to how we could encourage more geoscientists to join the society.
We on the board do not have a monopoly on good ideas so please let us know what you think about the problem and how we could fix it.
Finally, I offer this challenge to each and every GSH member. If you personally, could encourage just one person to join the GSH we would be back at our 2015 levels and the society would be more vibrant, financially stable and growing again. □