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Presentation “With one arm tied behind your back – Doing geology by proxy in a faraway place (Mars)” by Prof Juergen Schieber

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Friday, August 19, 2022

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Zoom + Mawson Lecture Theatre, Mawson Building, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000

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PESA, GSA SA Division, ASEG and SPE SA Division Science Talk: “With one arm tied behind your back – Doing geology by proxy in a faraway place (Mars)” by Prof. Juergen Schieber (Indiana University).

Friday 19th August 2022 (arrive at 5:15 pm for a 5:30 pm start).

PESA, the GSA SA Division and SPE SA Division would like to invite members and guests to a jointly organised science seminar by Prof. Juergen Schieber (Indiana University), titled “With one arm tied behind your back – Doing geology by proxy in a faraway place (Mars)”.

Location: Mawson Lecture Theatre, The University of Adelaide and online via Zoom.
Date/Time: Friday 19th August 2022. Please arrive at 5:15 pm (5:30 pm to 7: 30 pm).
Cost: $15 per person



Doing geology on other planets, such as Mars, requires for the time being the use of remote controlled rovers. The Curiosity rover on Mars is a rather sophisticated (and expensive) piece of machinery, but geological investigations by rover are labor intensive and slow when compared how we would do comparable tasks on Earth. Although the rover allows us to “see” and “analyze”, critical facets of a geologists traditional “sensory repertoire” are not available (poking around, feel, sound, breaking stuff, smelling and licking). To make up for these deficiencies a large group of highly trained professionals do their level best to analyze the available data and try to arrive at sensible interpretations of what we see. Science by committee, however, has unique risks and “consensus” assessments can still be off-target. Thus, to have more than one well-reasoned interpretation for a single site is not uncommon. Nonetheless, the limitations of this brand of geologic exploration do not hinder progress, and at times they can give us unthought-of new perspectives on things that have become so routine on Earth that we take them for granted (even though we should not). How a limited set of observations can be used to deduce basic modes of sedimentation, diagenesis, and stratal organization in Martian mudstone successions serves as an example on how one could for example do “petrography” without the benefit of a thin section and still make substantial progress. In rover geology you either push your limits or you suffocate in your comfort zone. There is no try.


Prof. Juergen Schieber (Indiana University)

Prof. Schieber is a professor of geology at Indiana University and a specialist on shales. Published extensively (190 papers, 20 guidebook chapters, 4 books, 354 conference abstracts) he is also an invited lecturer at universities in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia; at research organizations, industry short courses, and symposia. He is the 2022 Sorby Medalist of IAS and a member of the science team that currently explores the geology of Gale Crater on Mars with NASA’s Curiosity rover.

His research is characterized by a holistic approach to shales, and consists of an integration of field studies (facies, stratigraphy) and lab studies (thin sections, electron microscopy, and geochemistry) in order to understand the various factors that are involved in the formation of shales. A key focus point is the experimental study of shale sedimentology via flume studies and related experimental work. Funding for this research is provided by government agencies (NSF, DOE, NASA), foundations (Petroleum Research Fund), and industry via the Indiana University Shale Research Consortium (ExxonMobil, Anadarko, Marathon, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Wintershall, Whiting, Equinor, Petrochina) and separate research agreements (Schlumberger/TerraTek; Pioneer Natural Resources). He consults on matters pertaining to shale sedimentology, shale fabric and pore structure, and also teaches short courses on shale sedimentology and facies analysis, as well as microscope-based petrography.

His research interests include: Basin Analysis and Sedimentology, Sedimentology, Diagenesis, and Pore Systems of Shales, the Genesis of Black Shales and Sediment hosted Mineral Deposits, Evolution of the Belt Basin and the Devonian basins of the eastern US, Geochemistry of Sediments, Planetary Geology and sedimentary geology of Mars.

When: Friday 19th August 2022. Please arrive at 5:15 pm (5:30 pm to 7: 30 pm).

Where: Mawson Lecture Theatre, The University of Adelaide and online via Zoom.

Zoom link: Details will be emailed to members prior to the meeting.

Cost: $15 per person

Please join us afterward in the Sprigg Room (top level of the Mawson Building, The University of Adelaide) for further discussions, drinks and nibbles (until 7:30 pm).

Please note that this event will be COVID-19 dependant. All COVID-19 precautionary measures will be in place, with all government restrictions adhered to. Please see the South Australian Government COVID-19 website for the most up to date information.