Each year, the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) Symposium gathers industry professionals, members of academia, and geophysics enthusiasts, in general, to celebrate the contributions of a distinguished member of the geophysical community. The 2024 CSEG Symposium, held on April 9th at the Hudson Lofts in Calgary, honoured Don Lawton, a figure synonymous with groundbreaking research and significant academic and industry contributions in geophysics.

Don Lawton obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Auckland and is a Professor Emeritus in Geophysics at the University of Calgary. He was one of the co-founders of two industry-academic research consortia at the University of Calgary (U of C): the Consortium for Research in Elastic Wave Exploration Seismology (CREWES) and the Fold-Fault Research Project (FRP). Don held the Chair in Exploration Geophysics at U of C, between 2002 and 2007. He was awarded the CSEG Medal in 2000 and received Honorary Membership in the Society in 2013. He was a co-recipient of the 2022 Patricia J. Lee Trailblazer Award from CEGA, and his CCS research team was awarded the 2023 Project Achievement Award from APEGA. Don has authored or co-authored over 500 peer-reviewed research publications in the field of geophysics. His contributions to industry and academia continue, as he is now the Director of Science at Carbon Management Canada (CMC), where he leads another industry consortium for the Newell County CCS Facility (NCF).

A Hot Start with the Morning Sessions

The day began with enthusiasm, as Rob Vestrum, the Symposium Committee Chair, captivated the audience with his opening remarks. His ability to engage an audience set an energetic tone for the day. The first technical talk, delivered by Cedar Hanneson, explored “Geothermal Exploration in Western Canada Using Magnetotelluric Data.” Cedar’s presentation provided insights into the utilization of magnetotelluric (MT) methods to identify geothermal resources by mapping subsurface electrical conductivity, offering a promising glimpse into the future of renewable energy in Canada. His detailed analysis of how MT data has helped identify key geothermal targets beneath Mount Meager, and in the southwestern Yukon, was not only informative, but also a testament to the evolving applications of geophysics in renewable energy exploration.

Figure 1. Symposium Honouree Don Lawton, along with the 2024 CSEG Symposium presenters. Left to right: Don Lawton, Ashlee Fudge, Rachel Newrick, Cedar Hanneson, Rob Vestrüm, Kimberly Pike, Richard Gray, Mostafa Naghizadeh, and Jason Schweigert.

Following Cedar Hanneson, Rob Vestrum took the stage to share his experiences and learnings. His talk highlighted historical and modern advancements in seismic imaging across complex geological structures from the Rockies to the Andes. He traced the lineage of innovations from the early 20th century to contemporary applications, illustrating how each technological leap was necessitated by the challenges posed by increasingly complex subsurface environments.

The morning session wrapped up with an engaging Q&A, sparking a lively debate on the future of geothermal energy in Canada, demonstrating the Symposium’s role as a starter for robust scientific exchange. Discussions on the future of geothermal energy in Canada were marked by diverse opinions, showcasing a vibrant community engaged in shaping the future of geophysical exploration. The level of professionalism and respect in the discussion was exemplary, showing how scientific debates should be conducted—focused on data and facts, rather than personal biases.

Rachel Newrick’s talk, “Into the Mind of a Seismic Interpreter”, provided a deep dive into the complexities of subsurface analysis, crucial for petroleum exploration. Her presentation went beyond technical explanations, to question the very basis of seismic interpretation practices. She challenged attendees to think critically about data analysis and decision-making processes in geophysical studies. Her reflective questions and methodical approach to seismic interpretation emphasized the importance of a thorough analytical and creative process in geophysical exploration.

Marcia Couëslan’s presentation, delivered by Richard Gray, on the role of geophysics in reducing risk and uncertainty in carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, highlighted the importance of various geophysical tools in reducing project uncertainties before, during, and after the operational life of these projects. Additionally, the talk discussed alternative monitoring technologies such as time-lapse vertical seismic profile (VSP) surveys and surface-based distributed acoustic sensor (DAS) installations, to optimize monitoring of CO2 plumes. The presentation also addressed the potential for induced seismicity, emphasizing the development of effective monitoring strategies to ensure safe operations and enhance public and regulatory trust in CCS projects.

The afternoon began with Rob Stewart sharing personal anecdotes and experiences with Don Lawton, complemented by captivating videos of their field adventures together. This session not only highlighted the technical expertise of the speaker, but also his personal journeys and the impact of Don Lawton to his work on the global stage.

Humaira Ghiacy, from Deloitte Global, then delivered the Luncheon Keynote Speaker’s talk on “Embracing the Hybrid Work Model”, discussing the challenges and opportunities presented by the evolving global work environment. This talk was particularly relevant, offering insights into the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

Key Takeaways from the Second Half

The final sessions of the Symposium introduced cutting-edge technologies and methodologies. Mostafa Naghizadeh discussed, “Miniaturized Seismic Sources and Dispersed Source Arrays”, showcasing efforts to minimize the environmental impact of seismic surveying. His detailed description of the field tests conducted, and the comparative analysis of miniature versus conventional seismic sources, provided a concrete example of how geophysical practices are evolving in response to environmental concerns. The miniature sources achieved comparable resolution to conventional sources across all targeted depths, highlighting the potential to reduce the environmental footprint of seismic activities.

Figure 2. Don Lawton along with the 2024 CSEG Symposium Committee. Left to right: Carmen Ferrebus, Pamela Bucher, Anita Knudsen, Daniel Pérez, Rob Vestrüm, Don Lawton, Austin Newman, Anastasya Teitel, and Moriah Rempel.

Next, followed a presentation by Kimberly Pike from CREWES, who highlighted the pivotal role of seismic technologies in supporting CCS through measurement, monitoring, and verification. CREWES is exploring various adaptations of traditional seismic methods to offer cost-effective and reliable monitoring solutions that also provide robust estimates of uncertainty. In collaboration with Carbon Management Canada, CREWES conducted multicomponent surface and VSP surveys at the Newell County CCS site in southern Alberta, during CO2 injection. These surveys utilized a mix of geophones, accelerometers, and both single- and multi-component DAS technologies. The data collected from these tools were used to evaluate different sensors, and test full waveform inversion (FWI) methods specifically tailored for CCS applications. The presentation showcased field data, FWI results in 2D and 3D, error estimations, and preliminary conclusions from the tests conducted at this well-documented site.

The final session of the day started with Ashlee Fudge’s talk, “A Towed Marine Time-Domain Electromagnetic Method for Evaluating the Continuity of an Aquitard”. She discussed the use of time domain electromagnetic (TEM) methods, specifically through Geonics Ltd.’s G-TEM system in a mobile, waterborne setup, for investigating hydrogeological properties beneath a lake. The primary aim was to map the continuity and composition of a conductive glacial clay till unit that lies beneath the surface water body. The G-TEM system enabled rapid and high-resolution data acquisition across the lake, aiding in hydrostratigraphic mapping and evaluation of the clay till aquitard. Preliminary results indicated variations in the depth of the clay till, suggesting possible hydrogeological pathways between deep underground structures and the glacial till. These findings were consistent with previous ground TEM surveys and borehole data, and will be used to identify strategic drilling locations, to further understand hydrogeological processes affecting the lake. This talk was interesting and showed amazing pictures of field campaigns in the middle of the lake. It was also encouraging to see people involved in other topics, apart from seismic exploration.

The Symposium concluded with Jason Schweigert’s presentation on “Theseus 24D: From Pilot to Commercial CCS MMV Programs,” which proposed a streamlined approach to seismic monitoring in CCS. This final talk tied back to the Symposium’s theme of practical applications in geophysics, paying homage to Don Lawton’s contributions to CCS projects. Furthermore, Jason presented an introduction to Theseus 24D, which integrates repeated 2D and 3D surveys to minimize the need for 3D surveys.

The day ended with an Industry Mixer. This is generally my favourite part of this type of event, as it provides me with opportunities to reflect on the day’s learnings, build a network, and make friends in Calgary while discussing interesting topics.

Personal Reflections

As a recent M.Sc. graduate and an early-career geophysicist, the 2024 CSEG Symposium was not just another event; it was a source of inspiration. Witnessing the unity of the geophysical community, in honouring Don Lawton and in engaging with the broad spectrum of geophysical applications, has reinforced my aspirations to contribute meaningfully to this field. Each presentation not only expanded my understanding, but deepened my respect for the pioneers like Don Lawton, who have shaped our industry. As I continue my professional journey, I am motivated by the hope that one day, I too can inspire the next generation of geophysicists.

Figure 3. Group of geophysics students sponsored by CSEG Patron Sponsors to attend the 2024 CSEG Symposium. Left to right: Anton Ziegon, Angel Ramos, Kai Zhuang, David Emery, Christina Schumacher, Fernando Berumen Borrego, Adrian Smit, Jinji Li, Chioma Chineke, and Paloma Fontes.


I want to thank the 2024 CSEG Symposium Committee for organizing a successful and engaging event, and for honouring Don Lawton. Furthermore, I want to thank the CSEG Patron Sponsors and the CSEG Foundation for their generosity and support to student development and education, by sponsoring the attendance of students, including myself, to this event.

About the Author

Fernando Berumen-Borrego is a skilled geophysical engineer who earned his B.Eng. from UNAM, Mexico’s national autonomous university. He received the prestigious Gabino Barreda Medal for achieving the highest GPA in the Geophysical Engineering cohort of 2015-2019. In 2024, Fernando successfully completed his M.Sc. at the University of Calgary, focusing his research on building shallow subsurface models and site characterization using microtremors near geothermal sites at Mount Meager, BC, and Burwash Landing, YT. During his graduate studies, he participated in multiple field campaigns across Western Canada, deploying geophone arrays, broadband seismometers, and a distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) unit. Additionally, he completed an internship with Qeye from April to December 2023, where he worked on several projects involving seismic, rock physics, and time-lapse inversions for reservoir characterization. Fernando currently serves as the Director of Communications for the CSEG and is a member of the organizing committee for the Geophysical Industry Field Trip in both 2023 and 2024.