Brian Spies (1949–2020) was one of Australia's most eminent exploration geophysicists and an accomplished national and international science leader, geoscience innovator, research collaborator, science mentor, and advocate. He was a great friend and mentor to many members of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG) and SEG.
by Ted Tyne
It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Brian Spies in Sydney, Australia, on 8 February 2020. Brian was one of Australia's most eminent exploration geophysicists and an accomplished national and international science leader, geoscience innovator, research collaborator, science mentor, and advocate. He was a great friend and mentor to many members of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG) and SEG.
His geoscience career, innovations and contributions to exploration geophysics, as well as his contributions to other areas of science are nothing short of stellar.
Brian double majored in geology and physics at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He went on to earn a graduate diploma in applied geophysics on a cadetship from the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources (BMR), where he worked with a broad range of geophysical techniques in the Australian outback. Brian and I shared our undergraduate years at UNSW, forging friendships with our geophysics student cohort that endured over the decades.
Brian Spies 1949–2020
In 1970, Brian joined ASEG and gave distinguished service in 2000 as the ASEG president. He was a passionate leader, contributor, and active member of the society.
Brian joined SEG in 1972 and served the society in many capacities, including a term as vice president. Through his leadership of many working committees and executive groups, he was zealous in leading SEG to become a truly international society, to chart new directions with its publications, and to embrace the age of electronic communications. Brian was awarded life membership in 1996.
Throughout his career, Brian earned many prestigious awards while working in research and management in the resources and energy sectors in Australia and the United States and across industry, academia, and government sectors.
In the early 1970s, BMR acquired a Russian MPPO-1 transient electromagnetic (TEM) instrument. Brian immediately applied it to an extensive research program of TEM-scale modeling and to an active program of Australian exploration TEM field testing, including the trialing of his dual-loop innovation. His pioneering research in TEM prospecting stimulated considerable developments in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), BMR, and industry.
Brian completed his doctorate in 1980 at Macquarie University on “The application of the transient electromagnetic method in Australian conditions: Field examples and model studies” under the supervision of Keeva Vozoff.
His international geoscience and leadership roles began in the United States in 1980, including positions with EDCON; University of California, Berkeley (visiting assistant professor); ARCO Oil and Gas Research Center (earning ARCO's highest technical award, the Outstanding Technical Award in Research); and Schlumberger-Doll Research (leading the development of EM borehole techniques for reservoir imaging).
In 1996, Brian returned to Australia to take the position of director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Mineral Exploration Technologies (CRC AMET). This was the first Australian CRC for exploration geoscience — a consortium of government, academic, and commercial interests committed to developing improved methods for Australia's exploration industry. It delivered an extraordinary mix of new exploration research innovations over more than seven years.
Following the successful completion of the CRC AMET, Brian took the role of chief research scientist at CSIRO, then director of physics at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, and subsequently science manager at the Sydney Catchment Authority.
Brian was a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), an eminent member of the Royal Society of New South Wales. In 2003, he was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for his service to geoscience.
In 2012, under the auspices of ATSE, Brian and Graeme Dandy published a major study supported by the Australian Research Council, “Sustainable water management — Securing Australia's future in a green economy.” This seminal study presented a framework for sustainable water management in Australia that is able to adapt to future challenges through fostering the principles of green growth, improving productivity and economic prosperity, and improving environmental and social outcomes.
Brian began working in climate science during his time at the Sydney Catchment Authority, where accurate rainfall and climate predictions are crucial to ensuring reliable water supplies for Australia's largest population center. As this work progressed, he took particular interest in the political and sociological barriers to the acceptance of climate science.
As late as October 2019, Brian was active in delivering presentations on climate science and climate change to a wide range of technical, business, and community groups.
Brian published more than 50 well-cited scholarly papers in refereed geoscience journals, many book chapters, and papers in geoscience publications and conference proceedings. He held nine patents for the measurement and application of EM methods. He also organized more than 30 workshops on research and application in geophysical exploration technology, environmental geophysics, reservoir characterization, trends in science management, and climate science.
He was on the Editorial Board of Petroleum Geoscience and was also a member of the American Geophysical Union, European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, and Society of Petrophysicists and Well Log Analysts. In addition, he served on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee for Noninvasive Characterization of the Shallow Subsurface.
Brian leaves an extraordinary legacy of achievement beyond the science of exploration geophysics. His Australian and international science partners, friends, and colleagues all speak of him with the highest praise and with reverence for his achievements and contributions. Brian will be missed by many around the world.
Approximately two years ago, Brian was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which slowly progressed despite his inspiring positivity and determination to beat the disease and despite the extraordinary level of medical science that was brought to bear in his support.
We offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to Brian's family — his wife, Pam, and his daughters, Lexi and Anna and their families.
I also offer my personal and deepest sympathies to Brian's family and to all of Brian's geofriends. This is such a very sad loss for all of us.
Biography Citation for SEG Life Membership 1996 
Contributed by Phillip R. Romig
To his colleagues, Brian's name brings to mind words like internationalism, collaboration, communication, hard work, commitment, and, most of all, zeal. True leaders are zealots with the passion to pursue a vision with unwavering purpose, with the commitment to invest untold hours when it seems no one else cares, and with a clarity of vision that later causes the rest of us to wonder why it took us so long to jump on the bandwagon. Brian has been zealous in leading SEG to become a truly international society, to chart new directions with its publications, and most recently to embrace the age of electronic communications.
Yet he is a zealot with humanity and humility; he approaches every job with an outrageous sense of humor and enthusiasm, and it is more important to him to achieve the vision than to get credit.
Brian grew up in Sydney, Australia, with a fondness for mineral collecting that surfaced at a young age. In high school he manufactured thin sections of Australian rocks in his father's garage and distributed them to local schools. Brian's high school offered a strong geology component in its science program, and it was here that he was first exposed to geophysics.
Brian double-majored in geology and physics at the University of New South Wales and went on to earn a graduate diploma in applied geophysics on a cadetship from the Bureau of Mineral Resources, where he worked with a broad range of geophysical techniques in the Australian outback.
In 1976 Brian received the first SEG Foundation scholarship given in the southern hemisphere. This scholarship, and an Australian Public Service Board award, sent him to Macquarie University to pursue a Ph.D. on the application of transient electromagnetics in deeply weathered terrains. Brian also studied electrical prospecting methods in the Soviet Union, and he was an early pioneer in the use of the transient electromagnetic method.
Starting in 1980, Brian held posts in mineral exploration in Colorado and California, and was a visiting assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1984 he moved to the ARCO Oil and Gas Research Center in Texas where he expanded his interests to include multicomponent seismology and reservoir characterization. In 1989 Brian was awarded ARCO's highest technical award, the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award in Research, for development of the TEMP (transient electromagnetic probing) corrosion detection technique.
Brian moved to Schlumberger-Doll Research in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1990, where he led development of deep-probing electromagnetic borehole techniques for reservoir imaging and worked on reservoir monitoring with permanently emplaced sensors. In July of this year, Brian returned to his native Australia to become director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Mineral Exploration Technologies, a consortium of government, academic, and commercial interests committed to developing improved methods for Australia's exploration industry.
Brian lives in Sydney with his wife Pamela and two daughters Alexandra and Anna who have inherited a geophysicist's love of adventure and the outdoors.
Brian's contributions to geophysics include eight patents and 80 publications and articles. He is on the Editorial Board of Petroleum Geoscience; a member of ASEG, SPWLA, AGU, and EAGE; and serves on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee for Non-Invasive Characterization of the Shallow Subsurface.
Since joining SEG in 1972, Brian has served the Society in many capacities. As Chairman of the Computer Applications Committee, he coordinated this year's seismic data compression workshop and, as head of the Ad Hoc Committee on Business Office Computers, he is advising SEG on its transition to the modern world of electronic communications. Brian coordinated the launching of SEG's World Wide Web service in 1995 and opened the door to electronic distribution of information to the Society's 14 000 members via the Internet.
As Special Editor, Brian has developed several digital publications including the digital cumulative index and online articles from Geophysics and The Leading Edge. He chaired the TLE Editorial Board in 1990-92 and served as Associate Editor of Geophysics on two occasions, 1985-89 and 1995-present. As chairman of the SEG International Affairs Committee in 1988-90, he was instrumental in encouraging the Society to better serve the interests of its increasingly influential international membership.
- The Leading Edge Volume 39, Issue 5, p. 362-363
- Presidential Session Honors and Awards Program, SEG International Exposition and Sixty-Six Annual Meeting, Denver CO, November 11, 1996
- Whaley, J., 2017, Oil in the Heart of South America, https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2017/10/oil-in-the-heart-of-south-america], accessed November 15, 2021.
- Wiens, F., 1995, Phanerozoic Tectonics and Sedimentation of The Chaco Basin, Paraguay. Its Hydrocarbon Potential: Geoconsultores, 2-27, accessed November 15, 2021; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281348744_Phanerozoic_tectonics_and_sedimentation_in_the_Chaco_Basin_of_Paraguay_with_comments_on_hydrocarbon_potential
- Alfredo, Carlos, and Clebsch Kuhn. “The Geological Evolution of the Paraguayan Chaco.” TTU DSpace Home. Texas Tech University, August 1, 1991. https://ttu-ir.tdl.org/handle/2346/9214?show=full.