Don Steeples

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Don Steeples
Don Steeples headshot.jpg
President year 2013
Membership Life Membership
BSc Geophysics
MSc Geology
PhD Geophysics
BSc university Kansas State University
MSc university Kansas State University
PhD university Stanford University

Don Steeples is McGee Distinguished Professor of Geophysics and Vice Provost for Scholarly Support at KU. Don earned a BS in Geophysics (1969) and an MS in Geology (1970) from Kansas State University where he was a member of both the varsity football and varsity track teams. After two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia and Ft. Wainwright, Alaska from 1970–1972, he returned to graduate school and received an MS (1974) and PhD (With Distinction, 1975) in Geophysics from Stanford University. He was at the Kansas Geological Survey (a KU Research Division) from 1975 until 1992, serving in various positions including Associate Director for Research and as Deputy Director. Since 1977, he has specialized in shallow high-resolution seismic imaging, an area in which he has practical experience in more than 20 states and several foreign countries. He served the Society of Exploration Geophysicists as elected Editor of Geophysics in 1989-91. He has done consulting for more than 50 companies and government agencies through Great Plains Geophysical, Inc. his wholly owned consulting company. With his brother, he operates a 1900-acre wheat farm at Palco, Kansas. Don was the 2013–2014 SEG President and the Fall 2007 Distinguished Lecturer.

President Elect Biography

Don Steeples received a PhD in Geophysics from Stanford University in 1975. He is McGee Distinguished Professor of Geophysics at the University of Kansas (KU), where his near-surface seismic research has led to 25 coauthored papers in Geophysics. He has consulted for more than 50 companies, including Exxon, Amoco, Phillips, Mobil, Schlumberger, and I/O. While serving for several years as an administrator at KU, he provided leadership within a large organization by managing more than 600 employees and overseeing an annual $100 million budget. Don's most fulfilling moment as a geophysicist came in 2002, when the Kansas Geological Survey's research group composed entirely of his former students received SEG's Distinguished Achievement Award.

Don is one of only nine members of SEG to have been awarded both Life Membership (1996) and Honorary Membership (2009). In 2007 he was Distinguished Lecturer; he served on SEG's Executive Committee as Geophysics editor (1989–91). On the Annual Meeting Technical Program Committee four times, he chaired it in 2012. He led the Committee on Digital Publications, which developed georom. He was a member of the SEG Engineering and Groundwater Committee (1984–90), the Publications Committee (1985–93; Chair, 1991–93), the SEG-AAPG Joint Committee on the 3D Seismic Atlas,the Industry/Academic Liaison Committee (1983–84) and was a Continuing Education instructor (1991–2004). Don was the first president of SEG's Near-Surface Geophysics Section and was on its executive committee from 1993 to 1995, receiving its Frischknecht Award in 1996 and Honorary Life Membership in 2008.

Position Statement

As SEG moves into an increasingly international arena, my experience as scientist, educator, and administrator promises to be of value to the organization and its members. As president, I would concentrate first on the design of SEG's volunteer program. To function effectively, SEG depends not only on its excellent professional staff but also on an army of volunteers. To strengthen this and other programs, I would

  • use SEG's website to provide a clearinghouse where those willing to serve in a voluntary capacity—for example, reviewing abstracts and manuscripts or serving on committees—can register for activities in which they would like to be involved
  • advertise that registry of volunteers so that committee chairs, associate editors, SEG officers, and others can identify new volunteers to help with the many tasks required to keep SEG functioning
  • work to enhance on-line delivery of continuing education courses to reach those for whom travel is not an option
  • continue to enhance SEG student-chapter benefits, as today's students are SEG's future

If elected, I would be both honored and delighted to serve; if my close friend, pheasant-hunting buddy, and former student Brad Birkelo is elected, I will be very proud!

Fall 2007 SEG Distinguished Lecturer

Some stupid shallow seismic experiments I have done

While near-surface and classical seismic explorations obey the same laws of physics, the relative importance of those laws is different for the two types of surveys. These differences have led to some eccentric experiments with unexpected and occasional serendipitous outcomes. Progress attained by our research group has occurred through a mixture of stupid experiments that turned out to be clever and clever experiments that turned out to be stupid. Shallow seismic methods have matured noticeably since the time 25 years ago when the world's scientific literature contained few refereed papers on shallow reflection. Much of the maturation is related to the revolution in microelectronics and the associated several orders of magnitude decrease in computational costs, while developments in sources, seismographs, and field methods have all played a role to differing degrees. However, other driving factors in this improvement have included demonstrable attainment of objectives such as providing structural contour maps of bedrock beneath alluvium, delineating shallow faults, evaluating near-surface stratigraphy to detect preferential groundwater flow paths, and detecting underground cavities. By 1999, we had demonstrated seismic reflection images from depths of less than a meter, easily within reach of a marginally competent grave digger. Detecting such shallow reflectors is expensive, however, because of the requirement to plant geophones at intervals of 10 cm or less. The effective resolution potential of classical seismic exploration data recorded on land is often determined by geologic conditions in the upper few tens of meters; in addition, the majority of statics problems commonly occur in the upper 30 meters. We are currently experimenting with methods of making near-surface three-dimensional seismic imaging more cost-effective.

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Don Steeples
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