Donald Herron

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Donald Herron
Donald Herron.png
Latest company Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS)
Membership SEG, AAPG, and Sigma Xi
BSc Geological Sciences
MSc Geological Sciences
BSc university Brown University
MSc university California Institute of Technology

Don Herron received a BS (with Honors) in Geological Sciences from Brown University in 1971 and a MS in Geological Sciences from the California Institute of Technology in 1973. He enjoyed a career as a seismic interpreter at Texaco (1973–1977), Gulf (1977–1984), and most recently Sohio/BP (1984–2008). Since retirement in 2008, he has worked as an independent geophysical consultant for Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) as a geosciences advisor, and with several oil companies as a seismic interpretation instructor. At Gulf and Sohio/BP, he taught in-house courses in seismic interpretation and was co-instructor for the SEG Continuing Education course “Seismic Interpretation in the Exploration Domain” (1995–2007). He was a member of the Editorial Board of The Leading Edge (2002–2007, chair in 2006–2007), and is author of the bi-monthly “Interpreter Sam” column in The Leading Edge. Don is also the author of The Misadventures of Interpreter Sam, published in 2009 by SEG and First Steps in Seismic Interpretation, published in 2011 by SEG. He is an active member of SEG, AAPG, and Sigma Xi.

SEG Life Membership Award 2023

Donald A. Herron has brought a little humor with good old-fashioned shade-tree philosophy and a touch of wisdom to the lives of geophysicists for more than two decades. For many in our Society, he is better known as Interpreter Sam. His style of humor mingled with uniquely different stories tailored to the exploration geophysicist made his column “Interpreter Sam” a must read each month during its 2003–2019 publishing run in The Leading Edge (TLE). Herron’s commitment to the membership and Society has been unwavering throughout his career. He served on the TLE Editorial Board from 2002 to 2007 and was chair from 2006 to 2007. He was a member of the Publications, Continuing Education, and Interpretation committees and served as chair of the Continuing Education (1999–2001) and Interpretation (2007–2010) committees. He was a member of the inaugural Interpretation Editorial Board in 2013. SEG has published three of his books including The Misadventures of Interpreter Sam in 2009, First Steps in Seismic Interpretation in 2011, and Interpreter Sam Carries On in 2016. His writings in TLE and books have been extremely popular, with First Steps in Seismic Interpretation selling more copies than any other SEG book in the past eight years.

Biography Citation for the Life Membership Award

by Tim Smith

I have known Donald Herron since 1977 when I joined Gulf Oil. He joined from Texaco earlier in the same year. I did not meet him until he came up to me after a talk I had given shortly after I joined. He said, “You used the word recalcitrant. It is not commonly used.” So began a long and fruitful friendship. Our contact the next few years revolved around comments about work and nonwork-related subjects, including some interesting banter about an extremely vague prospect he worked on in Papua New Guinea called the Fly River structure. Our real contact began in early 1979 when we were assigned to cointerpret a large 2D survey covering the Haltenbanken in offshore Norway. We were essentially assigned a large interior room with several tables and stacks of folded paper sections, paper base maps, colored pencils, erasers, 2H through 5H pencils for mapping, and so on. Why this was done, I do not know. Maybe it was a test to see how we would do. It turned out that we did very well, and the final project was successfully presented in London. A funny episode occurred during that presentation. I ended up doing much of the talking, and Don deftly handed me the appropriate sections from an open suitcase under the presentation table.

He followed this adventure with a six-month training stint in Gulf’s processing group and then a two-year rotation to Gulf’s exploration group in Bergen, Norway. He did this while acquiring his now widely known reputation for thoroughness and meticulous preparation, coupled with his famously approachable demeanor and willingness to help. The Norway posting ended in 1983, and upon his return, he interpreted a 2D seismic survey in Natuna Sea, Indonesia, that I helped QC while on the Geco Longva 2 seismic vessel.

These were all formative events that carried perspective into the rest of his career. Don left Gulf in 1984 and moved on to Sohio/BP, where he rose through several roles in its Gulf of Mexico exploration effort. Following suggestions from SEG about an interpretation course, he prepared one with me as a coinstructor. This course was very successful over the years, with Don and I often teaching in a Siskel-and-Ebert fashion, much to the entertainment of the students. Don’s affiliation with SEG deepened in 2002 when he joined The Leading Edge (TLE) Editorial Board, a position he kept until 2007. Critically for an instructor and contributor, he remained very active in BP’s exploration and production efforts, particularly with the Thunder Horse and Holstein developments.

I think 2003 was a seminal year for Don, not because his already capable and competent work suddenly improved, but because he started publishing his “Interpreter Sam” column in TLE. It was cleverly and gracefully written, often witty, and sometimes wistful. These were all based on both personal and colleagues’ experiences, with names changed to protect both the innocent and guilty. I’m sure that some involved my exploits and adventures. “Interpreter Sam” soon became the first thing I read in TLE, as it may well have been for several others in our community. In 2007, Don served as chair for the SEG Continuing Education and Interpretation committees, lending a practical voice to their proceedings, all while teaching various practically oriented seismic interpretation courses.

Don’s professional career changed in 2008 when he left BP to become a consultant or geoscience advisor at PGS. However, his broadest reaches to the seismic interpretation community arose from his continued courses in seismic interpretation and from his column, which grew in number and relevance to our field and culminated in his first book, The Misadventures of Interpreter Sam, published in 2009. This was followed in 2011 by what I consider to be among the very best books (in my opinion, the best) in seismic interpretation: First Steps in Seismic Interpretation. I supplied it to all students in the interpretation courses I offered while at BHP Billiton. Simple, elegant, and practically oriented, this book belongs on the shelf of any seismic interpreter’s library. Its utility is shown by it being the most-sold SEG book in the last eight years. All the while, Interpreter Sam kept at it with the release of his third work, Interpreter Sam Carries On in 2016. It would be difficult to imagine a scenario or series of events that are not discussed or alluded to in one of his many columns. His last such column appeared in December 2019 and marked the end of an era of relevant, insightful, and entertaining writing, otherwise sometimes missing in our community. No longer would I turn to the last page of TLE. It is perhaps fitting for me that Don ended his long and capable career while at PGS since I was working at BHP at the time, and was involved in a western Gulf of Mexico 3D depth re-imaging project at PGS. Our group visited the PGS office several times, giving me the opportunity to reconnect with him regularly at both professional and personal levels. Don’s work at PGS was typical of his style throughout his career, practical application of a now vast experience base, patient, knowledgeable, and capable – and an unstinting willingness to listen before talking. How much is learned and achieved that way! So, old friend, congratulations on this award. It and more are well deserved. Thank you for your numerous contributions of ability, deft writing (and wit), teaching, and thoroughness that have benefitted so many of us in our community. Well done!

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