James Gaiser

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James Gaiser
James Gaiser headshot.jpg
BSc Geology
MSc Geophysics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university Indiana University
MSc university University of Utah
PhD university University of Texas at Dallas

James (Jim) Gaiser received an MS (1977) in geophysics from the University of Utah and PhD (1989) in geophysics from the University of Texas at Dallas. In 1977 he joined ARCO in the geophysical analysis and processing group before moving to research and development in 1981, where he worked on vertical seismic profiling, elastic wave imaging, and seismic anisotropy. He worked with Western Geophysical/Schlumberger from 1992 to 2007 conducting research in coherent-noise suppression, depth migration and multicomponent processing, and with ION Geophysical – GXT Imaging Solutions from 2007 to 2009 where he worked on interferometry, and 3D converted wave imaging. After several years as senior scientist with Geokinetics Inc., where his research activities were 3D imaging and velocity model building in anisotropic media, and converted waves, he joined CGG as R&D Manager of multicomponent research in 2013. He is currently Principal Research Advisor for Gaiser Geophysical Consulting.

Gaiser has authored numerous patents and articles, shared the award for SEG best presentation in 1981, received SEG Honorable Mention for his presentation in 1993, shared SEG Honorable Mention for his TLE article in 2003, and received the SEG Life Membership award in 2007. He served on the SEG Development and Production committee from 1993 to 1997 and was District 2 Representative for the SEG council from 1994 to 1997. He served as vice president of the Denver Geophysical Society (DGS) in 2004 and president in 2005. He is active with SPE/ EAGE/SEG organizing committees for workshops, and is currently a member of the SEG Research committee (2007 to present) and a lecturer for the SEG Continuing Education program. He is a member of AAPG, CSEG, DGS, EAGE, GSH, RAS, SEG, and SPE.

SEG Honorary Membership 2023

James E. Gaiser is one of 2023 recipients of Honorary Membership, awarded to those who have made distinguished contributions to exploration geophysics or a related field or to the advancement of the profession of exploration geophysics through service to the Society. Gaiser has made major contributions to exploration geophysics during his 45 years of work in elastic-wave seismology and anisotropy as applied to surface and borehole seismic methods. He is an innovative researcher who has spent his career in the energy industry working in leading positions with companies that include ARCO, Western Geophysical, ION Geophysical, Geokinetics, and CGG where he has used advanced analytical techniques to solve exploration problems. Gaiser is especially known for his work on the application of converted waves to improve the understanding of anisotropic shale and imaging through gas zones as well as enhancing the full multicomponent workflow from acquisition to interpretation. Throughout his career, he has shared his knowledge and experience generously and has participated actively in numerous SEG committees

Biography Citation for the Honorary Membership

by James P. DiSiena

James E. Gaiser’s Honorary Membership story picks up after his Life Membership citation that was written in 2007. Then and now, his SEG contributions span the Research Committee, workshops, publications, and continuing education. His 2016 SEG Distinguished Instructor Short Course (DISC) publication and lectures, covering converted-wave technology for surface and borehole data, reached worldwide audiences in 16 offerings. Beyond SEG, Jim has extensively grown his impact in our seismic community, most notably in shear-wave seismic technology. Since 2007, he had more than 50 publications/ presentations. He continued to advance key applied seismic technologies that initiated during his earlier career, thesis, and publications. His progress comes from building on his foundational thinking, with insightful leadership, persistent investigations, prolific teamwork, and effective sharing. Through his lecturing, publishing, teaching, and mentoring, both on the job and now through global consulting, he has reached an international stature in his shear-wave, converted-wave, and multicomponent-reflection-seismology expertise. This recognition is supported by his peers, clients, and students, including numerous SEG award recipients, many who also call him a valued friend.

My work with Jim started in 1980 on vertical seismic profile (VSP) research at ARCO. His fundamental and practical approach was quickly demonstrated. He recognized and designed a combined imaging and waveform-compression methodology for upgoing VSP reflections by using the complete downgoing wave train. Since 2007, he has furthered this area of seismic interferometry for surface and borehole seismic imaging. Jim’s expertise in multicomponent seismic theory and application also became evident while investigating elastic-wave source radiation patterns and anisotropy. A story goes with our 1981 presentation and 1984 publication, where Jim demonstrated tenacity for effective three-component geophone coupling, resulting in superior vector fidelity and a new TD for the test well. In the 1980s, I used Jim’s work extensively in an SEG VSP school that was taught with Rob Stewart. In the 1990s, while serving as SEG Continuing Education Committee chair, a request was made for a converted-wave course. Two proven collaborators, Rob and Jim, stepped up with a comprehensive course, which for more than 10 years was one of SEG’s most successful offerings.

Our paths crossed again, when Jim requested a presentation for a 2017 research workshop that he led. I built a historical perspective of S-wave applications and aspirations from the extensive references in his 2016 DISC publication. That course material demonstrates his care to detail in covering the challenging elements of handling, imaging, and analysis of multicomponent seismic data. Our collaboration culminated in Jim consulting for Chevron on a nine-component 3D seismic reprocessing and application project, of which a subset of results was presented by Malcotti et al. at IMAGE ’22. Jim led us to fully appreciate the role of anisotropy for proper depth imaging, producing effective registration and amplitude fidelity between all of the reflection modes. Moreover, he showed how investigating differences between fast and slow S-wave reflectivity with the anisotropy parameter Δγ(S) as predicted by theory, could provide sensitivity beyond S-wave traveltime delay analysis for detecting anisotropy variations. These results epitomize Jim’s contributions to advancing multicomponent seismic technology through understanding the theory; using it to educate and influence the proper processing/analysis; and providing the underpinning for interpreting significant properties for exploration and reservoir analysis.

Updating his 2007 citation, Jim enjoys life with Kathy, now with a view of the beach, where he continues to follow his healthy ways. I was blessed to experience the frenzy of his household at the holiday times when his sons visit with their families, grandchildren, and granddog.

2016 SEG Distinguished Instructor Short Course

3C Seismic and VSP: Converted Waves and Vector Wavefield Applications

3C seismic applications provide enhanced rock property characterization of the reservoir that can complement P-wave methods. The continued interest in converted P- to S-waves (PS-waves) and vertical seismic profiles (VSPs) has resulted in the steady development of advanced vector wavefield techniques. Shear waves are coupled with P-waves, and although they do not respond to fluid properties of the medium they are nevertheless very sensitive to anisotropy and provide direct estimates of shear moduli (rigidities). When the full elastic response is recorded in a VSP survey, vertical components of the wavefield are obtained to calibrate surface 3C seismic data in depth. PS-wave images along with VSP data can be used to help P-wave interpretation of structure in gas obscured zones, of S-wave impedance and density characterization in unconventional reservoirs for lithology and elastic property discrimination, and of fracture characterization and stress monitoring from S-wave birefringence analysis. The course will give an overview of 3C seismic theory and practical application: from fundamentals of PS-waves and VSPs, through to acquisition and processing including interpretation techniques. The emphasis will be on unique aspects of vector wavefields, anisotropy, and the important relationships that unify S-waves and P-waves. Various applications and case studies will demonstrate image benefits from PS-waves, elastic properties from joint inversion of amplitude variations with offset/angle (AVO/A), and VSP seismic methods for improved reservoir characterization.

The following topics will be addressed in the course:

  • Introduction: Definitions and wavefield properties of 3C seismic and VSP data are covered, including anisotropy, coordinate systems, vector wavefields, and S-wave applications. Challenges our industry has faced in the development of S-wave technology are reviewed to obtain a perspective of the current PS-wave emphasis.
  • S-waves and VSP in the 20th century: An overview of the history and development of S-wave and VSP technology in the 20th century is discussed, including S-wave source development, the influence from P-wave AVO, and the emphasis on vertical transverse isotropy (VTI) and azimuthal anisotropy. Also, the early development of PS-wave and VSP technology is reviewed.
  • Fundamentals: A tutorial of the elastodynamic theory of PS-wave generation is described, along with reflection and transmission coefficients, coordinate systems, and polarity standards. Conversion-point illumination, modeling and interpretation of 3C seismic and VSP, NMO velocity in anisotropic media, and the resolution of PS-waves are also reviewed.
  • Acquisition: Basic source radiation patterns, free surface and seabed responses to P- and S-wave arrivals are described as well as source, receiver, and VSP systems. Various 3C acquisition configurations are examined in terms of PS-wave illumination, minimal datasets, and common-offset vector (COV) gathers, including VSP geometries.
  • Processing and Analysis: Unique 3C processing steps such as rotation, S-wave statics and splitting analyses are emphasized in addition to noise attenuation, vector infidelity corrections, elastic-wavefield decomposition, common conversion-point gathering, and VP/VS analyses. Essentials of VSP wavefield separation, anisotropic velocity analyses, and conventional processing are described along with interferometry application.
  • Imaging and Inversion Applications: Applications of PS-wave seismic demonstrating anisotropic imaging, velocity model building, and tomography are presented in addition to case studies imaging through gas, and imaging with VSP. Also, various inversion applications are presented: layer stripping for fracture/stress properties and joint AVO/A for rock properties, including unconventional reservoir, microseismic imaging, and time-lapse applications. Current research directions of 3C seismic and VSP include investigations using reverse-time migration, AVAz and full-waveform inversion, near surface velocity model building, distributed acoustic sensing, and rotational sensors. Business model considerations are discussed along with improving the economic viability of 3C seismic and VSP to increase productivity, and to reduce processing costs and turnaround times.

Course Goals

Students will obtain an understanding of theoretical and practical aspects of 3C seismic and VSP, including how to use PS-wave and vector wavefield data to improve rock property applications, as well as:

  • Basics of PS-wave registration, velocities and birefringence (S-wave splitting).
  • Elastodynamic processes that generate converted waves and how they relate to elastic rock properties
  • Issues of PS-wave asymmetry and illumination, and how 3C surface and VSP wavefields are related
  • Unique characteristics of PS-wave processing: time registration with P-waves, S-wave splitting, VP/VS analyses, velocities, and conversion-point gathering.
  • Identifying and accounting for potential vector infidelity effects
  • Interpretation of converted-wave and VSP wavefields
  • Applications of 3C seismic and VSP data for migration and elastic impedance inversion, imaging through gas, fracture/stress characterization, and time-lapse.

Additional Resources

The accompanying textbook is available for purchase.[1]

Listen to Jim discuss his lecture in James Gaiser, 2016 DISC lecturer, Episode 3[2] of Seismic Soundoff, in-depth conversations in applied geophysics.

SEG Life Membership 2007

Gaiser was awarded with Life Membership in recognition of exceptional service that he has rendered to the Society in 2007. He has an impressive record of scientific achievement and contributions to the field of exploration geophysics, especially in multicomponent and converted-wave seismics. His achievements are represented by an impressive list of patents and scholarly publications.

He has generously shared his know-how as an active member of the SEG Research Committee. He has served, organized, and/or convened research workshops in several different years. Gaiser has been an instructor in the SEG Continuing Education Program since 1998. He has served on the Council and as vice president, president, and past-president of the Denver Geophysical Society.

Biography Citation for SEG Life Membership 2007

Contributed by Robert Stewart [3]

As an impressionable student, working with ARCO Research in Dallas in the 1980s, I was most impressed with a wonderful new colleague Jim Gaiser. Jim's life was exceptional. He was raising two boys with his wife Kathy (a former ballerina and remarkable person in her own right), swimming each morning, working full time as a geophysicist, doing his Ph.D. part-time, and playing bluegrass music in the evening! Wow, I thought, how accomplished. He mustn't have very much time to eat. But, sure enough, he later even pioneered a new nutritional method of carbohydrate balance called the 'Zone.' I discovered that the Zone was really a dietary metaphor for the healthy harmony across Jim's active life.

Jim has maintained long-term commitments in both his professional and personal life. He worked 14 years with ARCO Oil and Gas (and its predecessors) in Plano, Texas, and then 14 years at Western Geophysical and its later incarnations (Jim seems to last longer than the company names do). He has recently joined GX Technology in Denver, Colorado, and we would expect to see him there for a number of productive years.

Along this geophysical path, Jim has collaborated with many of our industry leaders Fred Barr, Mike Batzle, John Castagna, Dennis Corrigan, Jim DiSiena, Dan Ebrom, Heloise Lynn, George McMechan, Tony Probert, Ken Tubman, and Rich Van Dok to name a few. His efforts with these colleagues and numerous joint projects makes me sure that from elementary school onward he's "received works well with others" on his report card. And while I've never seen him run with scissors, we have shared some dicey turns on motorcycles through the Swiss Alps and mountainous terrains of Brazil.

Jim has been a champion of converted-wave seismic exploration. In the land and marine worlds, he has untied many of the complicated knots in multicomponent seismic recordings to 'straighten out' our understanding of vector motions. He has wrestled tenaciously with anisotropy and its resultant S-wave birefringence to help make it a useful property in describing fractured reservoir environments.

He has developed seismic processing flows and applied them to real cases from the Emilio Field in Italy through Ekofisk in the North Sea to Pinedale, Wyoming. It's sometimes said that a successful study will raise more questions than it solves. But, isn't this a little unsatisfying?

However, if we regard knowledge as contained in a sphere, while the unknown is outside the sphere and questions are the sphere's surface, then as knowledge expands, so do the questions. Fortunately, the sphere's volume expands faster than its surface, so we are making progress!

Jim has certainly enlarged our geophysical sphere. At a university, faculty are evaluated under broad terms relating to their contributions which can include teaching, graduate supervision, and research output. Jim has been an invaluable industry professional, handling a full load of programming and paid projects, but would fare very well under an academic review too. He has taught widely with SEG and Schlumberger's NeXT educational organization, supervised graduate students as summer interns, served the Denver Geophysical Society as president, undertaken responsibilities as a board member of university consortia, conducted leading research in borehole seismology and converted-wave analysis, and been exceptionally productive with many papers, presentations, abstracts, and patents.

Jim's legacy and devotion are well represented in many geophysical forms, but also in his cherished sons Benjamin and Jonathon who are working in computer science and graphics in California (he and Kathy make frequent visits). SEG's Life Membership Award to Jim honors his dedication to our science and Society. Jim Gaiser is, from turning-wave tomography to tight-turning snow boarding, truly in the Zone.


  1. https://doi.org/10.1190/1.9781560803362
  2. https://doi.org/10.1190/seismic-soundoff-episode3
  3. Life Membership Award for James E. Gaiser, Robert Stewart, The Leading Edge, April 2008, Vol. 27, No. 4, p. 548. http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/tle27040538.1

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