M. E. Trostle

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M. E. Trostle
M. E. Trostle headshot.jpg

Biography Citation for SEG Special Commendation

Contributed by W. W. Thomsen and D. K. McDaniel


It is with pleasure and admiration that we prepare this citation recognizing Shorty's contributions toward making 3-D seismic technology feasible and commercially viable. His effort was in collaboration with Milo Backus and Robert Graebner while all three were associated with Geophysical Service Incorporated (GSI).

Shorty was born in Mediapolis, Iowa. He joined GSI as a surveyor trainee in 1944 and progressed through the field jobs to party chief. Promotions followed: supervisor, Rocky Mountains-west Texas; area manager, west Texas; vice-president, Western U.S.; vice-president, U.S. land operations; vice-president, corporate spec and strategic planning; and vice-president, U.S. and Latin America marine and processing. Shorty's first retirement, in January 1979, was from GSI after 34 years. In 1981, he joined Fairfield Industries as member of the board of directors, becoming chairman in 1983 and later chairman emeritus until 1994, at which time he allegedly retired for the final time so he could spend more time with his family and on golf.

In Shorty's own words, "These things were really important to me: I loved to beat the competition, we had to be first; I really liked to surround myself with people smarter than me and help them get ahead; I loved the technology end of the business and most of the time was off on some strange idea (and some actually workedSi.e., 3-D seismic)."

In the course of his career, Shorty was involved in the development of many techniques and technologies that had a far-reaching impact on the geophysical industry. Among the myriad, he worked in west Texas in the early '50s with the late Ken E. Burg developing noise analysis techniques and the design of shot and receiver arrays to improve signal-to-noise ratios. About this same time, they developed very long range refraction techniques which resulted in several GSI refraction crews in the Val Verde and Delaware Basins. Along with Pete Embree et al., Shorty helped develop analog velocity filtering (shot slice and pie slice), to combat the notorious west Texas noise. On the operational front, Shorty fielded the first turnkey (fixed price) field operations in west Texas, the first digital recording crew in west Texas, and the first digital recording of surface sources dinoseis and vibroseis.

His early work with 3-D concepts resulted in the award of a patent on "3-Dimensional Common Depth Point Seismic Techniques," awarded only because fellow employees did his patent application paperwork, as he was busy pursuing some new idea. Shorty was one of the principals in conceiving, marketing and operating the first commercial 3-D project. During 1973-74, six oil companies jointly funded this 3-D project on the Bell Lake Field in southeast New Mexico. Three-dimensional migration programs were developed and applied to this data, making it a true 3-D product. The Bell Lake project was considered quite successful. Shorty was later the engineering project manager in the development of the first commercial 3-D marine survey, which was shot in the Gulf of Mexico in 1975, and was only marginally successful due to positioning shortcomings and undersampling.

Shorty's professional achievements are considerable and portray a man with a love of technology. He is usually about ten years ahead of his time, an innovator and visionary. Yet all who know Shorty recognize that he is foremost, a "people person." His family is first but the people working for him are a very close second. The loyalty he received from his coworkers was enormous. Shorty is truly known more for being a "gentleman of the highest integrity" than for his technical prowess, which is considerable.