Rob Vestrum

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Rob Vestrum
Rob Vestrum headshot.png
BSc Geophysics
MSc Geophysics
PhD geophysics
BSc university University of Alberta
MSc university University of Calgary
PhD university university of Calgary

J. Clarence Karcher Award 2002

SEG is honoring Rob Vestrum with the J. Clarence Karcher Award to recognize his research efforts in the area of wave equation migration in anisotropic media, specifically for the tilted transverse isotropic (TTI) case. Rob is also being honored for the clarity of his publications and lectures in the area of anisotropic migration.

Biography Citation for the J. Clarence Karcher Award

Contributed by Larry Lines and Don Lawton

It is rare when a young scholar has a considerable impact on the day-today practice of exploration seismic processing. However, this situation has occurred for Rob Vestrum, senior anisotropist at Veritas GeoServices in Calgary. Rob’s ideas have influenced industry practice in the migration of data throughout the Canadian Foothills. This influence has resulted from his graduate studies on anisotropy and the effectiveness of anisotropic prestack depth migration at the University of Calgary. Throughout his university studies, Rob showed much promise. He obtained his BSc in geophysics from the University of Alberta, winning the Amoco Award in 1991 and the J. A. Jacobs prize in 1992 for top performance in his class.

He returned to his hometown to obtain his MSc from the University of Calgary in 1994. His thesis on elastic anisotropy won the prize for best master’s thesis in geology and geophysics for his graduating year. Nevertheless, many research sponsors felt the topic of Vestrum’s thesis was of mainly academic interest. In order to support his family, Rob joined Shell Canada and worked in mainstream geophysics, prior to a discussion with Don Lawton, his PhD supervisor. At a meeting of CREWES sponsors, Don drew a series of anisotropic dipping layers over a deeper, horizontal structure on a napkin and asked Vestrum where the structure would image with the application of isotropic depth migration. Rob gasped upon recognizing that the structure would be laterally shifted in the updip direction of the dipping overburden.

Following this revelation, Vestrum began working on anisotropic depth migration. He joined Kelman Technologies and started his PhD research at the University of Calgary in the Fold-Fault Research Project (FRP) in 1997. Since that time, Vestrum has written the anisotropic raytracer and interactive model diagnostics at Kelman and developed a workflow for anisotropic depth migration. He and his FRP colleagues have demonstrated on physical model data and field data that anisotropy causes mispositioning in seismic images unless anisotropic depth migration is applied correctly. In June 2001, Rob moved to Veritas GeoServices to work on 3D anisotropic model building and depth migration. His depth team put 3D anisotropic depth migration into production and, even though they are in early stages of development, Rob has already helped reduce structural uncertainty for exploration targets on 3D surveys in the fold belts of Alberta and California. This research has already led to SEG and CSEG awards.

The paper “Imaging structures below dipping TI media” by Vestrum, Lawton, and Schmid was an Honorable Mention for Best Paper in GEOPHYSICS in 1999. Rob was invited to speak in the keynote session at the 2001 CSEG convention where he earned a Chairman’s Award for that paper and another for an exploration case history. In 2002, he served on the CSEG Convention Steering Committee. Rob has published three papers in refereed journals and has presented over a dozen talks at SEG sections throughout North America and workshops in Europe and the Middle East. His talks have received rave reviews throughout the world. He participated as an instructor in our CSEG-sponsored course Depth Imaging of Foothills Structures.

Despite all these professional activities, Rob spends much quality time with his family. He and his wife, Tammy, enjoy hiking and cycling with their six energetic children—RJ, Aaron, Alex, Zoë, Sarah, and Louellen. Rob and Tammy are also keen photographers of flowers, landscapes, and wildlife. In summary Rob has certainly succeeded in his goal of bringing seismic anisotropy into the domain of the practical exploration geophysicist. With his enthusiasm, energy, and intelligence, the SEG is certain to hear more about Rob Vestrum’s research for many years to come.

Honorable Mention (Geophysics) 1999

Robert W. Vestrum, Donald C. Lawton, and Ron Schmid received 1999 Honorable Mention (Geophysics) for their paper Imaging structures below dipping TI media.[1]


  1. Vestrum, R. W., D. C. Lawton, and R. Schmid (1999) Imaging structures below dipping TI media, GEOPHYSICS 64(4):1239.

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