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Last modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Scientist and author to address ‘fracking’ at IU Bloomington events

Jan. 8, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University will host two events this month focusing on the ongoing boom in natural gas development and the controversies surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the technique that is at the heart of the development.

Both events will take place Monday, Jan. 14, on the IU Bloomington campus:

  • Penn State University professor Terry Engelder, a leading authority on the Marcellus shale, a large gas reservoir being developed in the eastern U.S., will present the Tudor Commemorative Lecture in IU's Department of Geological Sciences at 4 p.m. in Geology 126. The talk will be titled "Shale Gas: Technical Details Behind Environmental Concerns."
  • A campus-community forum, "Lessons From Marcellus: Fracking and the New Natural Gas Revolution," will take place at 7 p.m. in Whittenberger Auditorium at the Indiana Memorial Union. It will feature Engelder and writer Seamus McGraw, author of "The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone," which chronicles the changes visited on rural Pennsylvania by the arrival of the natural gas industry.
Terry Engelder

Penn State University

Terry Engelder

Print-Quality Photo

Engelder's Tudor Lecture will focus on technical issues surrounding natural gas development in the Appalachian Basin. The talk will be preceded by coffee and cookies in the lobby of the Geology Building. Copies of "The End of Country" will be available for purchase at an informal reception following the evening forum.

"Dr. Engelder's visit to IU offers an extraordinary opportunity for our faculty and students," said Michael Hamburger, professor of geophysics in the IU College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Geological Sciences. "He is a highly respected research scholar, as well as a leader in the application of geological knowledge to critical energy issues. Our evening forum will allow Engelder to team up with writer Seamus McGraw to examine the complex social, economic and policy implications of natural gas exploration in America's heartland."

Prior to his Penn State position, Engelder served as a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Texaco and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. He has been a visiting professor at Graz University in Austria and at the University of Perugia in Italy. His academic distinctions include a Fulbright senior fellowship in Australia, Penn State's Wilson Distinguished Teaching Award, membership in a U.S. earth science delegation to visit the Soviet Union immediately following the Nixon-Brezhnev détente, and the singular honor of helping Walter Alvarez collect the samples that led to the famous theory for dinosaur extinction by large asteroid impact.

Engelder has written 150 research papers, many focused on Appalachia, and a book, "Stress Regimes in the Lithosphere." In the international arena, he has worked on exploration and production problems with companies including Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Agip and Petrobras. In 2011 he was named to Foreign Policy Magazine's list of Top 100 Global Thinkers.

Seamus McGraw is a full-time writer who has seen his work published in The New York Times, Playboy, Reader's Digest, Penthouse, Radar, Spin and The Forward. He has received the Freedom of Information Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors, as well as honors from the Casey Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalists.

"The End of Country," published in 2011 to widespread critical acclaim, describes McGraw's own family's experience with natural gas development as the Marcellus Shale gas boom hit his small Pennsylvania community in 2007. The book was described by Tom Brokaw as "an elegantly written and unsettling account of what can happen when big energy companies come calling in rural America."

McGraw is working on a documentary trailer about his family's experiences with the Marcellus shale. He grew up pitching hay and spreading manure on the same fields the gas companies are now prospecting. He lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife and four children.

"Hydraulic fracking represents one of the more complex environmental concerns facing this nation and will soon be a pressing issue in other countries worldwide," said Jeffrey White, director of IU's Integrated Program in the Environment and a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "It challenges our understanding of long-term impacts and our existing regulatory regimes intended to control risks from such activities. Once again, technology is outpacing our understanding of consequences and our ability to intelligently manage choices."

Bill Brown, director of the IU Office of Sustainability, said, "This forum, featuring two gentlemen at the wellhead of the hydraulic fracturing debate, will provide a great opportunity to drill down into this critically important and timely topic."

The annual Tudor Commemorative Lecture was established by a 2000 gift in honor of Daniel S. Tudor, an IU alumnus and former president of Chevron Geosciences. The Tudor Lecture and the campus community forum are sponsored by the IU Department of Geological Sciences, the IU Center for Research on Energy and the Environment, the IU Office of Sustainability and the IU Integrated Program in the Environment.