Joel Shank - Geoscientist, Hibernia Management and Development Company

Joel Shank

Geoscientist, Hibernia Management and Development Company

I was born/grew up in: London, ON

I now live in: St. John’s, NL

I completed my training/education at: BSc and PhD at the University of Western Ontario

Describe what you do at work.

The basis of a geoscientist’s work is interpreting geologic data. In my case, this includes seismic and well log data. Seismic data gives a 3-dimensional picture of the large-scale rock structures formed in the subsurface. Well log data is collected when oil and gas wells are drilled. It helps describe the physical characteristics of the rock. Interpretation of these data is mostly done at a computer with large monitors for visualization.

I use geologic concepts that include backgrounds in physics, chemistry, and geography to evaluate possible hydrocarbon reservoirs. Often, these evaluations are highly uncertain. As part of my reports I describe the risk and uncertainty in each drilling opportunity. And this requires an understanding of statistics.

I work very closely with other geoscientists and with reservoir engineers. The engineers use my geologic analyses to figure out how to best get the hydrocarbons out of the ground. My analysis is also used to estimate how each well will perform. I also work with other types of engineers, including drilling, subsurface, and facility engineers.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

Every day, I have an opportunity to look at incredible sets of scientific data and use my background in science to address questions that often have multimillion dollar implications. I tackle new problems and learn new skills each day. I find this very rewarding. It is also very satisfying working on a multi-disciplinary team, and working with people with a variety of backgrounds.

The world runs on energy and I am satisfied to know that I help provide that energy. I am proud that the projects I work on provide good jobs to many people, and provide a source of revenue to provincial governments.

What motivates you in your career?

I enjoy applying scientific concepts to practical questions with economic implications. I am motivated by the need to solve new problems and to see the results of my work. For example, after suggesting a possible hydrocarbon reservoir, it is very satisfying to see it drilled and to see whether it was successful. I also enjoy the teamwork aspect and find it very satisfying to learn from co-workers of different technical backgrounds.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

I liked science in high school and wanted to pursue a career in science. I was not aware of the wide variety of scientific careers available at the time. I thought that a career in medicine was the “only” way to continue in science. Once I reached university, I became aware of the wide range of scientific fields and careers available. I took a variety of science courses and was drawn to geology. One lesson I learned in this process is that there is no need to specialize too early. If you enjoy science, you can take a full suite of science courses in first year university. Keep an open mind and then decide a specialization for second year and beyond.

Once I found geology in university, I worked several summer jobs doing field work for mining exploration companies. This work involved living in remote camps and taking quads and helicopters to field sites. These were some of my most memorable summers and allowed me to combine my love of the outdoors with work. After I graduated, I knew that I wanted a more stable lifestyle that allowed me to be home with family every day. This meant a change from the mining field work. My current office-based, oil and gas work fulfilled that need and provides me with an exciting new challenge.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I love being outdoors, and geology allowed me to do amazing field work while in university. I was able to travel to far and remote places for work and for study. Now, my passion is spending time with my young family, and my current office-based career allows me to come home to them every day. I enjoy sharing the outdoors with my family, while doing activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and camping.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

If you are interested in sciences, there are a wide range of careers you could pursue. Don’t narrow your focus on a particular career too early. Most science programs require a standard suite of first year introductory science classes. If you take these in first year with an open mind, you will be well suited to pursue any specialization in second year and beyond.

CurioCity Careers

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