Remembering Marta Weeks

Remembering Marta Weeks


With husband Karelton Wulf.

A longtime Associate Trustee of the Association of American Petroleum Engineers Foundation she embodied legendary civic promotion as well as historic philanthropic support to the Foundation as well as to the Department of Geology & Geophysics and the College of Mines & Earth Sciences at the University of Utah which honored her in 2010 with the Founder's Day Distinguished Alumna Award.

The daughter of a petroleum geologist and the wife and daughter-in-law of world-renowned petroleum geologists, Weeks generously and continuously supported the AAPG Foundation as well as a host of other cultural and humanitarian causes around the world.

Weeks had many careers (often publicly praised as a “Renaissance Woman”) and remained active and passionate about her roles well after the usual retirement age – she was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1992 – directly impacting thousands of lives through her involvement with a host of groups and organizations.

The world knew of her great and lasting work; friends and those close knew that she was, in the words of past Foundation Trustee Chairman William L. Fisher, “as modest as she is generous.”

With AAPG, she had been a Foundation Trustee Associate since 1976. For her, philanthropic engagement with AAPG was her opportunity of “giving back,” she said, and it was a lifetime pleasure.

“I give to AAPG to honor my father, my husband and my father-in-law,’ she said, “all of whom were involved in petroleum geology.”

For Weeks, advancing opportunities in education for new generations of geoscientists was an especially significant part of her life.

Her most recent gift to the Foundation was bequeathed just last year – a $5 million annuity that will be distributed through 2029, impacting geoscientists for decades to come.

Indeed, she and her family made many donations to the AAPG Foundation throughout its history, including a $10 million bequest in 2006, the largest gift ever received by AAPG.

A Life of Excellence

Marta Weeks receives AAPG Foundation's inaugural highest honor, the L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal, at the 2008 Annual Convention & Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas.

Marta Joan Sutton Weeks was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her father Fredrick Sutton worked as a petroleum geologist. She was raised in both North and South America, and petroleum geology was a constant in her life.

Her first job – at age 13, while residing with her family in Maracaibo, Venezuela – came as she started a small popcorn business for the outdoor oil camp moviegoers.

She attended high school in Salt Lake City, Utah before attending Beloit College in Wisconsin, then graduated with a degree in political science from Stanford University.

Her career then started with summers spent teaching English for the Mene Grande Oil Co. and the Centro-Venezolano Americano in Caracas, Venezuela. Again, the oil business was a regular part of her life.

She then married petroleum geologist Lewis Austin Weeks in 1951, who was the son of famed petroleum geologist Lewis Weeks, and subsequently resided with him in Utah, Colorado, California and Maryland before moving to Miami, Fla., in 1967.

In 1988 she returned to graduate school in Austin, Texas, earned a master’s degree in theology and in 1992 was ordained an Episcopal priest. Her ministry included chaplaincies at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Panama, the Bahamas, the American Cathedral in Paris, France, and ultimately the Diocese of Southern Florida.

In 2008 she was the first recipient of the L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal, intended to recognize “extraordinary philanthropy and service directed to advance the mission of the AAPG Foundation.”

In addition to the geosciences, she was passionate in her support of the University of Miami, where she was an advocate for academics, the arts, health care and research.

A complete listing of all her connections, honors and activities would be exhaustive, but a partial listing includes:

  • Director of Weeks Petroleum Ltd., Omni-Lift Corp. and the Weeks Air Museum
  • University of Miami Board of Trustees (their first woman chairperson, 2007-09)
  • Founding member and president of the Stanford Club of Florida
  • A member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Foundation, board member of the SE Episcopal Foundation and a trustee of Beloit College and Bishop Gray Inns
  • A member of the National Advisory Council-University of Utah and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (both as a chaplain and a Dame)
  • Supporter of the Center for Sexuality and Religion
  • Her name graces the YMCA building in Miami, a music school building at the University of Miami and the center at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest
  • Chairs and scholarships are named for her and exist because of her generosity at numerous schools

And Foundation TAs know very well of her passion for golf and active participation at TA annual meetings – a plethora of stories of her exploits on the links will keep that part of her legacy alive for years to come. In addition to being a legendary philanthropist and woman of vision, she was a friend.

After Lewis Austin Weeks passed in 2005, Marta married Karleton Wulf in 2009. Wulf passed in 2020, and Marta spent her final years residing with her daughter, Leslie Anne Davies, on Jupiter Island.

In addition to her daughter, Marta Weeks is survived by her son, Kermit Austin Weeks; granddaughter, Katie Weeks; and grandsons, Bryce and Cole Davies.

A version of this memorial was first published in American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)'s Explorer where you can read more about Weeks and her impact on the industry. Watch a video of Week's receiving the AAPG's top honor, the inaugural 2008 L. Austin Weeks Medal.

Isotopes: Science’s Common Currency

isotopes: Science's Common Currency


From tracking the routes of water throughout the West to determining the levels of carbon in the Paleocene, Gabriel Bowen’s research into isotopes extends into a variety of critical research paths.

“One of the really cool things about isotope geochemistry is that it really crosses disciplinary boundaries,” Bowen says. “It’s a subfield that grew out of earth science, geology and geochemistry, but it’s useful in everything from forensic science to water research to planetary science.”

Bowen grew up in rural Michigan and spent his childhood outdoors, which grew his love of nature and the earth. He received his bachelor’s in geology at the University of Michigan and went to UC Santa Cruz for a PhD in earth science. Bowen came to the U as a postdoc before joining Purdue University as a faculty member for seven years. He returned to the U through the Global Change and Sustainability Center and is now Professor of Geology & Geophysics and Co-Director of the Stable Isotope Facility for Environmental Research (SIRFER).

Recipient of this year's College of Science Excellence in Research Award, Bowen founded the Spatio-Temporal Isotope Analytics (SPATIAL) Lab, which uses stable isotope techniques to look at a lot of different areas of application of isotope geochemistry. “Isotope science has been kind of limited by our ability to make measurements,” says Bowen.


The SPATIAL group has pushed forward uniting isotope geoscience with data science, which helps facilitate data sharing within and between fields of study. This data can then be leveraged to tackle bigger systems questions.

One main focus of work within the SPATIAL group is reconstructing Earth’s climate through its geologic past and using that data to see changes in climate, ecosystems, and biogeochemical cycles, which can then be compared to modern day. The SPATIAL group is also studying how natural cycles operate today, such as the water cycle. Additionally, they also study spatial conductivity, or movement of things on the Earth’s surface, such as water, people, plants, and products.

One example is by using isotopes, Bowen looks at where plants are getting water from in the subsurface of the earth, which can show the stability of water supply within a community and help predict how water resources will change due to climate change.

“There’s an intimate coupling between the physical and biological processes that constitute a system,” Bowen says. “Isotopes are a common currency. The elements and isotopes that go through the water cycle or rock cycle are the same ones that go into an elephant or ponderosa pine. We can really bridge the gap and understand the connection across these spheres.”

Contextualizing current and future trends


“The Earth’s been through a lot,” Bowen says. “There’s a lot of context that shows how unusual what’s happening right now is. We’re pushing the climate system and carbon cycle much faster than it’s ever gone at any point in the geologic record.”

Bowen’s climate change research includes tracking the sources of water, such as where water originates before it makes its way to southern California. The isotopes of water in the Imperial Valley in California look more like isotopes in Colorado water than in water elsewhere in southern California. Most of the Imperial Valley water is irrigation water diverted from the Colorado River. The irrigation water becomes wastewater from irritation because of overwatering, and then it enters the groundwater. This has implications when agricultural runoff affects groundwater, as it could contain pesticides and other chemicals used in agricultural work.

The SPATIAL lab runs an annual summer course for graduate students, which provides training and experience in large-scale, data-intensive, geochemically oriented research. The course consists of a discussion and lecture in the morning, delivered by specialists in the field. Laboratory experiences introduce new techniques and hands-on learning.

“We live in a pretty amazing place for geology,” Gabriel Bowen says. He appreciates the geology of Utah from the air, as an amateur pilot. He flies a Cessna 182, mostly for geology sightseeing. He also participates in charity flying, taking people around Antelope Island for sightseeing of the Great Salt Lake. “I try to take my scientist and artist friends out to see things from a different perspective.”


By CJ Siebeneck

A Utah Fossil’s Journey to Harvard

A Utah fossil’s journey to Harvard


The 500-million-year-old fossil doesn’t stick out in Carrie Levitt-Bussian’s memory. Why would it?

Carrie Levitt-Bussian ^.Banner photo above: Artistic reconstruction of Megasiphon thylakos and comparisons with modern tunicates. Courtesy of Natural History Museum of Utah.

It looks like an unassuming, light gray, palm-sized rock with a thick “Y” on it.

That “Y” is, in fact, an animal — the ancestor of a modern sea squirt. It’s much older than any such relative previously found in the fossil record, and also much better preserved. If you’re into the grand story of evolution and, say, insights into the earliest days of vertebrates, this is remarkable enough to warrant a nine-page writeup by a team from Harvard University in Nature Communications. We’ll get to that.

But Levitt-Bussian, MS'13 in geology, has handled thousands of fossils — from ancient footprints to prehistoric poop to spectacular dinosaur skulls; her favorites are the ceratopsians, like triceratops. And what sticks out about this fossil has more to do with how it arrived in her custody, and how it left.

As the paleontology collections manager for the Natural History Museum of Utah, “I am a librarian, but for fossils,” she said. Boxes of rocks come and go all the time. Usually, though, the new arrivals don’t look like they were seized as evidence of a crime.

“There was Customs tape — red, scary tape all over the boxes,” she recalled. (“EVIDENCE,” some of the tape sternly warned: “DO NOT OPEN.”)

Here’s the backstory: Federal law enforcers had seized a large collection of fossils from the Cambrian period, roughly twice as old as the oldest dinosaur. These weren’t common trilobites like the casual, law-abiding collector might pay a few bucks to take home from a roadside quarry. They were amazing finds, many from federal land. The people who illegally took them had some knowledge of what to look for and hoped to sell them in Canada.

So for a long while, these ill-gotten Cambrian fossils were part of a case involving the Bureau of Land Management. Then came the question of where they should end up.


Read the full story by Daniel Potter at NHMU's website/blog.

‘Lunar Forge’ Project at NASA



College students are often told to “shoot for the moon,” exploring their interests with ambitious plans and projects. This week, a team of University of Utah engineering students is taking that advice to heart in a more literal way. The team is led by Hong Yong Sohn and his graduate research assistant John Otero in Metallurgical Engineering.

John Otero and Hong Yong Sohn. Banner Photo Credits: NASA/Advanced Concepts Lab

NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge is an annual, nation-wide competition that gives college students the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the future of space exploration. In response to a yearly prompt that tasks participants to solve a specific space-based problem, teams of undergraduate and graduate engineering get to work developing creative and innovative concepts. After all project proposals are submitted, five to eight teams are selected to receive a combined total of $1.1 million to further build and develop their system, which they then present to at the BIG Idea Forum in the fall of that year.

The U team is one of seven finalists for the 2023 challenge, titled “Lunar Forge: Producing Metal Products on the Moon.” Onsite and self-sufficient metal production is essential to NASA’s goal of creating a sustained human presence on the lunar surface. Every added ounce of rocket pay-load is expensive and limited, so to transport all the metal needed for lunar infrastructure from earth is out of the question. Yet to create a metal production pipeline on the moon isn’t simply a matter of taking the techniques used on earth, plopping them down on the Sea of Tranquility, and expecting them to work.

Not only does the unique makeup of lunar material need to be taken into account, but the moon’s weaker gravity (one sixth of earth’s), lack of an oxygenated atmosphere, essentially non-existent atmospheric pressure, extreme cold (with nighttime temperatures dipping below -200 degrees Fahrenheit), and constant bombardment of solar winds all pose significant obstacles to earth-centric metallurgy. Additionally, the production methods must be as resource efficient as possible, and transportable.

Read the full story at the College of Engineering

Anke Friedrich inducted into Crimson Club Hall of Fame

Anke Friedrich Inductee, Crimson CLUB Hall of Fame


It's not every day that an esteemed scientist is recognized by the University of Utah's Athletic Department's Crimson Club Hall of Fame.

With ski coaches – Thor Kallerud (left) former head coach Alpine Ski Team, now with The Youth Sports Alliance in Park City, Fundraiser and Donor, Anke in center, and Fredrik Landstedt (right) Director of the U of U Ski Team, former Nordic racer at New Mexico at the time Anke was racing. Banner photo above: With dignitaries – Mark Harlin Athletics Director (left), Anke in center, and Pres. Taylor Randall (right)

World-class skier Anke Friedrich, BS'90, MS'93 is indeed, no ordinary inductee. During a dominant two-year career with the Utes the alpine skier won three of the four NCAA Championship races she entered.  In March of this year she was also awarded the U's Founders Day Distinguished Alumni Award.

Friedrich grew up in Germany and made her way to the U to study geology. Once she was awarded an athletics scholarship, she captured the giant slalom title her first year in 1989. She swept the downhill races by winning both the slalom and giant slalom in 1990.

Currently an adjunct professor at the U's Department of Geology & Geophysics where she was once an undergraduate and graduate student, Friedrich is an endowed professor of geology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich where she established a Master's degree program in geology, led international student field trips involving U students, and set up student exchange programs with several international institutions, including the U.

"I benefited enormously from the vibrant and collegial environment at the University of Utah,” she says, “both as a student-athlete and a geology major. Therefore, I am very grateful to my former ski coaches, faculty mentors, and fellow students for their tremendous support and friendship over the years."

Friedrich received the department’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019. She played a crucial role in establishing one of the world's first continuously operating space-geodetic networks which served to monitor the tectonic activity around Yucca Mountain, the then-proposed nuclear waste repository site.

The Hall of Fame event, held September 22 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center also honored its all-time best teams and five other outstanding individuals as part of its 2023 Hall of Fame Class.  Utah's 2008 Sugar Bowl football team and 2006 NCAA Elite Eight women's basketball team were officially enshrined along with former athletics director Dr. Chris Hill, women's basketball player Soni Adams, gymnast Annabeth Eberle, distance runner Amanda Mergaert, and men's basketball player Hanno Möttölä.

The 2023 class of inductees were also honored and recognized at Utah's football game against UCLA the following day.



‘UteQuake’ seismic exhibit goes live


“Although a seismometer’s primary role is to record earthquakes, these very sensitive instruments will detect any ground shaking, regardless of the source, including from rowdy Utes fans in Rice-Eccles Stadium.”

This is how the new webpage of UteQuake introduces itsself as it returns to Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday when the University of Utah faces No. 22-ranked UCLA for the football teams’ Pac 12 conference opener Saturday, Sept. 22.

During the game, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m., the University of Utah Seismograph Stations’ (UUSS) geoscientists from the Department of Geology & Geophysics will monitor amplitude signals recorded by a seismometer they installed Aug. 30 on the west side of the stadium, then tweet interesting observations during the game.

The idea is to help pump up No. 11-ranked Utes’ game-day excitement, while also promoting the Seismograph Stations’ vital public safety mission to “reduce the risk from earthquakes in Utah through research, education, and public service.” The UUSS operates a regional network of 200 seismographs stretching from the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

Tested during the Utes’ season opener against the Florida Gators when record attendance exceeded 53,000, the experiment proved a roaring success. So UteQuake will run for the remainder of the season, according to Jamie Farrell, a research associate professor of geology and geophysics.

During Saturday’s game, Mark Hale, one of the seismic analysts at the UUSS, will be tracking the seismic waveforms in real time, then tweeting analysis of readings at key moments, starting with the Ute players emerging onto the field.

Read the full article by Brian Maffly in @TheU.
Go Utes! 

Photo credit: Utah Athletics


Volcanism That Drove Ancient Global Warming

Volcanism that Drove ANCIENT Global Warming

Geological evidence extracted from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean affirms a long-standing theory that greenhouse gas emissions associated with volcanism drove catastrophic climate change 56 million years ago.

A new study by an international team of scientists—including University of Utah geologists—examined hundreds of core samples in search of clues to what drove rapid warming that triggered the deep sea die-off marking the transition from the Paleocene to the Eocene epoch. A paper published this month concludes that large volumes of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—escaped from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor during a period of intense volcanic activity.

Around the time the Americas and Europe started spreading apart to form the North Atlantic, Earth’s temperatures spiked by 5 degree Celsius and ocean chemistry changed during a 200,000-year period known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM. This resulted in a major extinction event that wiped out a lot of deep marine life and accelerated evolution among terrestrial creatures, with mammal species becoming more diverse.

Ancient analogue for today’s climate change

“This article provides evidence for hydrothermal venting playing a major role in the global warming event that happened during the PETM by showing vents in the North Atlantic erupted in very shallow water and coincided with the onset of the PETM,” said Sarah Lambart, a U professor of geology and geophysics. “While their origins are different, the PETM presents similarities with global warming today in that the sediments that were heated were very rich in hydrocarbons. So this event can be used as a natural analogue for how the Earth system responds to the rapid burning of fossil fuels.”

She noted that today’s anthropogenic climate change is 100 times faster than what transpired at the end of the Paleocene.

Scientists have long believed the PETM was triggered by rapid and massive releases of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into the atmosphere from geological sources.

Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, although it eventually breaks down in the atmosphere. Over short time frames, methane could have a major impact on the climate, and the scientific team thinks that might be the case with the PETM, which coincided with the volcanic-driven continental breakup that created the Atlantic.


To read the full story by Brian Maffly in @TheU.

Loudest Stadium … according to science

Geoscience and football meet at Rice-Eccles


U geoscientists are now measuring the actual seismic impact of Big Time college football on the Salt Lake City campus and live tweeting the measurements during games, starting with Thursday’s Florida-Utah matchup.

Ahead of the Utes’ season opener, seismologist and Utah season ticket holder Jamie Farrell installed the seismometer in the Rice-Eccles Stadium to measure and record Earth shaking associated with fans’ response to on-field action during the Utes’ home games.

“We’re going to try to convert the amount of energy that gets released either over an entire game or if there’s a big event, where it shakes a lot, and try to convert that into equivalent magnitude, how much energy is put into the ground,” Farrell said. “But if not, we can compare different things, like when the team ran into the stadium, when we scored our first touchdown or this was a third-down stomp.”

Farrell is an associate research professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, where he helps oversee the U of U Seismograph Stations, or UUSS. He is an expert in the use of seismic waves to characterize the Earth’s crust, with a particular focus on the volcanism under Yellostone Park.


Find out the results and read the rest of the story by Brian Maffly in @theU.
Read more coverage of this story at KSL-TV.

Clean Energy Beneath our Feet

NYT: Clean Evergy beneath our feet


“No one else is willing to take the risks we can take,” said Joseph Moore, a University of Utah geologist who leads FORGE.


In a sagebrush valley full of wind turbines and solar panels in western Utah, Tim Latimer gazed up at a very different device he believes could be just as powerful for fighting climate change — maybe even more.

It was a drilling rig, of all things, transplanted from the oil fields of North Dakota. But the softly whirring rig wasn’t searching for fossil fuels. It was drilling for heat.

Mr. Latimer’s company, Fervo Energy, is part of an ambitious effort to unlock vast amounts of geothermal energy from Earth’s hot interior, a source of renewable power that could help displace fossil fuels that are dangerously warming the planet.

“There’s a virtually unlimited resource down there if we can get at it,” said Mr. Latimer. “Geothermal doesn’t use much land, it doesn’t produce emissions, it can complement wind and solar power. Everyone who looks into it gets obsessed with it.”

Traditional geothermal plants, which have existed for decades, work by tapping natural hot water reservoirs underground to power turbines that can generate electricity 24 hours a day. Few sites have the right conditions for this, however, so geothermal only produces 0.4 percent of America’s electricity currently.

But hot, dry rocks lie below the surface everywhere on the planet. And by using advanced drilling techniques developed by the oil and gas industry, some experts think it’s possible to tap that larger store of heat and create geothermal energy almost anywhere. The potential is enormous: The Energy Department estimates there’s enough energy in those rocks to power the entire country five times over and has launched a major push to develop technologies to harvest that heat.

Dozens of geothermal companies have emerged with ideas.


Read the full article byBrad Plumer in the New York Times.

GSL is Becoming Too Salty to Support Life




Antelope Island, the largest island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake, has not been an island for many years; indeed, its southern shore now extends into Salt Lake City. An eight-foot fence has been built to keep the island’s bison from roaming into the nearby airport and to protect its herd of bighorn sheep from cattle diseases. As the lake shrinks, Farmington Bay, to the island’s east, is rapidly disappearing too, so that Antelope will soon be attached to the string of suburbs north of the city by playa—the exposed, dry lake bed. Here, new housing developments, each near bright white churches and with names like “Shoreline,” rise up quickly on the former wetlands. A new highway is under construction to funnel commuters to downtown Salt Lake City. Toxic algal blooms and invasive phragmite have appeared around the outflow pipes from the North Davis Sewer District wastewater treatment plant, which now flow directly into the shallows of Farmington Bay. The new pipe will funnel treated wastewater to the far side of the island, in the hope that deeper, saltier waters will dilute the sewage.

Last November, the Great Salt Lake, the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere, reached its lowest water level ever recorded—and its highest concentration of salt.  A toxic lake bed is emerging from the receding water as the suburban sprawl inches ever closer to meet it. At the shore of Antelope Island, where the briny water of the lake laps against land, Utah’s water issues also become air issues. “It’s like a bathtub, or a toilet bowl, with no drain,” Molly Blakowski, PhD candidate in the Department of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University, said of the lake. What we discard into the watershed ends up in the lake—and, increasingly, our air.

Since Mormon settlers arrived in 1847, the lake has been used as both a dumping ground and a source of profit from mineral extraction and brine shrimp harvesting. There is still money to be made from the lake’s water. But there’s no plan to protect the health of the 1.2 million people who live in the Salt Lake Valley and the hundreds of thousands more expected to arrive—let alone the tiny brine flies that uphold a vibrant ecosystem that extends far across the American West. And those at greatest risk are those who won’t be able to leave.

This is the cover story of the The Nation magazine 4/12/2013 where you can read the full story by KATHARINE S. WALTER.