Aaron Rodriguez, February Grants-in-Aid Spotlight

Aaron P. Rodriguez, a second year M.S. student at the University of Idaho, received the 2013 David W. Worthington Family Named Grant, awarded annually to a student studying paleontology. This grant helps to support Aaron’s research on the Late Devonian – Early Mississippian Sappington Formation of southwest Montana. The objective of his research is to place the Sappington Formation into a sequence stratigraphic and biostratigraphic framework across a portion of the cryptic paleotopography of the Central Montana Trough. The Sappington Formation is the western Montana equivalent of the intensively studied Bakken Formation.

His research has both scientific and applied significance. His project is a significant step in better understanding the Devonian – Mississippian depositional history inboard of the Antler Foreland Basin. This study may have additional significance for Late Devonian climatic changes, specifically glaciation. From an applied perspective, the Sappington Formation provides an outcrop analog for the Bakken Formation. Additionally, there is the potential for the Sappington Formation to be a significant hydrocarbon producer, but its location within the Cordilleran thrust belt complicates the petroleum system. Aaron’s study helps to clarify the overall understanding of the depositional character of the source and reservoir rocks within the Sappington Formation.

The most spectacular outcrops in his study area are located in the Bridger Mountains just north of Bozeman, Montana. Here field assistants include cliff defying mountain goats, the occasional wandering Yellowstone grizzly, and the endearing free range cattle. Trips to the field involve detailed outcrop descriptions of lithology, sedimentary structures, ichnology, paleontology, and unconformities. Often the recessive nature of the upper, middle, and lower shale units limit the initial outcrop quality, thus trenching and brushing techniques are employed to ensure for a detailed description.

Aaron graduated with his B.S. in geology from Southern Utah University in the summer of 2012. During the spring semester of 2012 he interned for the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) in the Geoscience Policy department. During the AAPG sponsored internship, Aaron was responsible for keeping AGI’s 50+ member geoscience societies informed on the pertinent geoscience policy happenings of the time. Additionally, while at AGI Aaron wrote two articles about hydraulic fracturing regulations for AAPG EXPLORER appearing in the April and May 2012 issues. During the summer of 2013, Aaron interned with Pioneer Natural Resources in Denver, Colorado where he estimated production potential of a series of proven undeveloped (PUD) wells in a historic Texas gas producing field. This coming summer Aaron will be interning with Apache Corporation in Houston, Texas where he will work as a member of a multi-disciplinary technical group focusing on maximizing hydrocarbon recovery from Apache’s reservoirs. In addition, while at the University of Idaho he has co-founded the University of Idaho AAPG Student Chapter. Upon graduation, Aaron aspires to land a job in the oil and gas industry.

The David W. Worthington Family Named Grant has helped tremendously with offsetting the costs of his field work in Montana. He is very grateful for the contributions from the Worthington Family and AAPG Foundation.