Geology Rocks! How I got involved with Occidental Petroleum

by Tania Campbell


Here I am hiking the world famous Permian Reef Trail at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park to study carbonate rock outcrops.

I’ve worked as a production geologist for 11 years for Occidental Petroleum, and while that is a long run with one company in the energy industry, it has gone by fast. I remember being introduced to rocks in middle school, but by the time I was in high school, I was more interested in marine biology. I then went on to successfully complete a dual bachelor’s degree in marine science and geology, which laid the foundation for understanding carbonate rocks and basic geologic principles, starting me down my path as a production geologist.


The Miami Circle, where American Indians carved a circular structural support out of bedrock limestone.

The first community project I got involved in that I attribute as a catalyst to my geology interest was working with an archaeological site called the Miami Circle. Approximately 2,000 years ago, American Indians used the bedrock limestone to carve out a perfect circle to support a structure. As a volunteer I only found a few animal artifacts, but I was most interested in the exposed limestone.


A sample of core that has been cut and slabbed after it was taken from the subsurface in a well. A geologist will describe the rock types and features observed, and other interpretative data is combined to make geologic models and maps.

There are so many different kinds of specialties in geology that sometimes it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out what you want to do. I kept an open mind and set off to learn more with a master’s degree at a different school. It is highly recommended that geologists have their master’s if they want to work in the petroleum industry. I studied hydrogeology and petroleum geology for my master’s, which has helped me work better with team members from engineering backgrounds and develop further in my core profession of doing reservoir characterization. My role involves describing and modeling the layers of rock in the subsurface to predict the most favorable areas for continued secondary and tertiary hydrocarbon recovery.


Hiking with other geologists through the canyon cuts to map the rock types and observe vertical stacking of the layers of carbonates and siliciclastics.

I am extremely thankful for my education and the career opportunities that have brought me to a place where I enjoy coming to work. Every day there is a different problem to tackle. Sometimes it requires communicating with engineers and understanding other types of non-geo data, or sometimes I need to go on a field trip to an outcrop or a core lab to visualize what the rocks could look like in the subsurface. Or Maybe that day I make maps of the reservoir. It is forever changing in the geology profession.

About the author: Tania Campbell is a production geologist with Oxy Permian Enhanced Oil Recovery, a global corporation partnered with the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS) program to help educate girls through hands-on science activities and outreach.

STEMS & GEMS: HMNS’ Erin Mills gives us the buzz on bugs

Editor’s Note: As part of our annual GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) program happening February 21 2015, we conduct interviews with women who have pursued careers in science, technology, engineering, or math. This week, we’re featuring Erin Mills, Entomologist at the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

Erin Mills Cockrell Butterfly Center

HMNS: How old were you when you first become interested in science/technology/engineering and/or math?
Mills: I’ve been interested in Science as long as I can remember, particularly Life Science. I was always fascinated with creatures big and small.

HMNS: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you when you were younger?
My 7th grade Science teacher Mrs. Pierce-Mcbroom was an awesome science teacher! Picture a female Bill Nye! She had lots of exotic pets that she would bring into the classroom and she was very fun! My mother was also a huge inspiration. Whereas most moms squeal and squirm at the sight or even thought of creepy crawly creatures, they didn’t bother my mom one bit! She was fearless and encouraged me to explore the natural world and all of its residents. She was always very proud of me!

HMNS: What was your favorite science project when you were in school?
My mom helped me to make a mini tropical habitat. She helped me pick out plants that live in the tropics and in the end it looked beautiful! It was my first Science fair project and I got an A!

HMNS: What is your current job? How does this relate to science/technology/engineering/math?
As an Entomologist at the Cockrell Butterfly Center I get to work with some of the most amazing bugs from all around the world. Bugs are some of the most important organisms on the planet and my job involves a lot of educating people, young and old, about them and their importance to the ecosystem.

HMNS: What’s the best part of your job?
Mills: Getting to work with the live insects and other arthropods

HMNS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Anything outdoors: hiking, walking, running, and playing with my little boy and showing him the natural world.

HMNS: What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing a STEM career?
Keep your mind open to the thousands of possibilities there are with one of these careers. Ask lots of questions and learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid or too shy to do what it takes to pursue whatever it is that interests you!

HMNS: Why do you think it’s important for girls to have access to an event like GEMS?
I think mentors play a huge part in helping people be successful. This event can help connect girls with mentors and that can have a tremendously positive impact on their futures!


Know a girl who loves science? Click here to learn more about how you can get involved with GEMS!

These students are real GEMS: Girls Exploring Math and Science

On February 21, 2015, The Houston Museum of Natural Science will celebrate our tenth year hosting Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS)!

GEMS highlights student projects covering science, technology, engineering and math. It aims to increase interest in STEM through student presented projects, and highlight possible STEM careers as represented by our Community Booths.

We had quite a turn out last year, and we are lucky enough to offer awards to the top student projects as selected by STEM professionals. Here’s a story from two groups that won prizes at GEMS 2014!

GEMS winners 3Girl Scout Troop 21318 represented two booths in GEMS – “Any way the wind blows” and “A look into Optics.” The girls were excellent at explaining their projects to both young visitors as well as professionals visiting their booths. “Any way the wind blows” was presented by Josie Blackburn and Tiffany Bridges, and they took a look at wind energy and its effects on the environment. They discussed the many ways that wind energy is used from wind mills to paragliding, and they even had a windmill generator to demonstrate wind power in action! Hannah Cox, Hanna Gano and Qiwei Li also presented at GEMS last year, but their project took on a different focus! In their project, “A look into Optics,” the girls used a laser to show how different lenses affect the focus on the retina of the eye. The girls showed other ways lenses are used outside of our eye, like with telescopes and binoculars. It was a really eye-opening project!

GEMS winners 1 GEMS winners 2

Both groups from Girl Scout Troop 21318 won prizes for their STEM projects! We caught up with them a few months after GEMS to see how they used their winnings. Blackburn, Bridges, Li, Gano and Cox chose to give half of their winnings back to their school, Glenda Dawson High School. They wanted to give back to the people who had helped them with ideas and supplies – a great way to continue STEM education!

They used the rest of their winnings to take an educational trip to HMNS! They went on a docent tour of the Magna Carta Exhibit to see the infamous document on its only journey outside of the United Kingdom. The rest of the day was spent visiting the special exhibition Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces, the Cockrell Butterfly Center and watching a film in our Giant Screen Theater. Of course a trip to the museum wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Moran Hall of Paleontology! All in all, it was a fun-filled day of Science!

GEMS winners 4

Troop 21318 has participated in GEMS for many years, and we wish them all luck as they graduate and go on to their next STEM adventures! We hope to have more projects like these at GEMS 2015!

You have the opportunity to win prize money just like these girls! If you would like to participate in GEMS 2015, you can apply here. All it takes is a group of enthusiastic students, an adult chaperone and a project exploring science, technology, engineering or math. For more information, check out our GEMS page and download the application!

STEM & GEMS: Stephanie Thompson Swims With Sharks

Editor’s Note: As part of our annual GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) program, we conduct interviews with women who have pursued careers in science, technology, engineering, or math. This week, we’re featuring Stephanie Thompson, Animal Care Technician at HMNS

Make sure you mark your calendars for this year’s GEMS event, February 21, 2015!

GEMS blog October

Stephanie Thompson with a Great White Shark model in HMNS’ SHARK! Touch Tank Experience

HMNS: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have always wanted to become a marine biologist and work with sharks. I got my chance to really sink into marine biology when I started working with Texas A&M Galveston in its efforts to help in the conservation and rehabilitation of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2011. I got the job of Animal Care Technician at HMNS in 2014 then graduated with my degree in Marine Biology.  Now I finally have my opportunity to work with sharks.

HMNS: How old were you when you first become interested in science?
Thompson: I was five years old when I realized I wanted to be a biologist.

HMNS: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you when you were younger?
Thompson: My parents took me to a beach in NC. We went to a pier and someone caught a shark and let me pet it. Since then I have always wanted to work with sharks and the ocean!

HMNS: What was your favorite project when you were in school?
Thompson: My favorite project in school was my fish collection project in ichthyology. I had to go out to various lakes and beaches in the eastern part of Texas and collect various species of fish throughout the semester. At one point I got to go out into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico for my collection and was accompanied by a pod of dolphins.

HMNS: What is your current job? How does this relate to science/technology/engineering/math?
Thompson: I take care of the live animals at HMNS. This means I feed them, clean their homes, and care for them if they are sick.

HMNS: What’s the best part of your job?
Thompson: The best part of my job is taking care of the sharks[in SHARK! The Touch Tank Experience]! It’s a dream come true.

HMNS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Thompson: In my spare time I like to paint, work on projects in my mom’s wood shop, and spend time with family and friends!

HMNS: What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing a STEM career? 
Thompson: Never give up on dreams! It may be a long and difficult road but if it is something you really want to do then don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.

HMNS: Why do you think it’s important for girls to have access to an event like Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS)?
Thompson: It is important because the more girls who have access to these kinds of events means that it is likelier that these girls will be interested these fields in the future. There is not enough women in these industries right now, meaning that it is dominated by men. If more women became engineers, biologists, or physicists then the workforce would have different perspectives. With more women in these fields we could have better technologies and make more discoveries about the world around us!

GEMS is always looking for organizations to share enthusiasm about science and math with young students. If you are part of an organization that would like to participate in GEMS, applications are available here!