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February 2000

The increasing global demand for petroleum resources poses a tremendous challenge for the geoscientists whose companies are constantly seeking new fields and expanded reserves. No region has attracted more attention in recent years than the Caspian Sea and no country more than Azerbaijan. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Azeris have developed an increasingly international petroleum sector. In partnership with major U.S. and other international companies, Azerbaijan is bringing new technology to its oil fields. As a result, drilling is underway to exploit deep-sea reserves in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea for the first time. In order to gain a better understanding of the situation in the former Soviet republic, American Geological Institute (AGI) executive director Marcus Milling conducts an interview with Khoshbakht B. Yusifzade, vice president of geology, geophysics, and oil and gas exploration for the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic.

All geologists may be looking for clues, whether in the search for oil, fossils, waste pathways or fault movements. But forensic geologists are looking for the real thing—the clues that help solve crimes. This month’s feature article is by Raymond Murray, co-author of the first textbook on forensic geology. This science has been used at least as early as 1908, when a German scientist examined mud on a shoe to disprove a murder suspect’s alibi. And as Murray points out, Sherlock Holmes was a forensic geologist long before that. These days investigators use microscopes and X-ray diffractometers to investigate not only soils and other geologic materials but also building materials and even glass. Murray relates examples from cases that he or his colleagues have helped solve. In the process, he shows that the basic method remains the same—the geologist’s eye for detail is crucial for discovering the clues that may at first seem impossible to find.

This month’s issue also offers a new column called For Students. Sarah Robinson, a graduate student at Arizona State University, kicks it off with her perspective on a summer most geology students would consider unusual. Her field work took her to the halls of Congress as an AGI geoscience policy intern, gaining insight into the policy-making process that affects all geoscientists. For Students will run every other month to offer advice and a discussion forum to the future geoscientists reading Geotimes. The idea for the column was born at a student focus group held during the October meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver. Geotimes editors asked a group of undergraduate and graduate geoscience students what kind of information they need from Geotimes. Career advice and guidance was a top request. And while Geotimes seeks to supply information to students, its editors also noticed that the students had unique perspectives to offer. Thus, we hope this column will serve as a forum for a two-way sharing of ideas and information.

And in the interest of sharing diverse viewpoints, we feature a Comment this month from a discipline that does not always make it into mainstream conversation: palynology. Fred Rich, president of the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists, offers a lighthearted definition of his discipline.

We hope that you enjoy the issue!

David Applegate
Acting Editor

Kristina E. Bartlett
Managing Editor

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