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Pioneer Natural Resources Stratigraphy and Paleo-environments Lab Opens

by Keith Hautala

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 17, 2014) — The University of Kentucky's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) formally opened the Pioneer Natural Resources Stratigraphy and Paleo-environments Laboratory at a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, Feb. 14.

The laboratory is situated on the completely renovated ground floor of the Slone Building. The project was undertaken with $900,000 in support from Pioneer Natural Resources, a large, independent oil and natural gas company based in Irving, Texas. The company provided an initial grant of $600,000 and an additional $300,000 in operating funds.

Additional support for the project came from the UK College of Arts and Sciences, UK Facilities Management, and the Herman Lee and Nell Stuart Donovan Endowment. Lexmark International donated casework for the lab.

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David Moecher, professor and EES chair, presided over the ceremony and introduced Michael McGlue, who has been named Pioneer Natural Resources Professor in Stratigraphy. 

"Professor Mike McGlue and other faculty in EES, in collaboration with Pioneer staff scientists, are developing research projects that will continue our close connection with Pioneer into the near future, helping support the research and training of graduate and undergraduate students in geology at UK," Moecher said. 
McGlue said the gift from Pioneer would be a transformative resource for the EES department in general and the Petroleum Geosystems emphasis area in particular. 

“The gift has supported a complete overhaul of space on the first floor of Slone Research Building into a world-class research facility for the analysis of fine-grained sedimentary systems," he said. "The gift demonstrates the commitment our alumni have to the department and UK, and we are so thankful for their support and generosity.“

The Petroleum Geosystems emphasis area, spearheaded by McGlue and EES Professor Derek Sawyer, is designed to develop new energy-themed coursework and research at UK. Faculty affiliates and laboratory facilities in EES, the Kentucky Geological Survey, and the Center for Applied Energy Research collectively offer state-of-the-art resources and decades of regional geology expertise. 

"We ultimately aim to establish UK as a target recruiting school in the region and at national levels," McGlue said. 

Representing Pioneer Natural Resources at the ceremony were its Executive Vice President for Business Development and Geoscience Chris Cheatwood, and Kit Clemons, a UK geology alumnus who attended on behalf of the eight other UK geology alumni currently at Pioneer. UK College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Kornbluh was present at the ceremony, as were Bob Wiseman, UK vice-president of facilities, and William Varble, of Lexmark International. 

Another UK Geology alumnus, Pioneer Vice President for Geoscience Tom Spalding, was instrumental in arranging the gift from Pioneer. Although he was unable to attend, Spalding sent a statement expressing his gratitude to Cheatwood and the rest of Pioneer's management committee, to Moecher and Kornbluh, and to the university as a whole. 

Spalding offered this advice to current and future graduates of his college: "Participate in the culture of honor being developed at UK EES. Remember those people and institutions who helped you along the way, and give back."