Mathematical geosciences conference focuses on food, energy, water nexus

August 22, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — More than 175 researchers, students and industry professionals from companies and universities around the world gathered at Penn State’s University Park campus Aug. 10-15 for the 20th Annual Conference of the International Association for Mathematical Geosciences (IAMG). 

“It was indeed a privilege to have such an august assembly of scholars from all parts of the world and hear them engage in topics of profound importance to all of us, ranging from modeling of ocean margins, climate modeling, modeling complex coupled processes at the intersection of food, water and energy as well as modeling of complex hydrocarbon and mining resources,” said Sanjay Srinivasan, conference chair and head of the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. “Penn State was well represented by researchers from energy and mineral engineering, geosciences, geography, meteorology, mathematics, agricultural sciences and statistics.”

The aim of the conference was to promote worldwide advancement of mathematics statistics and informatics in the geosciences. Short courses, plenary speakers, oral and poster presentations and social events promoted discussions around geomodeling issues at the intersection of food, water and energy. Along with attendance from 30 countries, this year’s conference hosted more female researchers and doctoral candidates than in previous years.

The conference began over the weekend with short courses on machine learning for geoscience modeling and geological applications of compositional data analysis. The courses were taught by faculty members from international universities, the University of Texas at El Paso, and a scientist from the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Oral presentations over the next four days covered a range of issues from mining modeling to marine geosciences and atmospheric and earth system science. Every set of oral presentations was accompanied by a poster session that ran throughout the week. 

“I was particularly impressed by the emphasis on developing early career researchers and the strong collaboration with our global sponsors — both of which will advance excellence in partnership working across the mathematical geoscience community,” said IAMG President Jennifer McKinley, a professor at Queen's University in Belfast, U.K.

A keynote address from Lee Kump, dean of the Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, titled “Simple models for complex problems” drew on his work as an Earth historian in discussing how straightforward and complicated models can, or cannot, address relatively simple problems.

Seven other keynotes discussed opportunities for growth within the geoscience field, including:

  • “Deep-time Digital Earth (DDE) Big Science Program: Opportunity for Mathematical and Data Geosciences” — Qiuming Cheng, International Union of Geological Sciences, Canada
  • “Karst Aquifer Modeling, State of the Art and Challenges” — Philippe Renard, University of Neuchatel Switzerland
  • “Object Oriented Spatial Statistics: An Approach to the Analysis of Georeferenced Complex Data” — Alessandra Menafogilo, Department of Mathematics, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
  • “Geo-Information Extraction and Integration in Support of Mineral Exploration” — Wenlei Wang, Institute of Geomechanics, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, China
  • “Driving Transformations in the Energy Industry: Convergence of Emerging Technologies with Mathematical Geoscience” — Susan M. Agar, Aramco Global Research Center, U.S.
  • “Outliers and Compositional Data” — Peter Filzmoser, Institute of Statistics and Mathematical Methods in Economics, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
  • “Compositional Data in Geostatistics: A Log-Ratio Based Framework to Analyze Regionalized Compositions” — Vera Pawlowsky-Glahn, University of Girona, Spain

Held annually across the world, this was only the second time the conference had been hosted in the U.S.

“The IAMG conference returned to the U.S. 10 years after the meeting at Stanford,” said Srinivasan. “It was an honor afforded to Penn State and a testimony to the excellent infrastructure available within the university and the breadth of research conducted across the university.”

Conference partners included Aramco, Chevron, Schlumberger, and the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with University support from the Institute for CyberScience. The conference was organized and hosted by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and the EMS Energy Institute.

IAMG is a nonprofit organization promoting international cooperation in the fields of mathematics, geological research and technology through meetings and publications. Next year’s conference will be held in India. To learn more about IAMG, visit the organization’s website at  

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 06, 2021