Ronald C. Surdam, director of the Carbon Management Institute (CMI) at the University of Wyoming, may very well hold the key to Wyoming’s future as one of the leading energy producers in the world. Surdam, who was a pioneer in developing new ways to conserve water resources related to coalbed natural gas production in the Powder River Basin, served as a faculty member of the Department of Geology and Geophysics for 32 years, officially retiring in 1998. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1961 and a Ph.D. in 1967, both in geology, from the University of California, Los Angeles, and began his UW career in 1966.
A motivating educator, Surdam demonstrated powerful communication skills with his students. “I thoroughly enjoyed and was inspired through sharing with the students the excitement of their scholarly searches and discoveries, and by observing their evolving and intellectual strengths,” says Surdam. “There is nothing more rewarding than watching a student develop with enthusiasm intellectual power and focus required to excel in one’s chosen profession and life endeavors.”
In addition to teaching geology, Surdam raised about $32 million in research support and held director positions at the Institute of Energy Research (1993-1998) and the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute (1997-1999). He published more than 200 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and books, presented approximately 250 invited lectures, and made more than 200 presentations at national and international scientific meetings. He continues as a prolific researcher with numerous published works. “As a researcher, I would like to be remembered as an earth scientist who was able to substantially reduce uncertainties in a variety of important areas,” Surdam notes.
From 2004 to 2010, Surdam was the director of the Wyoming State Geological Survey, during which time he headed a search for potential carbon sequestration sites that eventually designated the Rock Springs Uplift as a perfect place for carbon sequestration. Rob Hurless, energy policy advisor to former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, comments, “[Surdam’s] work ethic, visionary perspective, and leadership have been of great benefit to the state of Wyoming.”
Surdam has received several awards, including the President’s Achievement Award, the College of Arts and Sciences Extraordinary Merit in Research award, the Wyoming Geological Association Morgan Memorial award, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Distinguished Lecturer award. He held the J.E. Warren Professorship of Energy and Environment at the University of Wyoming and holds concurrent or visiting professorships at Nanjing University, Xian Petroleum University, and Northwestern University, all in China. He is a senior consultant to the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Energy Resources and Chemical Engineering.
Surdam also has made significant contributions to the state of Wyoming, serving on the Environmental Quality Council and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. John Corra, director of the state of Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, notes, “Dr. Surdam is distinguished and highly regarded throughout the minerals industry and his willingness to serve Wyoming and its citizens is exemplary.”
Professor Don Roth, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says, “Surdam’s creativity, analytical ability, deep discipline, knowledge, and commitment to the scholarship of teaching and discovery are internationally recognized. This dedication inspires a sense of urgency and commitment to the quality of hard work, and a pride in accomplishments among his colleagues and students.”
Surdam says that he is most proud of his family. He adds, “I am thankful to have spent my career at the University of Wyoming—a fine state university that is strongly supported by its constituents. UW was a great fit for me; it encouraged me by providing the resources and environment to excel, at home and abroad.”