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Xavier Moonan received the Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

For the first time in T&T’s century-old oil industry, a local geoscientist has copped an international award for his contribution to geological education in T&T.

Xavier Moonan, who was one of the frontline volunteers into research at Piparo mud volcano, said he was humbled to have received the Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

This is given annually in recognition of “distinguished and outstanding contributions to geological education.”

Back in 1968 Hans Kugler, Swiss geologist known locally as the ‘father of Trinidad Geology’ and the compiler of the first complete surface geology map of Trinidad received the AAPG Honorary Member award.

“I feel very humbled, especially knowing that folks that I consider legends of the field have received the same in years before,” he said.

Asked why the award was significant, Moonan said, “For Trinidad, considering our petroleum heritage, we have never had a local geologist receive an award on this platform from the AAPG—the largest society of professional petroleum geologists in the world.”

He added, “The award itself highlights that the activities and efforts to educate folks on geoscience even when undertaken locally or regionally, is recognized, admired and will be emulated elsewhere.”

Moonan, whose work as a Senior Geoscientist at Touchstone Exploration, led to the four onshore gas discoveries announced in 2019 & 2020, said he wanted to spur more awareness for the field of geology in T&T.

“I wish for everyone to gain a better appreciation of our country, our environment and other natural resources,” he said.

He noted that many geological wonders are still unknown to the average citizen.

“San Fernando Hill and the Pitch Lake are being marketed but we have many more treasures that are not,” he added.

Because of COVID-19, Moonan is not able to physically collect his prestigious award at the AAPG Conference in Denver. However, he said he will continue to do his part in educating the citizenry about T&T’s geological wonders.

More on Moonan

Moonan holds an MSc. in Structural Geology with Geophysics at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. He was awarded a ‘Top Ten Presentation’ by AAPG for his presentation on the Penal Barrackpore Anticline at AAPG International Conference & Exhibition (ICE) Conference in Milan, 2011.

He served as the Convener for the 20th Caribbean Geological Conference Trinidad 2015, as Programme Committee Trinidad Representative for AAPG ICE Cartagena 2013, as General Co-Chair for AAPG Geosciences Technology Workshop (GTW) Trinidad 2014, GTW Guyana 2017 and GTW Suriname 2019 and as Technical Program Chair of the AAPG South East Caribbean Virtual Research Symposium in 2020.

Moonan is the Vice President of the AAPG Latin America & Caribbean Region.

He is a member of the Geological Society of Trinidad & Tobago, the Houston Geological Society and the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

He lectures a range of geology courses at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, the University of Trinidad & Tobago and runs field geology trips for many visiting groups including Anton De Kom University of Suriname, Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto.

He is married to Karuna Moonan, a radio announcer and has a son.