A USF Alumnus Digs Deep to Help the Geology Field Station Take Shape

The lure of West Florida’s coastal geology was too much for Jeff Brame to resist after graduating from East Carolina University more than four decades ago. The chance to study the beaches and Gulf waters off Pinellas County led him to the University of South Florida and the master’s program in the School of Geosciences.

He spent endless hours analyzing the sediment layers and geological history of Caladesi Island en route to his M.A. at USF in 1976. But a funny thing happened on the way to Brame’s planned specialty in coastal zone-based science.

He was offered a job deep in the heart of Texas – nowhere near any water, trading sandy beaches and seagulls for dusty fields and Stetsons in the land of oil rigs.

Forty-two years later, Brame is on the verge of calling it a career in oil and gas geology. He went from working for some half-dozen companies in Texas and Louisiana to the past 20 years owning a successful consulting firm, Brame Geoscience, LLC. “My primary job is to tell to my clients where to drill for oil – and, just as important, where not to drill,” he says. “Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. It’s a very difficult game to play – trying to figure out what’s two-to-three miles below your feet. You use all the data you have to predict as best you can.”

It’s been a good life for Brame and his wife of 30 years, Diane, based in the southwestern corner of Colorado in the city of Durango for the past 15 years – within easy reach of oil fields in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Now he’s giving back to USF, which helped launch him on his way.

Brame has made a generous financial commitment to USF’s School of Geosciences Field Station, a fully functioning site to be built in the rugged, geologically rich terrain of Idaho. On top of that, he has worked with USF’s Office of Gift Planning to make a legacy gift that will one day leave 25 percent of his estate to the field station and geology program.

“It’s very gratifying to me,” he says. “I really value the education I received at USF and ECU. They offered me a lot of opportunities and if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have had the career and the nice life I’ve had. So I want to do something to help young geologists – who’ll take over for me when I retire – to learn as much as they can and contribute to the field of geology.”

Brame’s decision to apply to USF was influenced not only by the natural seaside surroundings but the presence of geology professor Richard “Skip” Davis, who was just taking over as chairman of USF’s geology department. “One of my professors at ECU had gone to school with Skip, and I contacted him,” Brame recalls. “Skip was a specialist in coastal geology, and that made a big difference in my decision.”

After graduation, Brame planned to pursue a career in coastal zone management, providing scientific guidance for the safest human development projects in coastal areas. He sent out dozens of applications but the one offer that emerged from was from an oil company in Houston. “I didn’t really want to work in the oil industry,” he says, “but I thought, ‘A job’s a job,’ so I accepted.”

Brame has never looked back – other than to reach out and help USF geosciences students. After many years without connecting to his graduate school alma mater, he re-established ties some five years ago after Davis and his wife visited him in Durango. That led to him re-engaging with the program, first as an occasional guest speaker at USF about the oil and gas geology business and career options. He soon wound up being honored as USF’s Geology Alumnus of the Year, joining the geology alumni society board, and learning of plans to build the field station.

“I got involved in the early planning for the field station,” he says. “I’ve always believed that field work is so important for geology students because it’s much harder to learn about geology if you’re not actually there in the field.”

Whether sifting through layers of shoreline sediment – or digging for oil – it’s a passion for Brame that runs deep.


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