Synovus scholar shares fracking research with community

By Avery Boulware, Campus Carrier News Editor

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Sophomore Maddie Bess poses before her presentation at the Northwest Georgia Regional Convention

Sophomore Maddie Bess was awarded the Synovus grant for her research on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a serious cause of controversy in the world of geology.  She will tour northwest Georgia for the next month to present her research. 

While the majority of her presentations will be held in libraries, the first stop on Bess’ tour was at the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission (NGRC), where she spoke in front of more than 50 elected officials. 

“I was pretty nervous but it went really, really well,” Bess said. 

Bess, majoring in environmental science with a geology concentration, was inspired to start her research after hearing just what fracking means for landowners and for the environment, as well as benefits for energy companies.

“It’s this new technology that allows companies to reach these natural gas deposits that they couldn’t beforehand,” Bess explained. “The shale deposit that Northwest Georgia lies upon is estimated to hold 625 billion cubic feet of natural gas.”  

The companies in search of natural gas approach landowners about their mineral rights so the company can drill on the property to reach the shale deposits, Bess explained. These landowners don’t know whether to sell their rights because they don’t know what benefits or harmful effects hydraulic fracturing might have on the environment.

Last year, Bess completed extensive peer-reviewed research and attended a national conference about new and upcoming energy technologies.

Bess is now touring Northwest Georgia, presenting the benefits and implications of fracking.

“I present both sides of the argument,” Bess said. “Drilling here will help us with our supply and help us become a world exporter, but there are also environmental concerns like ground water contamination and earthquakes.” 

During her presentations, Bess keeps her information objective, withholding her own opinions. The goal is to present the data in a way that’s easy to understand, without convincing the landowners to choose one side or the other. After presenting the data she has collected, Bess opens the floor for any questions or responses.

“I’m surprised by how many questions I get,” Bess said. “At the [NGRC] meeting I got about 30.”

Tamie Jovanelly, associate professor of geology, is Bess’ research adviser for this project. She says Bess is a passionate geology student. 

Jovanelly highlighted Bess’ valuable knowledge and motivation about energy and natural resources that she brought to Berry. Combining her motivation with the extensive research she has done will benefit local property owners as they make decisions about the future of their land, Jovanelly said.

Bess has six remaining stops on her library tour. She will be presenting in the Rome-Floyd County Public Library on Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m. 

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