Dr. Scott W. Tinker

Scott Tinker
Director, Bureau of Economic Geology
Bureau of Economic Geology
The University of Texas at Austin
University Station, Box X
Austin, Texas 78713-8924

Scott Tinker works to bring industry, government, academia, and nongovernmental organizations together to address major societal challenges in energy, the environment, and the economy. Dr. Tinker is Director of the 250-person Bureau of Economic Geology, the State Geologist of Texas, and a professor holding the Allday Endowed Chair in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin. Tinker coproduced and is featured in the award-winning energy documentary film Switch, which has been screened in over 50 countries to more than 15 million viewers and is used on thousands of K-through-12 and college campuses. Dr. Tinker formed the nonprofit Switch Energy Alliance and is working on two new films: Switch On, addressing global energy poverty and released in January 2020, and Making the Switch, focused on the energy transition. He is the voice of EarthDate, a two-minute weekly program that focuses on remarkable stories of Earth. EarthDate is produced by the Bureau of Economic Geology and is featured on nearly 400 NPR and public radio stations in all 50 United States. Dr. Tinker has served as president of the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the Association of American State Geologists, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), and the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies (GCAGS). Dr. Tinker is an AGI Campbell Medalist, AAPG Halbouty Award winner, GCAGS Boyd Medalist, and a Geological Society of America Fellow. In his visits to some 65 countries, he has given over 800 keynote and invited lectures.


Scott Tinker

Carbonate Stratigraphy and Reservoir Characterization

Dr. Tinker’s academic training and professional work experience are in carbonate stratigraphy and reservoir characterization. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in the Cretaceous of northern Mexico and the Permian of West Texas; extensive core- and log-based regional subsurface work in the Devonian of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin; and integrated core, log, and seismic 3D reservoir characterization and modeling in the Permian Basin of West Texas. Dr. Tinker has served on dozens of graduate student committees at UT Austin and taught a graduate course in reservoir characterization. He has received best paper awards for work appearing in the AAPG Bulletin and the Journal of Sedimentary Research.

Global Energy


Since 2000, Dr. Tinker has been deeply involved in academic administration, professional society leadership, government policy, program and infrastructure growth, and global outreach. His research efforts in this intricate space are centered on the interface between global energy supply and demand, environmental impacts of energy, and economic drivers and realities of energy. Dr. Tinker has focused on understanding the framework, challenges, and scale of transitioning from fossil fuels to alternative energy resources, as well as on the positive and negative environmental and economic impacts of that transition.

Alfred P Sloan Foundation

Unconventional Oil & Gas

Dr. Tinker helped establish major programs at the Bureau of Economic Geology in unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. As a part of this effort, he serves as co–Principal Investigator with Dr. Svetlana Ikonnikova on multimillion-dollar grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Department of Energy, and industry that fund studies to determine the capability of U.S. shale gas and shale oil to contribute significantly to supply for the next 30 years. An integrated team of experts studied the four major U.S. shale gas basins and three major shale oil basins, considering several major questions: (1) What is the resource base in place? (2) What portion of the resource is technically recoverable? (3) What portion of the resource base is economically recoverable? and (4) What will future production scenarios look like, given interplay between price, cost, demand, technology, and policy? The results of this research will help U.S. and global decision makers formulate intelligent, thoughtful regulatory and energy policy.

Scott Tinker


Dr. Tinker conceived of and, with Bureau associate director Jay Kipper, formed the industry-supported and Bureau-managed Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC). Dr. Tinker serves as chair of the Board of Management, whose function is to provide strategic direction. The AEC’s mission is to develop intelligent subsurface micro- and nanosensors that can be injected into oil and gas reservoirs to help characterize the reservoir space in three dimensions and improve the recovery of existing and new hydrocarbon resources. Consortium members are researching near-term potential to increase the recovery rate in existing reservoirs by exploiting the unique chemical and physical properties of materials at the nanoscale. By leveraging existing surface infrastructure, this technology has the potential to minimize the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration and production.


Scott Tinker

Professional and Academic Service

Dr. Tinker has served as acting associate dean of research in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin since 2010, and on the Jackson School’s Executive Committee since the school formed in 2001. Dr. Tinker is a member of 12 professional societies and serves on numerous councils and committees. He has been an active member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), which has a roster of 35,000 professionals globally, and served as AAPG president in 2009–2010, Distinguished Lecturer in 1997, and Distinguished Ethics Lecturer in 2003. Dr. Tinker is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and served as an SPE Distinguished Lecturer in 2002–2003. He has also served as president of the Austin Geological Society, the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, and the American Geosciences Institute. Since becoming the State Geologist of Texas in 2000, Dr. Tinker has been a member of the Association of American State Geologists (AASG), serving as its president in 2007–2008. Dr. Tinker is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA); in 2012, he served as the GSA Halbouty Distinguished Lecturer.

Policy and Govenment

Scott Tinker

Dr. Tinker’s involvement in government policy spans local, state, federal, and international venues. In 2006, the U.S. secretary of energy appointed him to serve on the National Petroleum Council (NPC); he currently serves on the NPC’s Committee on Resource Development. In 2007, he was appointed by the governor of Texas to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. From 2003 to 2009, he served on The National Academies National Research Council Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES). He has also served as the director of the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC), heading the Texas Regional Lead Organization from 2000 to 2012. He is currently a member of the National Academies Roundtable on Oil and Gas, and of the Aspen Institute Shale Governance Forum. Dr. Tinker has testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and briefed Senate and House staff. As State Geologist, Scott was appointed by the lieutenant governor of Texas in 2001 to serve on the Oil Field Cleanup Fund Advisory Committee, and in 2005 to lead the technical team that placed two sites in the final four of the national competition to bring the clean coal project FutureGen to Texas.

Boards and Foundations

Dr. Tinker has served on Brigham Exploration’s Board of Directors and BP’s Technical Advisory Council. He currently serves on Shell’s Science Council; is a Trustee Associate for Southwest Research Institute; and is a member of Sandia National Laboratory’s Geoscience Foundation Advisory Board, QTSI’s Board of Directors, and the Advisory Board of X-Microwave. In academia, Dr. Tinker serves on advisory boards for the Department of Geosciences at the University of Michigan and served for 16 years on Trinity University’s Board of Visitors. Dr. Tinker is a trustee of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation, the American Geological Institute Foundation, and the Geological Society of America Foundation. He and his wife Allyson invest time and resources in educational organizations that better society.

Presentations and Outreach

Scott Tinker

Lectures, Outreach, Films

Dr. Tinker has given over 650 invited talks and keynote lectures in his career. He attempts to reach a broad representation of stakeholders through presentations, seminars, editorial pieces, media interviews, web interviews, and films. Audiences include professional educators, accountants, lawyers, insurers, bankers, young professionals, women’s leadership groups, nongovernment organizations, industry staffers, energy regulators, senior citizens, K–12 students, farmers, and shipbuilders.

Dr. Tinker was featured in the award-winning State of Tomorrow, an energy-related television piece for the Public Broadcasting System that was co-produced by The University of Texas Foundation and Alpheus Media in 2008. He also appeared in the NBC production Unconventional in 2008. Dr. Tinker is frequently sought for print, radio, and TV interviews, as well as for opinion/editorial pages, on issues ranging from federal and state energy policy to environmental and society energy impact. He has appeared and been quoted in Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Variety, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Forbes, Texas CEO magazine, Texas Monthly, AAPG Explorer, Austin American-Statesman, Tulsa World Online, Geo ExPro magazine, E&P News, Business Insider, Dallas Observer, San Antonio Express-News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bloomberg, Reuters, NPR, CNN Online, EmeraldPlanet.org, EarthSky.org, and EnergyWire.

The Switch Energy Project is now the Switch Energy Alliance

Project Overview


In 2008, documentary filmmaker Harry Lynch and geologist Dr. Scott Tinker set out to make a film on the global energy transition. The goal was not to prescribe what could or should happen but instead to describe what would likely happen, based on sound investigation and the practical realities of the world of energy as we discovered them. The result was Switch, the highly acclaimed feature-length documentary film that has been seen by more than 15 million viewers in over 50 countries, screened on over 1,000 university campuses worldwide, and used in K-12 curriculum nationwide. During the 3 years of filming and post-production, the film expanded into the web-based Switch Energy Project, a multiplatform program. The website holds more than 5 hours of edited, short-format video, including energy primers, 101s, edited interviews from all experts that appear (and many who don’t) in the film, an edited site visit, and much more.  

Scott Tinker

Energy has become a highly politicized subject. Interviewees for Switch—selected for their deep knowledge and respected positions, not for their support of any issue or agenda—are a broad mix of industry, government, academic, and NGO leaders from differing political backgrounds and with years of research and learning from the field. Switch has been embraced by energy companies and environmental groups, government agencies and leading universities, general audiences and critics.
In early 2014, we released the Switch Energy Lab short-format video series on the Switch Energy Project website created with two of our nonprofit partners. This series contains 28 videos comprising over 80 minutes of high-quality content.

The Switch Energy Project has now become the Switch Energy Alliance (SEA), which will continue to advance energy education globally. The Alliance has three main components: Watch, Learn, Engage. Watch is a Film and Video Library that will feature Switch On, the sequel to Switch, which investigates the benefits and challenges of powering the 3 billion people living in energy poverty and will delve into other major energy issues facing society. Learn is Video-Based Education where we will organize the video library to provide a structured journey through the world of energy, which various academic, industrial and government stakeholders can tailor to their learning and experience levels, eventually including a video-based university course. Engage is a motivated user base that will employ a sophisticated outreach, social media and data science program, which will allow us to connect to our worldwide users like never before, and allow them to engage in an objective and balanced energy conversation.

Current Boards, Councils, and Commissions


  • University of Michigan Department of Geosciences Advisory Board, 2006–present
  • The University of Texas at Austin, Advanced Energy Consortium, Chair, Board of Management, 2007–present

Federal and State Government

  • National Petroleum Council, U.S. Secretary of Energy appointment, 2006–present
  • The Energy Council, University Liaison, 2006–present
  • Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, Governor of Texas appointment, 2007–present
  • Sandia National Laboratory Geoscience Advisory Board, 2012–present
  • TexNet Technical Advisory Committee, Governor of Texas appointment, 2016–present

Private Sector

  • Chair, Switch Energy Alliance, 2016–present
  • Shell Science Council, 2014–present
  • QTSI Board of Directors, 2014–present
  • Southwest Research Institute Advisory Trustee, 2013–present
  • X Microwave Advisory Board, 2013–present

Public Speaking

Scott Tinker


“I like very much your style of interacting with industry people, the public and the government on realism and balance. I don’t know anyone else with your visibility who delivers crafted messages to these audiences. I admire what you are doing.”

“I am indebted to you for your exacting and enthralling overview, which did so much to guide these directors in their respective roles.”

“We have been overwhelmed by the positive responses we’ve received from all those attending your keynote speech.”

“At the end of most of the lectures this association sponsors, attendees edge toward the door anxious to attend this or that. That is, except for yours, which looked like the end of a church service where everyone stays to visit. In your case, it was to go, ‘Wow, this is really, really, interesting stuff.’”

“Much praise was given on your compelling content, but beyond that, my guys very much enjoyed your asides, and your very entertaining podium patter. Our evaluation survey showed you as the top-rated speaker.”

“Your session was extremely well received, and your perspective was appreciated by everyone.”

“Your insights, enthusiasm and presentation content definitely helped enrich our conference. We appreciate the investment of your time and preparations….”

“You were outstanding, and by far the best speaker at the event. We have tallied the group feedback, which confirms that yours was the best talk.”

“We have received great comments back on your presentation, and I cannot thank you enough for squeezing us into your obviously very hectic schedule. Everyone wants you back.”

The Switch Energy Alliance

For improved availability, please contact Scott well in advance of your event.

Scott W. Tinker