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Bill Normark Receives a Medal Named for His Early Mentor, Francis P. Shepard

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U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologist William R. Normark has been awarded the Francis P. Shepard Medal for Sustained Excellence in Marine Geology by the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM). Bill received the medal on June 21, 2005, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at the SEPM annual meeting, held in conjunction with the annual conference of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. A senior scientist with the USGS Western Coastal and Marine Geology Team in Menlo Park, CA, Bill has received numerous honors, but this medal has particular significance for him because he knew and admired Fran Shepard, the pioneering marine geologist for whom the medal is named.

Below are the biography and citation that were printed in the awards-ceremony program; they will also appear, along with a written response from Bill, in the November 2005 issue of the Journal of Sedimentary Research.

William R. Normark holding the Francis P. Shepard Medal for Sustained Excellence in Marine Geology.
Above: Normark was awarded the Francis P. Shepard Medal for Sustained Excellence in Marine Geology.
Bill Normark is as well known as it is possible to be in the marine geosciences. Although born in Seattle, his geologist father hauled him away from the sea to grow up in Wyoming and Utah.

Bill, for a reason forgotten, applied to Stanford (1961) to become a geo-mathematician. Bill’s required introductory course in geology was providentially taught by Bill Dickinson. The geo-hook was set, and in his third year, Bill traded his math tables for a Brunton. The hook was fastened deeper by Ben Page’s lecture based on Bob Dietz’s essay “Commotions in the Oceans.” Bill’s career path was now clear, and he followed it to Scripps (1965), where they had ships he could use to see both the world and the sea floor.

Karma followed Bill because he was promptly invited by Fran Shepard to join a cruise to Monterey Canyon to have a look around at fan deposits and channel meanders. To get up close and familiar with deep-sea fans, young Bill was allowed to use Fred Spiess’ newly created Deep Tow instrument, a tool perfectly matched to Bill’s proclivity to extract the bigger picture recorded in the finer details of depositional and sedimentological patterns. His 1970 paper on fan growth defined the science of fan turbidite systems.

An opportunity in 1974 to return to sea and continue his studies of turbidite systems lured Bill from a faculty position at the University of Minnesota to join the USGS and help create its new marine program. A 30-year journey of intense scientific productivity (more than 200 titles) and managerial leadership earned him all the accolades and awards the USGS offers.

It is both splendid and befitting that the youth Fran took to sea in 1965 is SEPM’s recipient of the medal bearing the name and image of Bill’s mentor.

Biographer: Dave Scholl

Citation: In recognition of his pioneering research on the creation, sediment carrying, and sedimentological ways of turbidity currents, the deposition and shaping of the turbidite sequences of deep-sea fans and abyssal plains, the catastrophic emplacement of massive undersea slide bodies, and the accumulation of mineral masses at spreading centers.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Two USGS Scientists Selected as AGU Fellows in Ocean Sciences
March 2004
Canada's Michael J. Keen Medal Awarded to Bill Normark
Feb. / Mar. 2003
Distinguished Service Award Presented to Bill Normark
October 2002

Related Web Sites
Western Coastal and Marine Geology
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Santa Cruz & Menlo Park, CA
Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM)
non-profit professional organization

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Awards William R. Normark Receives Francis P. Shepard Medal

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Updated December 02, 2016 @ 12:09 PM (JSS)