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James V. Gardner, 2012 Shepard Medalist for Excellence in Marine Geology

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Jim Gardner and Chris Fielding
Above: Jim Gardner (right), USGS emeritus senior geologist, receives the Francis P. Shepard Medal for Marine Geology from Chris Fielding, president of the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) on April 24, 2012, at the SEPM Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California. [larger version]

The Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) awarded its 2012 Francis P. Shepard Medal for Marine Geology to James V. Gardner, emeritus senior geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and research professor at the University of New Hampshire, “in recognition of his extraordinary scientific career providing insight into marine geologic processes, his leadership in application of advanced technology to seafloor research, and his unprecedented contributions to mapping the geologic landscape of America’s marine domain.” The medal was presented on April 24, 2012, at the SEPM Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California. Below is a biography of Jim written for the occasion by his colleague Michael E. Field, senior research scientist at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California.

It is indeed fitting that SEPM honors Jim Gardner with the Francis P. Shepard Medal for Marine Geology at this meeting, set alongside the California Continental Borderland, the home and research haunt of Fran Shepard. Fran loved nothing more than a good geologic map of the ocean floor and a solid scientific revelation of its meaning. Jim delivered both, over and over, and in so doing, he has had immeasurable impact on a generation of marine geologists through his distinguished career with the U.S. Geological Survey and with the University of New Hampshire.

Jim hails from Kansas, far from the sea (at least the present-day one), and he started his undergraduate studies there before heading west to San Diego State University to complete them and begin a lifetime association with the ocean. His Ph.D. research was at Columbia University’s Lamont Geological Observatory in the late 60s and early 70s, one of the most exciting places for marine research on the planet. He immediately launched into a long and successful research career spanning the globe, leading cruises aboard the Deep Sea Drilling Program’s (DSDP) drillship Glomar Challenger, and dozens of U.S. and foreign oceanographic research vessels, addressing such diverse topics as seafloor evolution, modern marine geological processes, and Quaternary paleoclimate and marine facies.

But it is Jim’s lasting contributions to marine geology through his large, innovative programs to map the U.S. seafloor, in detail and in its entirety,for which we particularly honor him. In 1983 the United States established the 200 mile-wide Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and Jim responded with a plan to combine the unique wide-swath sonar system (Geological Long-Range Inclined Asdic, or GLORIA) of the United Kingdom with software developed by the United States for planetary exploration. This combination provided, for the first time, accurate, detailed seafloor maps of the entire U.S. EEZ. Under Jim’s guidance, he and his colleagues mapped new volcanoes off California, turbidite pathways in the Gulf of Mexico, giant landslides off Hawai‘i, enormous canyons off Alaska, and a host of other features and processes never before imaged or even imagined. The monumental results were published widely as journal papers, USGS reports and atlases, and in the landmark book Geology of the United States’ Seafloor: The View from GLORIA. The GLORIA seafloor-mapping program was unprecedented in its scope or achievement—a direct reflection of Jim’s scientific vision and leadership.

High-resolution multibeam bathymetric mapping made its debut in the 1990s, and once again Jim’s contributions rose to a level of prominence and distinction. Working closely with Larry Mayer, first at the University of New Brunswick and then at the University of New Hampshire, he became a leader in the new science of marine geology exploration and interpretation using high-resolution maps of the seafloor. He mapped the U.S. continental margins to identify fish habitats, coastal hazards, geologic structures, and active sediment processes. The maps that Jim produced and interpreted—from San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound, to Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake, to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond—line the hallways of academic and government institutions. His latest ventures include new, ground-breaking maps of the U.S. seafloor off Alaska, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Atlantic margin. And when he isn’t mapping some distant unknown piece of Planet Ocean, Jim can be found chasing rainbow trout across New England or traveling the globe with his lovely and talented wife and daughters.

Jim Gardner has mapped more of the U.S. seafloor than any other person, and he has published maps and geological interpretations that have provided a wealth of information for scientists and resource managers alike. He is indeed most deserving of recognition through SEPM’s Shepard Medal for his unique and selfless contributions in seafloor mapping and research for a generation of marine geologists. Fran Shepard would be proud to have such an accomplished and distinguished scientist receive the award established in his name.

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Oil-Spill-Mitigation Sand Berm in the Chandeleur Islands

Ocean-Circulation and Sediment-Transport Data Offshore of Fire Island

Open House in Menlo Park, California

Workshop on Probability of Landslide-Generated Tsunamis

Key Drivers of Central California Coastal Change and Inundation Due to Climate Change

James V. Gardner, 2012 Shepard Medalist for Excellence in Marine Geology

Staff Team MarFac Completes Century Bicycle Ride

Publications July / August 2012 Publications

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