Dr. Shirley Dutton, 2014 Doris M. Curtis Medal
The 2014 Curtis Medalist, Shirley P. Dutton, is being honored for outstanding contributions to our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico Sedimentary Basin and other basins worldwide through a distinguished career in sedimentary petrology.
Following a path somewhat similar to that of Doris Curtis, Shirley was born in New York (Schenectady) and has devoted most of her working life to the study of Texas geology.
Shirley's interest in sandstone diagenesis was sparked by a thin section of the Fontainebleau Sandstone in a class in sedimentary petrology taught by Robert Sutton at the University of Rochester, where she received a Bachelor's degree in geology. In 1975 she came to The University of Texas at Austin to study with the renowned sandstone diagenesis team of Earle F. McBride, Robert L. Folk, and Lynton S. Land. After completing her Master's degree (supervisor E. F. McBride), Shirley went to work with Bill Galloway and Frank Brown (both Curtis Medalists) at the Bureau of Economic Geology. Later, with the support and encouragement of BEG Director Bill Fisher, she completed her Ph.D. studies at UT Austin (supervisor L. S. Land) while continuing to work at the BEG. The Bureau has been Shirley's geological home for her entire career.
Out of her master's thesis, Shirley co-authored a seminal paper in the field of diagenesis (Land and Dutton, 1978) that launched a debate on open-versus closed-system behavior that resonates to the present day. Even before completing her dissertation, her publication record included over 100 authored and co-authored papers and abstracts including a now-classic study on the granite-wash deposits of the Anadarko Basin that represents her most-cited work. Her dissertation results on the diagenesis of quartz-rich sandstones of the East Texas Basin are also highly cited.
The challenging geologic and engineering characterization of low-permeability sandstone gas reservoirs has been a particular focus for Shirley. At the BEG she was Principal Investigator of numerous studies of tight gas sandstones in the Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the U.S. She is the senior author of a major summary on tight gas reservoirs in the U.S. Other research projects included studies of well-exposed outcrop analogs of deltaic reservoirs to characterize interwell-scale heterogeneity.
Shirley's research accomplishments have been acknowledged by AAPG Distinguished Lectureships (1986-1987 and 2013-2014), Fellowship in the Geological Society of America, and the UT Jackson School of Geosciences Research Award (2010) and the Joseph C. Walter Jr. Excellence Award (2007). She is a three-time winner of the AAPG A. I. Levorsen Memorial Award. Her contributions to the geoscience community are further represented by numerous other presentation awards and service on committees within the Jackson School and on behalf of the professional societies in which she has long been an active member. She served as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Sedimentary Research during the tenures of two Editors.
Shirley's current research involves diagenesis of deep to ultradeep sandstones of the Gulf of Mexico. Together with her colleague Bob Loucks, Shirley has directed the Deep Shelf Gas Consortium since 2005. With over 20 member companies, this research group is devoted to evaluating reservoir-quality controls in deep basinal settings (15,000 to 30,000 ft) in sandstones of Tertiary, Cretaceous, and Jurassic age in the Gulf of Mexico Basin. This work provides practical insights into reservoir-quality prediction of great value to industry groups working deep reservoirs of the GOM where reservoir quality is the primary risk.
A Senior Research Scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology, Shirley has contributed her expertise across a wide range of projects at the BEG, co-authoring papers with dozens of colleagues. She has also extended support to the many UT students who have been exposed to research through her longtime practice of hiring undergraduates and graduate students as her assistants. It's also important to mention here that throughout this long and productive career, including many global travels, Shirley has enjoyed the company and support of fellow University of Rochester geology graduate, UT San Antonio professor, and husband, Alan Dutton.
The Doris Curtis Medal seeks to honor "…geologists for their career contributions in the development of new concepts for understanding the geology of the Gulf of Mexico Basin and other basins globally." In his citation of Doris Curtis on the GCSSEPM Web site Ed Picou describes Doris Curtis as someone who was "….so genuinely appreciated by all." There are so very many colleagues at the BEG, all around the Gulf Coast, and in the global diagenesis community who feel the same way about Shirley and take great delight in this recognition of her career achievements by the Curtis Medal.