Peter Vail, John Sangree, and Robert Mitchum, 2011 Doris M. Curtis Medalists
The 2011 award is given to Peter Vail, Bob Mitchum, and John Sangree for their pioneering collaborative research in seismic and later sequence stratigraphy. Working individually or in teams since graduate school, these three helped develop the core concepts for modern stratigraphic thought. They have maintained partnership and friendship in their consultant years “after Exxon.”
The many accomplishments of these three distinguished gentlemen have been duly recognized by various geological societies from whom they received the groups’ highest honors. Citations detailing their many accomplishments and achievements are abundant in the literature. In contrast, the Gulf Coast Section SEPM wishes to emphasize their contributions as a group: specifically, it is unlikely that their ideas would have been developed to full fruition and had their widespread impact if they had they not worked together for five decades.
Their association began in graduate school at Northwestern University in the early 1950s, where they were students absorbing the new ideas of Larry Sloss on continent-wide unconformities and cratonic sequences and the progressive ideas of Bill Krumbein and Ed Dapples on facies relationships, mapping techniques, and regional geology.
After graduate school, they worked together for many years at the Carter, Jersey, and Exxon Research Centers in a variety of capacities. They kept abreast of each other’s research and worked to have the evolving concepts applied and integrated throughout the company.
The concepts that they developed and applied are now taught routinely in undergraduate and graduate courses: sequence boundaries, chronostratigraphic significance of seismic reflections, seismic facies, and sequence stratigraphy. Their innovative collaboration ultimately led to one of the most influential books ever published on stratigraphy; namely, AAPG Memoir 26. The geology of the Gulf of Mexico basin clearly influenced their work. Several of their key publications included Gulf basin examples such as onshore Texas, and seismic stratigraphy of the West Florida slope.
Between 1986 and 1988, all three retired from Exxon, and they began working together in teaching short courses for numerous companies and groups, and consulting around the globe. As consultants, they developed long-term working relationships with many people as mentors and teachers. This mentoring and teaching was really the essential aspect in getting sequence stratigraphic concepts fully accepted and integrated throughout the geoscience community. In addition, after their “retirement” from Exxon, they collectively wrote several significant papers based on Gulf of Mexico examples that developed the concepts for the integration of biostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy.
Their joint mission to disseminate concepts and applications of sequence stratigraphy went far beyond the call-of-duty. For their pioneering concepts in the broad field of stratigraphic analyses and outstanding teaching and mentoring, the Gulf Coast Section SEPM recognizes Pete, Bob, and John with the Doris Curtis Medal.