Other Medal Recipients


Charles D. Winker, 2017 Doris M. Curtis Medal

It is a pleasure and honor to present Dr. Charles D. Winker with the 2017 Doris Malkin Curtis Medal from the Gulf Coast Section SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology). The Curtis Medal recognizes geologists for their career contributions to the development of new concepts for understanding the geology of the Gulf of Mexico Basin and other basins globally. Charlie’s 40-yr career as a student, scholar, and research scientist in the oil industry have had significant impact on both our empirical understanding of the Gulf of Mexico and other basins, as well as transformed the way people think about these basins.

A brief history: Charlie received his B.S. in Geology from the University of Georgia in 1977, and his M.S. from The University of Texas at Austin in 1979. He then worked at the UT Bureau of Economic Geology and later at the Institute for Geophysics, followed by a move to Tucson, where he obtained his Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Arizona in 1987. From there, Charlie joined Shell, where over the course of a 29-year career he worked in deep-water exploration, development, production, and research. Charlie retired from Shell in 2016, and now resides in Brenham, Texas.
Charlie’s research contributions began in 1977 with a high-profile paper in Geology, based on work with Jim Howard at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Georgia, where he mapped and described relict shorelines of the Atlantic coastal plain, demonstrating significant warping in what was at the time believed to be a tectonically stable setting. Also in 1977, he published his first paper on Gulf of Mexico topics in the GCAGS Transactions, which discussed Plio-Pleistocene shorelines of the eastern Gulf. For his M.S. thesis under Vic Baker and Bob Morton at UT Austin, he began to integrate the classical terrace stratigraphy of the Texas Pleistocene onshore with high-resolution seismic stratigraphy offshore, to investigate how the coastal plain and shelf are genetically linked. His paper, entitled “Cenozoic shelf margins, northwestern Gulf of Mexico,” published in 1982 in the GCAGS Transactions, remains his most cited contribution for a number of concepts about shelves and shelf margins, and for the first synthesis of changes in tectonics of the continental interior, paleodrainage, and sediment routing for the Gulf of Mexico through time. His Ph.D. research under Susan Kidwell and Bill Dickinson focused on the ancestral Colorado River delta and Gulf of California as recorded in Neogene stratigraphy of the western Salton Trough, some of which was published in Geology in 1986. Charlie’s paper with Dick Buffler in the AAPG Bulletin in 1988, entitled “Paleogeographic evolution of early deep-water Gulf of Mexico and margins, Jurassic to Middle Cretaceous (Comanchean)” was also highly impactful, and recognized with the Wallace E. Pratt Memorial Award for best paper in the AAPG Bulletin.

During his time at Shell, Charlie pioneered company studies of the shallow stratigraphy of the Gulf of Mexico and other shelf and shelf-margin systems of the world as analogs for the deeper parts of the section. He was one of the first to connect shelf to slope to deep-water systems in the young, shallower Neogene successions in ways that are foundational to how we understand connections between these systems today. His mapping and documentation of Neogene deep-water strata paved the way for understanding the scale and distribution of deep-water fan systems in the basin as a whole, and his work on the Pleistocene salt canopy minibasins was among the first to explicitly document their history and patterns of filling from high-resolution seismic and other data. Charlie also employed his knowledge of near-surface marine geology to identify geohazards associated with deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and West Africa, especially the problem of shallow-water flow that had vexed drillers since the early years of deep-water exploration. While working at Shell on a wide range of stratigraphic projects from basin-scale reservoir and source-rock prediction down to reservoir architecture and zonation, he maintained his contributions to the broader Gulf of Mexico community by publishing a number of papers in the GCSSEPM Perkins Research Conference Proceedings volumes. Last but not least, while at Shell, Charlie has been extremely giving of his time to, and very effective at, mentoring numerous young geoscientists over the years.

For these and other contributions to the Gulf of Mexico and other sedimentary basins, the Gulf Coast Section SEPM is pleased to award Dr. Charles D. Winker the Doris Malkin Curtis Medal.

Mike Blum
GCSSEPM Past President