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Richard H. "Dick" Fillon, GCSSEPM Honorary Member

fillonThis year, the Gulf Coast Section SEPM recognizes Richard H. “Dick” Fillon for his important contributions in understanding of Gulf of Mexico geology, and for his selfless professional service to the GCSSEPM and other professional societies. In a 35 year professional career, Dick has made important contributions in the fields of marine geology, paleoceanography, biostratigraphy and micropaleontology. Dick has always brought a keen intellect and insight into his work, based on a strong, fundamental understanding of basic concepts. He routinely challenges many traditional interpretations, proposes innovative questions and solutions. His easy-going manner makes him a valued scientific colleague and friend to many of us in the geosciences.

Dick grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he showed an early interest in the geosciences as he explored the local salt marshes and few “wilderness areas” that still existed in Brooklyn when he was young. He continued his childhood interests by pursuing a degree in geology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York where he received his BS degree in 1967. While an undergraduate at RPI, his most important life decision occurred early when he met and married his partner, Jerri. Their twin daughters, Emily and Liz, remain the light of their lives. Even though they live in separate states, they are a close-knit family sharing many holidays and vacations together.

Dick continued his studies in geology at the University of Vermont receiving his M.S. degree in 1969. His studies were centered on the complex Quaternary history and paleolimnology of the Mississquoi bird’s foot delta in Lake Champlain.

The following year, one year into a Ph.D. program begun at Florida State University, his major professor Jim Kennett, along with Professor Norm Watkins, moved to the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Dick transferred there to continue research on the Pliocene-Pleistocene biostratigraphy, magneto-stratigraphy and paleoceanography of the Antarctic Seas. He completed his Ph.D. at URI in 1972.

Dick’s career path spans both academia and industry. The first thirteen years were spent at premier oceanographic institutions. Dick began his academic career as a research scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1972-1975), was a visiting scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (1975-1976), and spent seven productive years as a research scientist with Canada’s Atlantic Geoscience Center at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia (1974-1981). In these settings, Dick focused on the important emerging fields of global climate change, paleoceanography, and the glacial marine geology of the Labrador Shelf.

In 1981, Dick accepted an appointment as associate professor of research at the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Research and senior research associate in the Department of Geology at the University of South Carolina. While at USC, Dick began to work on the detailed biostratigraphy of the Gulf of Mexico and its responses to Late Pleistocene glacial events. He also began his initial work with industry as he helped to organize an industry-sponsored research program on Gulf of Mexico stratigraphy. This experience helped him to develop an understanding and appreciation of the scientific problems faced by industry.

The second part of Dick’s career began in 1985 when he started working as an exploration stratigrapher with Texaco Exploration and Production in New Orleans. He spent fourteen years working on both research and applied problems primarily in the Gulf basin. In 1999, he retired from Texaco, and formed Earth Studies Group, a consulting company where he currently conducts work related to exploration and geoscience research. He has continued to work with a variety of people on problems in applied geosciences. One area where he has been a leader is in the application of biostratigraphy to helping unravel key problems in deep-water geology.

The key theme throughout Dick’s career has been the interdisciplinary nature of his research. Dick’s publications record is both broad and extensive. He has published more than 100 papers and abstracts on an incredible diversity of geologic, oceanographic, and paleontologic topics. The significance of his work is indicated by his receipt of three “best paper” awards. Two were from the GCAGS: “Lower Miocene Early Pliocene Deposystems in the Gulf of Mexico: Regional Sequence Relationships” in 2000, and “Multiple Overlapping Foraminiferal Litho-Biofacies: Applications to Deep Water Sedimentology and Reservoir Properties of turbidites” in 2003. The third award was the AAPG’s best international poster award in 2004 for a poster entitled “Deltaic Deposits and Linked Downslope Petroleum Systems.” These indicate the significance and recognition of his research by his peers.

A substantial part of Dick’s career has been in service to our profession. Dick’s service to the GCSSEPM has been extensive, exemplary, and essential to the success of the section. He has made the extraordinary effort of co-organizing two of the Bob F. Perkins Research Conferences: the 2001 Conference titled “Petroleum Systems of Deep-Water Basins: Global and Gulf of Mexico Experience” and the 2003 the 23rd Annual Research Conference titled “Shelf Margin Deltas and Linked Down-Slope Petroleum systems.” Both of these meetings were highly successful and the proceedings volumes continue to be extensively referenced. Dick also served GCSSEPM as President in 2003. For all of this work, he received the Distinguished Service Award in 2005 from the GCSSEPM. As an aside, Jerri Fillon served as the projectionist and timekeeper for several of the GCSSEPM Research Conferences, making the conferences a family affair.

For the SEPM, in 2004 he co-edited the seminal book “Late Quaternary Stratigraphic Evolution of the Northern Gulf of Mexico.” This is an important volume that summarizes, in one place, many of studies of the past two decades collected by different research groups. The volume serves as an important analog for late Quaternary and older depositional systems across the world.

On a personal note, I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have worked with Dick, having collaborated with him on one of the Perkins Research conferences. When I need help writing a chapter on applied deepwater biostratigraphy, Dick was the first one I contacted to co-author the chapter.

Harry Roberts wrote that “Dick has a special love for the geosciences that is contagious. His enthusiasm and in-depth understanding of an amazing number of facets of geology are an inspiration to all who have worked with him.”

Thus, it is altogether appropriate and fitting that Dick Fillon receives Honorary Membership from the Gulf Coast Section SEPM as he had made so many important contributions to the science of the Gulf Basin. Dick—from your friends and colleagues—very well done.

Paul Weimer