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Michael J. Styzen, 2007 Distinguished Service Award

styzenMichael J. Styzen entered the world in Chicago, Illinois on October 4, 1953. He was the second child of a typical Chicago mixed marriage, Polish Catholic and Irish Catholic. Midwestern winters physically toughened him and education in private elementary and public secondary schools in suburban Chicago toughened him intellectually. Early on he took inspiration from Chicago’s wonderful Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. Mike opened his mind and expanded his imagination through reading of numerous works of science fiction and science fact by authors such as Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Harland Ellison, and Isaac Asimov.

He received his B.S. degree from Illinois State University (Normal, Illinois) in 1976. The small but dedicated faculty at ISU imbued Mike with a strong geologic work ethic that stressed fundamentals of petrology, stratigraphy and correlation, mapping, and structural interpretation through execution of practical “hands-on” projects. In 1978 Mike enrolled in Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Illinois, and began working on his M.S. He joined a research group led by New Zealander and famed Antarctic researcher Peter-Noel Webb and studied in great detail the foram biostratigraphy of Deep Sea Drilling Project core holes and the Neogene paleoenvironments of the Circum-Antarctic.

Upon completing his M.S. thesis in 1980 Mike joined Mobil Exploration and Production Services in Dallas as a foram micropaleontologist. At Mobil he worked on projects from Indonesia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Gulf of Suez, and the Gulf of Mexico. Mike has always been an industry leader and he led the biostratigraphy community by being one of the first to be reorganized out his job in 1983. He joined Shell in January 1984 in New Orleans and began a new specialization in nannofossils under the mentorship of Lauralee Reugger. From the onset, Mike’s focus was on the Neogene nannofossil biostratigraphy of the Gulf of Mexico and he found himself deeply involved in the emerging deep water plays of the gulf. A prominent offshoot of Mike’s groundbreaking work in this area was publication of the famous “Shell Chart”, The Late Cenozoic Chronostratigraphy of the Gulf of Mexico, by the GCSSEPM in 1996. This chart has proved to be a standard for the GOM and one of the section’s most popular publications.

Mike subsequently contributed critical stratigraphic insights to prospects and discoveries such as Bullwinkle, Auger and the Nakika fields. In 1995 he worked the pioneering subsalt Enchilada prospect. That marked the beginning of his involvement in other subsalt plays such as Salsa and Mars basins. Mike has been involved in nearly every Shell subsalt prospect ever since, usually contributing essential well-site monitoring in addition to his shore-based studies. Most recently he has been on well-site for ultra-deep water Paleogene wildcats. In 2000-2001 Mike supervised biostratigraphic support for Shell’s renewed exploration in the Campos and Santos Basins offshore Brazil.

In 1990-91 Mike went global on the SEDCO/BP Resolution and participated in Ocean Drilling Project in the Lau Basin of the south Pacific, a fore-arc basin near the island of Fiji. This event sparked his participation in the International Nannoplankton Association (INA) where he’s been a mover and a shaker ever since. Mike’s been a member of the INA taxonomic committee since 1997 and a Co-Director of the INA Foundation since 2004. With his guidance, the Taxonomic Committee recently gained industry financial support and commitments of the academic biostratigraphic community necessary to complete the Gulf of Mexico Taxonomic Equivalency Project for Nannofossils. This project, similar to the Foram Taxonomic Equivalency project sponsored and published by GCSSEPM several years ago, will link leading academic nannofossil experts with industry experts to standardize taxonomic nomenclature and species concepts.

Mike’s deep involvement with the GCSSEPM began in 1994 when he sat on his first GCSSEPM Foundation Bob F. Perkins Research Conference committee. He has been on four other Perkins Conference organizing committees since then. That same year his friend Nancy Englehardt-Moore called him and said, “I put your name on the ballot for Secretary, hope you don’t mind”. Faced with a “fait accompli” Mike served as the section’s secretary for the next two years. He took on another thankless job, that of section Treasurer, in ’97 and ’98, before serving as GCSSEPM President in 2000 and Past-President in 2001. As if all that wasn’t enough, Mike has been a Trustee of the GCSSEPM Foundation since 2002. In the middle of all those section activities, Mike served as the GCSSEPM Program Chair for the GCAGS Convention in 1997. He also co-authored a paper on Enchilada Field with other Shell geologists. That paper was the 1997 Levorson Award winner at GCAGS.

Clearly Mike is a glutton for punishment but he takes his inspiration from two individuals, Ed Picou and Bob F. Perkins, who are legendary for their service to the Gulf Coast geologic community in general and the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM specifically. It is abundantly clear that Mike’s selfless contributions and unflagging leadership have been instrumental in sustaining the well-known quality of the Perkins conferences and continuing growth and success of the Gulf Coast Section of the SEPM.

Tony D’Agostino