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Find Your Science at GSA
16 July 2013
GSA Release No. 13-43
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach
Talia Ogliore,
University of Hawaii

GSA Penrose Medalist Steven M. Stanley.

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Joint Release:  Geological Society of America (No. 13-43) and University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

Dr. Steven M. Stanley Wins Penrose Medal, Top Honor for Pure Geology

UH Mānoa scientist made a case for the punctuational model of evolution

Boulder, Colorado, USA – Dr. Steven M. Stanley, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Department of Geology & Geophysics, is the recipient of the 2013 Geological Society of America (GSA) Penrose Medal, the Society’s highest honor. This medal, which is awarded for eminent research in pure geology, will be presented at the GSA 125th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Denver, Colorado, at an awards ceremony on 28 October 2013.

Stanley has been a research professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa since 2005. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Geology at Princeton University in 1963 and his Ph.D. in Geology at Yale University in 1968. He was previously a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

“I have been privileged to take part in two revolutions in paleontology,” said Stanley. “The first, getting underway when I was a graduate student, was the injection of biology into paleontology on a large scale: paleontology expanded into paleobiology.”

“In fact, my dissertation work dealt entirely with living animals, with the aim of bringing fossil creatures to life. No one questioned my motives, and my results were widely appreciated!” quipped Stanley.

Since the blockbuster movie Jurassic Park, people have become fascinated with paleontology. The GSA Penrose Medal was most recently awarded to a paleontologist 20 years ago, when it went to Alfred G. Fisher of Princeton, who Stanley considers an academic father figure. This makes the award all the more meaningful to Stanley.

Stanley is known for his work employing fossil data to make a case for the punctuational model of evolution. This model holds that most species are generally stable, changing little for millions of years—then, most evolution is concentrated in brief events, when new species arise from others. Among many other contributions, Stanley has also shown that changes in seawater chemistry over the course of geologic time have influenced what kinds of marine organisms have flourished as major reef builders and limestone producers.

“A second renaissance in paleontology is underway,” said Stanley, who continues to publish widely in his field. “It entails our efforts to interpret the history of life in the context of past environmental change. My efforts in this area have for the most part focused on major climate change and on changes in seawater chemistry over the course of hundreds of millions of years.”

Stanley’s book credits include best-selling textbook Earth System History as well as The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of the Species, which was nominated for an American Book Award. He has been elected to the National Academy of Science (NAS) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2006, Stanley received an NAS medal for his analysis of the meaning of shell forms of bivalve mollusks and for his studies of patterns of large-scale evolution and extinction in relation to global environmental changes of the geologic past.

“If I had a time machine and could show myself, as a graduate student, all of the things I have gotten into during the past four-and-a-half decades, the result would be utter disbelief!” said Stanley.

“I owe a great deal to all those who have produced remarkable advances over the years in such fields as paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, opening up all kinds of new avenues for research,” he said.

About the GSA Penrose Medal
The GSA Penrose Medal, established in 1927 by R.A.F. Penrose, Jr., recognizes outstanding original contributions or achievements that mark major advances in the science of geology. The Penrose Medal is considered one of the GSA’s highest individual honors, awarded to one eminent researcher in pure geology each year.

About the Geological Society of America (
The Geological Society of America (GSA) is a global professional society with a growing membership of more than 25,000 individuals in 107 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.

About UH Mānoa (
Founded in 1907, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is the flagship campus of the University of Hawaiʻi System. A destination of choice, students and faculty come from across the nation and the world to take advantage of UH Mānoa's unique research opportunities, diverse community, nationally-ranked Division I athletics program, and beautiful landscape. Consistently ranked a “best value” among U.S. colleges and universities, UH Mānoa students get a great education and have a unique multicultural global experience in a Hawaiian place of learning — truly like no place else on Earth.