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Steven M. Stanley

Professor Steven M. Stanley, of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, is the recipient of the 2013 Geological Society of America Penrose Medal, the society’s highest honor. This medal, which is awarded for eminent research in pure geology, will be presented at the GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, on October 28, 2013.

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 contributions, Stanley has 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 under way,” said Stanley. “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 the 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 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2006, Stanley received a National Academy of Science 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.”

Read the UH Mānoa news release for more on Stanley.

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