[Coral-List] FW: Retirement of Gene Shinn, Pioneer in Carbonate Sedimentology and Coral-Reef Ecosystems (USGS Soundwaves, 2/2006)

Precht, Bill Bprecht at pbsj.com
Mon Mar 27 09:37:25 EST 2006

 To All:

Please read this wonderful article


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Retirement of Gene Shinn,
Pioneer in Carbonate Sedimentology and Coral-Reef Ecosystems

By Bob Halley and Jack Kindinger
USGS Soundwaves - http://soundwaves.usgs.gov February 2006


Gene Shinn prepares a conch for dinner while explaining to a group of
geologists (outside photograph) how to tell male conchs from female

It's the end of an era: after 31 years, Gene Shinn has decided to retire
from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), where he has conducted
pioneering scientific research on carbonate sediments and coral-reef

Gene came to the USGS after a distinguished career at Shell Oil and, in
1974, established the Fisher Island Field Station, Miami Beach, Fla.
During his years at the field station, Gene won a USGS award for
developing a hydraulic drilling device, and he published extensively on
coral-reef ecosystems and modern and ancient carbonate sediments. Gene's
groundbreaking research on carbonates showed that widespread submarine
lithification is occurring on the sea floor in the Persian Gulf,
producing features that previously were believed to form only during
subaerial exposure. As a participant in the Pacific Enewetak Atoll
Crater Exploration (PEACE) project in Enewetak, Marshall Islands, Gene
made submersible and scuba dives to help determine the size, morphology,
and deformation depth of two submarine craters created by hydrogen-bomb
testing in the 1950s-a multifaceted study the USGS conducted at the
request of the Defense Nuclear Agency. Gene was a co-discoverer of
modern giant submarine stromatolites (similar to the dominant fossils of
Precambrian) that are forming in the Exuma Islands, Bahamas, reported in
the November 1986 issue of Nature (v. 324, no. 6092, p. 55-58; see URL
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v324/n6092/abs/324055a0.html). This
exciting discovery helped change the way that geologists interpret the
environments in which ancient stromatolites formed.

In 1989, when he moved to what is now the USGS Center for Coastal and
Watershed Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., Gene was working on a project
that explored the effects of offshore drilling on ecosystems-a topic as
timely today as it was then. Ever the pioneer in exploring environmental
issues, Gene also led a project from 1991 to 1994 that helped determine
the pathways and movement of sewage-contaminated ground water in the
Florida coral-reef tract. These data have been used widely and are the
basis for several court cases and environmental hearings. Later, Gene
continued to work on ground-water-seepage rates and flow direction in
Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. Recently, most people know Gene for
his research and theories on the effects of African dust on coral-reef
ecosystems. Once again the pioneer, Gene hypothesized, and led a
research group to demonstrate, that dust coming from Africa contains
viable microbes that could potentially harm various species and
ecosystems. His research even spawned a fictional novel by Sarah Andrews
entitled Killer Dust (see Science and Fiction-Sarah Andrews, Author of
Killer Dust, Discusses Her Latest Mystery Novel in Sound Waves, April

Gene's scientific impact spreads far and wide. Numerous scientists and
lay people alike know him, have seen him on TV, have talked to him on
the phone, or have e-mailed him. Why? Because Gene has always been a
great communicator on all levels. He has been an American Association of
Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Distinguished Lecturer and has received
three "best paper" and "outstanding paper" awards from major journals
and national meetings. He won the 2002 USGS Shoemaker Award for
Distinguished Achievement in Communications (see URL

Gene has led field courses for geologists since the 1950s. Carefully
elucidating how to observe carbonate-producing organisms, their
accumulated sediment, and their interpretations in ancient rocks, he has
tutored three generations of aspiring sedimentologists. It is not
unusual for students to greet Gene with the remark that "My
father/mother says your field trip in 19xx was one of the best
experiences of his/her life!"

Eugene Shinn's extraordinary contributions to our understanding of
carbonate sedimentology and coral-reef ecosystems were recognized in
1991 by the Meritorious Service Award of the Department of the Interior,
1998 by Honorary Membership in the Society for Sedimentary Geology, and
1998 by an Honorary Doctoral Degree bestowed by the University of South
Florida. Though "retired" (not!), Gene remains dedicated to pursuing his
scientific interests as a Courtesy Professor at the University of South
Florida, College of Marine Sciences. We wish Gene all the best; you may
contact him at eshinn at marine.usf.edu.


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