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Geologist Baird to receive teaching award
Friday, October 18, 2013

Geologist Baird to receive teaching award

Dr. Gordon Baird

Dr. Gordon Baird of the Department of Geosciences at SUNY Fredonia has been selected to receive the Eastern Section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ Outstanding Educator Award. He will receive the award on Nov. 4 at a noon luncheon at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown, W.Va.

Dr. Baird earned his B.A. in Geology from Earlham College in Indiana in 1969, his M.S. from the University of Nebraska in Geology in 1971, and his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in Geology in 1975.

Having grown up in Rochester, N.Y., Dr. Baird was exposed early on to fossil-rich, Middle Devonian strata and quickly became addicted to field-based stratigraphy. Following completion of a paleoecological study of the Pennsylvanian, coral-rich Beil Limestone (M.S. thesis, University of Nebraska: Lincoln), he undertook a Ph.D. study of the genesis of Middle Devonian, mud-floored, submarine unconformities under the supervision of Drs. Zeddie Bowen and David Raup at the University of Rochester. This led to recognition of recurrent sloped submarine unconformity surfaces, characterized by gradients in sedimentological and faunal characteristics.

As Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago from1976 to 1981, Dr. Baird initiated a National Science Foundation-supported paleogeographic study of the famous Middle Pennsylvanian Mazon Creek concretion biota. This sedimentological project, coupled with brute-force sampling of soft-bodied animals and plants in this estuarine-deltaic deposit, allowed for the regional mapping of an inferred paleohalocline across five Illinois counties.

As a faculty member at SUNY Fredonia since 1982, and current chair of the Department of Geosciences, Dr. Baird has involved both undergraduate and graduate students at Fredonia and other institutions in his research on the stratigraphic and paleontological resources of New York Paleozoic sections and has co-authored with students on various projects.

From early on, Dr. Baird recognized the significance of thin, regionally widespread, marine marker units (paleontological event-beds, condensed units, and submarine unconformities) that partition thicker sedimentary packages into temporally mappable divisions. A 40-year-long collaboration with Dr. Carlton Brett and his students led to the publication of approximately 103 peer-review papers, non-peer-review publications and guidebooks. This work led to numerous refinements of the classic Middle Devonian succession across New York and adjacent states. Not only was sedimentary cyclicity identified in these deposits, but the overprint of migrating flexural bulges, on cycles was also recognized and reported. The connection of this cyclicity to the study of recurrent faunas in the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group led to recognition of a pattern of apparent minimal directional evolution at the community-level at this time.

Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Baird (with Dr. Brett) shifted focus to the study of Ordovician and Devonian oxygen-deficient foreland basin deposits, such as the Utica Shale and various widespread Devonian black shale units, including the greater Marcellus interval and the higher Geneseo, Dunkirk-Huron, and Cleveland black shale successions. His work included regional mapping and characterization of widespread black shale-roofed unconformities, leading to formulation of a model for unconformity-genesis on sloped flanks of strongly-subsiding foreland basins. This model evokes the actions of sediment-starvation, bottom currents, and submarine corrosion to produce insoluble placers of reworked pyrite under conditions of oxygen-deficiency and marine transgression.

Dr. Baird is working to document tie lines between long drill cores and adjacent outcrop sections through the Utica Shale succession across the Mohawk Valley region. Presently, he is also applying an event-stratigraphic approach to the end-Devonian successions of northern Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania to decipher the signatures of the global Hangenberg mass extinction and associated drastic paleoclimatic changes recognized elsewhere by others.

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