Presentation of the 2014 Gilbert Harris Award to
Richard L. Squires
October 20, 2014

Citation by Warren D. Allmon

The Gilbert Harris Award is presented annually by PRI in recognition of career excellence in systematic paleontology. The recipient is a scientist who, through outstanding research and commitment to the centrality of systematics in paleontology, has made a significant contribution to the science.

Dick Squires received his Ph.D. in Geobiology from Caltech in 1973 and began teaching at California State University Northridge in Fall 1974, where he has been ever since. Teaching and research have always been equally important to him, and he has won distinguished awards in both.

Dick’s dissertation work focused on the fauna of the Pennsylvanian Buckhorn asphalt of southern Oklahoma, for which he analyzed the fauna for burial environment, diagenesis, and mineralogy. Following his arrival at Northridge, he took an interest in local Miocene and Eocene formations and quickly became an expert on those faunas particularly the Eocene Llajas Formation of Simi Valley. The Llajas Formation was a relatively unknown formation and very little information was available on its rich invertebrate fauna outside of unpublished masters theses completed in the 1950s and 1960s. Dick’s 1981 description of the depositional environments and sedimentology and his 1984 monograph of the invertebrate fauna remain as the primary sources of information on the Llajas Formation. In the early 1990s, he began to work in earnest on Cretaceous mollusks of the Pacific slope of North America. Since then he and frequent co-author LouElla Saul (also a recipient of the Harris Award) have dramatically expanded the knowledge of Cretaceous faunas of California and the Pacific northwest including British Columbia. Together they have solved numerous molluscan taxonomic problems that have plagued paleontologists of California since the late 1800’s. Many of these problems were explained through careful examination of the fauna and its stratigraphic position within Late Cretaceous strata. With this understanding of the stratigraphy they were able to describe and map out evolutionary patterns and trends of the faunas in question.

Dick is not only a renowned expert on Cenozoic mollusks, but has published on many other fossil groups, including dragonflies, brachyuran crustaceans, corals, brachiopods, echinoids, sponges, as well as trace fossils and fossil and Recent invertebrates associated with methane seeps, chemosynthetic environments, and whale carcasses. His paleontological research is characterized by careful systematics combined with extensive understanding of structural geology, tectonics, paleoecology, depositional environments, regional geology, and has top-notch mapping skills. Nearly all of his publications that focus on new species descriptions include sections on stratigraphy, depositional environments, and paleoecology. I had the great privilege of having him take me on a one-day paleontological tour of the Los Angeles basin, and was simply amazed at his encyclopedic knowledge of all aspects of the Cretaceous and Cenozoic geology in addition to the spectacular fossils which he seemed to know every one of.

Dick is a classical systematic paleontologist in the very best sense of this term. His CV includes 112 peer-reviewed papers in professional journals and serials, 45 as single author and 50 as lead author. In addition, he is an author or co-author of 32 guidebook and technical papers. He has named, singly or with coauthors, 22 genera, 2 subgenera, 241 species, and 3 subspecies. And 5 taxa have been named for him.

Dick also possesses a passionate desire to educate not only geology majors, but non-majors and the general public as well. Throughout his long career at Northridge, he has maintained an incredibly full teaching schedule, mentoring both undergraduates and masters students. I once asked him how he managed to publish so much given that he usually taught two to four courses every semester; he replied matter-of-factly that he had arranged his teaching into Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, leaving Tuesday and Thursday free for research. I was and remain in awe of this quiet discipline.

After a vibrant career of 40 years, Dick will retire from Northridge at the end of this Fall. As his department’s website announces with joy, he is not retiring from research, and so “his list of publications and discoveries will continue to grow”.

It is with pleasure and honor that the Paleontological Research Institution presents its 2014 Gilbert Harris Award to Richard Squires.