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Montana Tech Announces Uuno Sahinen Silver Medallion Awardee


Montana Tech names Don Winston Uuno Sahinen Awardee. The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology at Montana Tech has named Dr. Don Winston as the recipient of the 2015 Uuno Sahinen Silver Medallion. The award is named after former Bureau Director, the late Uuno Sahinen, who is widely recognized for the Bureau’s growth. The Uuno Sahinen Award acknowledges “outstanding contributions in understanding and development of energy, mineral, or groundwater resources in Montana” and is given to an outstanding geologist each year. The award will be presented to Dr. Winston at the university’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16, 2015.

Dr. Don Winston was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Minneapolis where he graduated from high school in 1949. He earned a B.A. in Geology from Williams College in 1953, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Geology from University of Texas at Austin in 1963. His Master’s thesis research was on paleoecology of Cambrian and Ordovician trilobites, and his doctoral research focused on the stratigraphy and petrology of Lower Pennsylvanian rocks in central Texas.

In the fall of 1961, Don accepted a position at the University of Montana Geology Department where he taught Carbonate and Sandstone Petrology, Biostratigraphy, Invertebrate Paleoecology, and various field geology courses including an annual Sedimentology course along the Oregon coast. He dedicated decades of research to the stratigraphy and sedimentology of the Precambrian Belt Supergroup, an immensely thick (as much as 18 km) package of rocks in western Montana and northern Idaho. More than anyone else, Don revolutionized the understanding of these 1.4 to 1.5 billion year old rocks that were deposited when only primitive organisms existed and at a time when the atmosphere was much different than today.

Don’s attention to the stratigraphy and sedimentology of the Belt Supergroup provided many of his students with the knowledge and tools to research Belt syn-sedimentary and host- rock mineralization including silver, lead, zinc, copper, and gold. Many of his students became experts in Belt mineral exploration, some followed in his footsteps as Montana geology professors, and others continued Belt academic research. Don’s former students who are geologists at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology and Idaho Geological Survey produce geologic maps of Belt Supergroup rocks that would not be possible without Don’s mentoring. One of Don’s former graduate students edited a classic MBMG Special Publication on the Belt Supergroup which is primarily a collection of research papers, maps, and correlated stratigraphic sections by Don and his former students. Another of Don’s former graduate students, whose research on Belt Supergroup rocks in Montana launched a career studying Precambrian sedimentary successions throughout the world, is now Chief Scientist for NASA’s Curiosity rover mission.  He compared the sedimentary features on Mars with those of the Belt Supergroup in his keynote address at the 2014 Geological Society of America meeting in Bozeman.

Although Don retired in 2004, his passion for research on the Belt Supergroup is ongoing. As an emeritus professor at the University of Montana, he continues to collect new field data, give talks, attend professional meetings, publish papers, lead field trips, mentor students and colleagues, and share his knowledge of Belt rocks with anyone who is interested. He is a long-time active member of the Belt Association, Tobacco Root Geological Society, Geological Society of America, and the Society of Sedimentary Geology.  The 2014 Rocky Mountain Section (66th Meeting) and the Cordilleran Section (110th Meeting) of the Geologic Society of America, held a special session in honor of Don’s career accomplishments.