Philip Fralick
2017 Goldich Medal Recipient

ILSG Members, fellow Goldich Medalists and guests, it is my great honour to present the citation for this year’s recipient of the Goldich Medal, Dr. Philip Fralick.

Phil received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in geology from Dalhousie University in 1977 and 1980, respectively, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1985. I first met Phil when he arrived as an Assistant Professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay in 1983. I had already taken my required undergraduate sedimentology courses and unfortunately did not have the opportunity to be one of Phil’s students. However, in the 34 years that Phil has been at Lakehead, I have benefited, as have countless others, from his knowledge, enthusiasm, insight and support.

Goldich Medalists have made substantial and significant contributions to our understanding of Lake Superior geology and in doing so, advance our understanding of the science and help to put our region on a world stage. Phil has been instrumental in this regard, conducting research that has led to new concepts and interpretations that have informed other geoscientists, students and the public at large.
Phil has also been an ardent supporter of the ILSG and has been more than willing to share his ideas and findings with us in the Institute. He has been a mainstay of Institute meetings since 1985, co-chaired the Thunder Bay meeting in 2000, subsequently served on the ILSG Board of Directors and has contributed to 74 (and counting) ILSG abstracts and field guides. He has always supported his students in their participation at ILSG and has encouraged them to deliver presentations and remain active in the Institute. He is proud of the fact that many of his students have won Best Student Paper awards at our annual meetings. Clad in his signature red necktie, Phil has led countless ILSG field trips and been pressed into action on an ad hoc basis many times. His innate ability to describe and interpret sedimentary sequences has allowed us to better understand and appreciate the stories these rocks hold. He has also been involved with a number of other international symposia as an organizer, invited lecturer, field trip leader, editor and committee member.

Phil’s research, and that of his students and collaborators at Lakehead University, has contributed greatly to our understanding of the Precambrian and Quaternary geology of the Lake Superior region. His work has focused on:

  • Evolution of ocean-atmosphere geochemistry through the Precambrian;
  • Tectonic influences on basin formation and development in Precambrian sequences;
  • Genesis of iron formations, centering on understanding the shelf or deep marine hydrodynamic and chemical processes which led to the precipitation of these odd sediments; and
  • The use of depositional environment and provenance to ascertain the basin-fill architecture of sedimentary units in Mesoproterozoic to Mesoarchean terrains.

Phil and his co-researchers have extensively studied iron formations and associated sedimentary rocks in a number of Archean greenstone belts in northwestern Ontario and in the Paleoproterozoic Animikie Basin around Lake Superior in furthering these goals. In doing so, he has improved our understanding of the formation of economic deposits of not only iron, but also gold, base metals and even diamonds. He has also explored the tectonic development of the Huronian Supergroup, the Sibley Basin and the Midcontinent Rift. Some of this research stemmed from his contributions on the Science Committee for the Lake Nipigon Region Geoscience Initiative from 2002 to 2005. His work with other researchers, including past Goldich Medallists Bill Addison and Greg Brumpton, on the Sudbury Impact Layer near Thunder Bay and in northern Minnesota garnered a great deal of interest and even generated a facies analog for distal impact deposits on Mars.

Conversant not only in sedimentology, but also in geochemistry, paleontology and tectonics, Phil manages to approach his research from a broad, informed perspective. Phil’s reputation as a researcher has led to collaborations with many different organizations, including NASA's Astrobiology Institute, studying how to detect life in modern and ancient environments on Earth and other planetary bodies, such as Mars. Most recently, he was invited to join an international research team with a multi-million dollar budget to study the origins of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere by looking at Archean carbonates from the Red Lake greenstone belt and explore the fundamental question of when photosynthesis started on our planet, paving the way for the development of multicellular life.

At the request of researchers in other disciplines, Phil has also ventured into areas far beyond his usual scope of interests. He has worked and published on topics ranging from post-glacial sedimentation in the Lake Superior basin, to archaeology in the American Southwest and treatment methods for water contaminated with heavy metals. Phil’s research activities garnered him the Lakehead University Distinguished Researcher Award in 2005 “for significant contributions to research and consistency in scholarly performance sustained over an extended period”.
In addition to his role as a researcher, Phil has also been recognized for his teaching and his support of students. In 2007, Phil was given the Distinguished Instructor Award by Lakehead University. This prestigious teaching award recognizes an outstanding individual who has made a significant contribution to teaching excellence and educational innovation and leadership at Lakehead over a number of years. Perhaps the best endorsement of Phil’s teaching abilities comes from his students, who have described him as a “great storyteller” and a “rock icon” with, as we all know, a distinctive and infectious laugh. And who among us could not confess to have felt the way this student did in stating that, “the dude makes me want to become a sedimentologist!”

I’m sure that you will agree that everyone who has had the pleasure of knowing Phil knows of his enthusiasm about geology, his research and his new collaborations. His continued contributions to the ILSG, his students and his colleagues in furthering our understanding of the geology of the Lake Superior region make him a more than worthy recipient of the 2017 Goldich Medal.

Mark Smyk P.Geo.
Ontario Geological Survey
Goldich Medallist (2005)