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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 61
WENDELL PHILLIPS WOODRING
June 13, 1891-January 29, 1983
BY ELLEN J. MOORE
WENDELL PHILLIPS WOODRING worked for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) almost continuously for over forty-five years. His first job with the USGS was as a field assistant (or roustabout, as he called it) during the summer of 1912. This may have been the time he set his party chief adrift in a boat on a fast-moving river with the oars aboard but without the oarlocks in place. In spite of this youthful blunder, he was given a second chance, and he became an internationally recognized authority on Tertiary fossils of the Caribbean, Central America, and California.
Woodring's recognition of time-equivalent dissimilar lithologic facies in the California Coast Range brought order to a near-chaotic complexity, and it is the basis for all subsequent studies in that area. His painstaking and probing studies of Cenozoic molluscan faunas in the Caribbean and the adjacent eastern Pacific led to his estimate of almost precisely at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary for the completion of the Panamanian sea barrier and land bridge. This estimate also established the time of initiation of the great Pleistocene mammal migrations between North and South America.