Earth and Environmental Sciences: More than just rocks.

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Kentucky offers students a wide variety of potential job opportunities.

Earth and Environmental Sciences: More than just rocks. from College of Arts and Sciences on Vimeo.

Higher Ed and the Presidential Election

Writing in the final days leading up to the 2012 presidential election, I am struck both by the importance of higher education to the presidential contest and the deep engagement of our College faculty and students with the election. As our nation debates its future, it is no surprise the future of higher education has become a key issue. Our future depends on increasing access to college; affordability of a college education and the availability of student loans are thus essential. Funding for research is equally essential. Public research universities, including the University of Kentucky, are responsible for more than sixty percent of the nation’s academic research and educate over seventy percent of the scientists, engineers, doctors, and professionals that we produce in this country. Continued public investment in our basic and applied research is therefore essential to the health, prosperity, and technological advancement of our nation.

Грецкие Орехи

While on a командировка in Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan this month, I had some free time to visit Arslanbob, the largest walnut grove on earth. In Russian, the term for walnut is грецкий орех, which literally translates to “Greek nut.” 

They Know H20: Hydrogeologists Jim Currens and Mike Farwell

Jim Currens and Mike Farwell go to work at the Kentucky Horse Park on a regular basis, but they’re not horse trainers. They’re hydrogeologists that work with the Kentucky Geological Survey to monitor groundwater in the Cane Run Watershed, which includes surface streams and underground water systems that run from north Lexington to the North Elkhorn Creek in Georgetown, Kentucky. They collect data at the Kentucky Horse Park - or, perhaps more accurately, from below the Kentucky Horse Park.

During Spring of 2012, we joined Farwell and Currens to see their research station at the Kentucky Horse Park, and got a sense of what a typical visit to the KGS hydrogeology research station is like. Also, check out the photo essay of the trip.

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman.


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Geologic Mapping at the University of Kentucky

On December 1, 2011, the Kentucky Geological Survey at the University of Kentucky celebrated a major achievement in the mapping of Kentucky's geology. KGS has published all 25 maps in the 30 by 60 minute geologic map series (1:100,000 scale), making them available for free to the public on their website and through a new app.

This achievement is unparalleled by any other state, making Kentucky a leader in geologic mapping and map technology.

These detailed maps show surface and subsurface rock types, formations, and structures such as faults. Geologic formations and faults control the occurrence of minerals and fuels, groundwater, and geologic hazards.

"They are an important contribution to society because the information they provide assists in the production of resources, protection of groundwater and the environment, stability of foundations and infrastructure, and avoidance of hazards," says KGS Director and State Geologist Jim Cobb. "Because the maps are available on the Web, they are always accessible to the public at no cost. Hardcopy versions of the maps can be ordered from the Survey's Publication Sales Office."

At a news conference on campus, a super-sized geologic map of Kentucky, 10 feet high by 23 feet wide, was unveiled in the foyer of the Mining and Mineral Resources Building on campus. A symposium on geologic mapping, "Celebrating Geologic Mapping for Science and Society," was held later that day at the Boone Center and featured experts from the University of Kentucky, KGS and other state surveys, the United States Geological Survey, and academic institutions.

KGS also announced a new mapping application available to the public. Smartphone and tablet users can explore the geology of Kentucky in their vicinity by using this new Web-based app for mobile devices. This requires available GPS to pinpoint their location and data access to download the map layers. If users direct their device browsers to the KGS GeoMobile site at, they can see the geologic formations and a number of other features found at the KGS geologic mapping site.

All of these maps and mapping resources are a product of the Kentucky Geological Survey and the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program of the U.S. Geological Survey which provides annual funding for such mapping. Also significant was another geologic mapping partnership between the Kentucky Geological Survey and the USGS from 1960 to 1980 that produced the original geologic maps that laid the framework for this series. The new map series is a testament to the work that can be accomplished through federal-state-university partnerships.

On a GPS-enabled device, browse to the KGS GeoMobile site at You can choose to view geologic formations like water wells and springs, sinkholes, coal beds, and oil and gas wells. A map of Kentucky showing the 30 x 60 minute geologic maps can be found on the KGS website at

A full-size version of each map can be found through the KGS publication search page at

Produced by Alicia P. Gregory (Research Communications), videography/direction by Chad Rumford (Research Communications)

This video appears courtesy of Reveal: University of Kentucky Research Media

The Sea That Has Since Disappeared: Kentucky's Geological History with Frank Ettensohn

Did you know that the Bluegrass used to be like the Bahamas? A few hundred million years ago, our region was a tropical seascape. Frank Ettensohn, a professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences at UK, offered a geology tour of the region to share the details with Earth Day celebrants. The tour began at Cove Spring Park near Frankfort, Kentucky, and then went along the adjacent road to study the exposed rock faces and collect fossils. To see pictures from the tour, check out our photo feed here at A&S or check us out on Flickr.

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman.


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Having a Blast: Volcano Demonstrations with Peter Idstein and Students

During the last week of March, 2012, Peter Idstein showed his classes how volcanoes erupt. Since there aren't any in Kentucky, Idstein used trash cans filled with water as the 'volcanoes,' and liquid nitrogen as the catalyst for the eruption. In this podcast, Idstein describes the set-up procedures, students react, and we share some explosive audio!

Idstein's demonstrations were for a course he is teaching, Geology 160: Geology for Elementary School Teachers. Idstein is the lab coordinator for the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and does research on karst hydrogeology, studying groundwater systems in Kentucky. 

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman.

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From the Trenches #2: How Much Work Will College Courses Take?

The Lexington Herald-Leader recently ran an advertising supplement that purported to list ten things college professors wanted incoming freshmen to know.  I didn't necessarily agree with all ten, but one piece of advice offered by a UK chemist matched almost word for word the answer I give to students who ask: "How much work should I expect to put into your course if I want a good grade?"

Her answer started the same way mine does: "College is a full-time job," she said.  I agree: If you're a full-time student, you should approach it as a full-time job.

Neither answer may seem particularly helpful, because what students really want is a simple number: Exactly how much time should I expect to budget if I wish to succeed in a typical course?  Once you accept that a "full-time student" should be on the job full time, though, the answer calculates itself:


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