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UK Earth and Environmental Sciences Professor Elected AAAS Fellow

By Ashley Cox

Frank R. Ettensohn, Jefferson Science Fellow, College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor, and professor of geology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Kentucky, was one of the eight geologists and nine geographers recently elected as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow. The prestigious honor recognizes Ettensohn for his extraordinary achievements, dedication and commitment to science.

AAAS was founded in 1848, with the mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, career development, international programs, science education and more. The nonprofit organization is the world’s largest general scientific society and a leading voice for science worldwide with more than 129,000 members from 91 countries. Ettensohn was named an AAAS Fellow at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C.

Before coming to UK in 1975, Ettensohn served as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and earned his doctoral degree in geology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been a member, advisor or officer of the Kentucky Academy of Science's Geology Section, the Geological Society of Kentucky, the Kentucky Paleontological Society and the Kentucky Section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), of which he was president in 2011. That year, AIPG awarded him a Service Award, and the Kentucky section awarded him its Presidential Award. Ettensohn was also selected as the Geological Society of America representative to the North American Commission on Stratigraphic Nomenclature — a commission that oversees the naming of all rock units across North America.

Ettensohn's research interests center around the integration of sedimentary geology, paleontology and tectonics and are field-oriented. The professor and his students have been successful in the areas of black-shale geology, carbonate paleo-environments and seismites, rocks that show unusual deformation related to ancient earthquakes. His approach has been to show how the formation of ancient mountain belts influenced the development of ancient seas across continents and the sediments deposited in them, using models developed in the Appalachian Basin of Kentucky and nearby states. His models are recognized around the world and have been especially useful in understanding the origin of black shales, which comprise much of the world’s gas shales, and of clastic wedges, which are large outpourings of rock debris, weathered and eroded from mountain ranges.

It is for Ettensohn’s contributions to the understanding of the origin of Appalachian black shales and clastic wedges, as well as for his outstanding teaching, mentorship and public outreach work, that he was elected an AAAS Fellow.

Regarding the incredible honor Ettensohn said, “It’s always nice to know that an organization like AAAS, which is the world’s largest general scientific society, finds merit in the teaching, outreach and research that have been a part of my career here at UK. Especially pleasing was the fact that they found my research at the university to be of such significance and quality that I was deserving of fellowship.”

Ettensohn also currently serves as president of the UK chapter of the honor society Phi Kappa Phi and of the Geological Society of Kentucky.