Frank R. Ettensohn

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  • Professor
  • Jefferson Science Fellow
  • College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished professor
  • Earth & Environmental Sciences
  • Sedimentary Geology
314A Slone Research Building
8592571401(office), 8594895594 (mobile)
Research Interests:

Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1975


Frank Ettensohn's research interests largely center on sedimentary geology and are integrative and field-oriented in nature. His background is in the fields of stratigraphy, sedimentology, and paleontology, but he has found it rewarding to integrate these disciplines with each other and commonly with regional tectonics for a more complete resolution of the problem at hand. Dr. Ettensohn and his students have been especially successful using this approach in the areas of black-shale geology, carbonate paleoenvironments, and seismites.

Recently, this approach has been used to decipher possible relationships between foreland-basin stratigraphy and tectonics via lithospheric flexure. Based on his recent work on the Appalachian Basin, it appears that there is growing evidence in the Paleozoic foreland-basin sequence for the presence of second- and third-order, unconformity-bound flexural sequences reflecting orogenies and included tectophases. These sequences generally exhibit a well-ordered stratigraphic succession of dark shales, flysch-like clastic sediments, carbonates, and marginal-marine clastic sediments, which may be repeated several times reflecting recurrent tectophases. Similar sequences have been observed in other North American foreland basins, and it is a continuing goal of this research to see how extensive in time and space such sequences are, for they potentially have great predictive value. Dr. Ettensohn has also used related approaches for understanding how far-field tectonic forces may influence development of more distal, cratonic stratigraphy during coeval, craton-margin orogenies.

Most recently, Dr. Ettensohn and his students have been examining horizons of soft-sediment deformation of probable seismic origin, or seismites, in these sequences as evidence of coeval far-field tectonic effects. Although Dr. Ettensohn encourages integrative studies, he has also advised more specific studies in paleontology and stratigraphy, particularly in the area of echinoderm paleoecology and systematics, which is an area of special interest.

Selected Publications: 

Zeng, M., Ettensohn, F.R., and Wilhelm, D.B., 2013, Upper Mississippian (Lower Carboniferous) carbonate stratigraphy and syndepositional faulting reveal likely Ouachita flexural forebulge effects across eastern Kentucky, U.S.A.: Sedimentary Geology, v. 289, p. 99–114.

Ettensohn, F.R., Lierman, R.T., Mason, C.E., Andrews, W.M., Jr., Hendricks, T., Phelps, D.J., and Gordon, L.A., 2013, The Silurian of central Kentucky, U.S.A.: Stratigraphy, paleoenvironments and paleoecology, in Laurie, J.R., ed., Siluro-Devonian Studies II: Memoirs of the Australasian Palaeontologists, v. 44, p. 159-189.

Ettensohn, F.R., and Lierman, R.T., 2012, Chapter 4, Large-scale tectonic controls on the origin of Paleozoic, dark-shale, source-rock basins: Examples from the Appalachian foreland-basin region, eastern United States, in Gao, D., ed., Tectonics and sedimentation: Implications for petroleum systems: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir 100, p. 95–124.

Ettensohn, F.R., Zhang, C., Gao, L., and Lierman, R.T., 2011, The matter of context in interpreting soft-sediment deformation as seismogenic and a new type of seismogenic deformation: Sedimentary Geology, v. 235, p. 222-233.

Coates, J.W., Ettensohn, F.R., and Rowe, H.D., 2010, Correlations across a facies mosaic within the Lexington Limestone of central Kentucky, U.S.A., using whole-rock stable-isotope compositions, in Finney, S., and  Berry, W.B.N., eds., The Ordovician Earth System: Geological Society of America Special Paper 466, p. 177–193.

Ettensohn, F.R., 2010, Origin of Late Ordovician (mid-Mohawkian) temperate-water conditions on southeastern Laurentia: Glacial or tectonic?, in Finney, S., and Berry, W.B.N., eds., The Ordovician Earth System: Geological Society of America Special Paper 466, p. 163–175.

Ettensohn, F.R., Ausich, W.I., Kammer, T.W., Johnson, W.K., and Chesnut, D.R., Jr., 2009, 11: Carboniferous echinoderm succession in the Appalachian Basin, in  Greb, S.F., and Chesnut, D.R., Jr., eds., Carboniferous of the Appalachian and Black Warrior basins: Kentucky Geological Survey Special Publication 10, p. 85–93.

Blake, D.B., and Ettensohn, F.R., 2009, The complex morphology of a new Lower Silurian Asteroid (Echinodermata): Journal of Paleontology, v. 83, p. 63–69.

Ettensohn, F.R., 2008,Chapter 4,The Appalachian foreland basin in the eastern United States, in Miall, A., ed., The Sedimentary basins of the United States and Canada: Sedimentary Basins of the World, Amsterdam, Elsevier, p. 105–179.

Ettensohn, F.R., 2005, Chapter 5. The sedimentary record of foreland-basin, tectophase cycles: Examples from the Appalachian basin, in Mabesoone, J.M., and Neuman, V.H., eds., Cyclic development of sedimentary basins, Developments in sedimentology, 57: Amsterdam, Elsevier, p. 139-172.

Ettensohn, F.R., Kasl, J.M., and Stewart, A.K., 2004, Structural inversion and origin of a Middle/Late Ordovician carbonate buildup: Evidence from the Tanglewood and Devils Hollow members, Lexington Limestone, central Kentucky (USA): Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 210, p. 249-266.

Ettensohn, F.R., 2004, Modeling the nature and development of major Paleozoic clastic wedges in the Appalachian Basin, U.S.A.: Journal of Geodynamics, v. 37, 657-681.

Jewell, H.E., and Ettensohn, F.R., 2004, An ancient seismite response to Taconian far-field forces: The Cane Run Bed, Upper Ordovician (Trenton) Lexington Limestone, central Kentucky: Journal of Geodynamics, v. 37, p. 487-511.

Ettensohn, F.R., Kulp, M.A., and Rast, N., 2002, Interpreting ancient marine seismites and apparent epicentral areas for paleo-earthquakes, Middle Ordovician Lexington Limestone, central Kentucky, in Ettensohn, F.R., Rast, N., and Brett, C.E., eds., Ancient seismites: Geological Society of America Special Paper 359, p. 177-190.

Ettensohn, F.R., Hohman, J.C., Kulp, M.A., and Rast, N., 2002, Evidence and implications of possible far-field responses to Taconian Orogeny: Middle-Late Ordovician Lexington Platform and Sebree Trough, east-central United States: Southeastern Geology, v. 41, p. 1-36

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