Cortland F. Eble

Cortland F. Eble
University of Kentucky, Kentucky Geological Survey

2017 Gilbert H. Cady Award

Presented to Cortland F. Eble

Citation by Jim Hower

Cortland was born on April 15, 1959, and grew up in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. He was introduced to, and gained a keen interest in, the field of microscopy by his father, Dr. Albert Eble, a professor of biology at Trenton State College, at an early age. Following graduation from Hunterdon Central High School in the town of Flemington, New Jersey, he attended Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, as a geology major in pursuit of a bachelor of science degree. While at Auburn, he was introduced to, and developed an interest in, the fields of palynology and coal geology.

Following graduation in 1981, Cortland went to West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he earned his master of science degree in 1985 and doctor of philosophy degree in 1988. During his time in Morgantown, he worked in a coal analysis laboratory, gaining experience with the different methods of testing coal. He also developed techniques for extracting spores and pollen from coal and rock, which he still uses today. Perhaps most importantly, he met the woman (Leslie) who would later become his wife in 1989. In 1986, he was invited to accompany a team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey to examine and sample ombrogenous peat bogs in Indonesia as modern analogs for certain Pennsylvanian age coal beds. After graduation, Cortland was awarded a National Research Council post-doctoral assistantship from 1988 to 1990 at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia. There, he continued his study of Appalachian coal palynology as both a biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental assessment tool.

In 1990, Cortland joined the research staff of the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) in Lexington, Kentucky as a coal geologist. Initially, his duties at the KGS involved the collection and testing of coal to develop a better understanding of Kentucky’s coal resources. Among the coals that were studied in detail was the Fire Clay coal, a study which would lay the foundation for his more recent work with rare earth elements in coals. Following the birth of his son, Francis in 1995, he was invited to participate in collaborative research in the Czech Republic, examining age relationships of Czech coal beds and their Appalachian counterparts. This research would expand to include visits to Poland in 2003 and 2006.

In the decade from 2000 to 2010, Cortland participated in a number of projects, including the petrographic examination of coal and organic rich Devonian shale for carbon dioxide sequestration and enhanced petroleum production and the examination of western Kentucky coal beds for potentially economic coal bed methane. More recently, he has participated in an evaluation of Kentucky coal resources for metallurgical use, an organic petrographic examination of the Utica Shale as a new petroleum resource in the northern Appalachian region, and an analysis of Kentucky coal and preparation plant refuse as a potential source of rare earth elements.

Cortland is a member of a number of societies, including the Geological Society of America (GSA, Fellow), the Society for Organic Petrology (TSOP), the Palynological Society (AASP), the Geological Society of Kentucky (GSK), and the Paleontological Society of Kentucky.

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