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UK Professor Named Kentucky State Geologist

by Sarah Okrzynski

Jim Cobb has come a long way from working in the mail room at the Illinois State Geological Survey: he's recently been named the new state geologist and director of the Kentucky Geological Survey.

"I feel very fortunate and blessed," Cobb says. "Kentucky has a diverse and interesting natural geology that makes my job very exciting."

Photo of Jim CobbCobb, a native of Illinois, earned his bachelor's degree in geology at the University of Illinois. He received his master's from Eastern Kentucky University and then went back to Illinois for his doctorate. In 1980, he returned to Kentucky, where he saw great opportunities. He was right.

For the past 10 years, Cobb has been the assistant state geologist. In his new position he follows Donald Haney, who served as state geologist for 21 years before retiring. Cobb is only the 12th director in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Geological Survey.

The Kentucky Geological Survey, a UK institute, investigates Kentucky's mineral, energy, and water resources by studying geological samples gathered by field researchers. The survey also advises federal, state, regional and local governments, and responds to over 13,000 requests annually for information related to coal, water, oil, natural gas, minerals and geological hazards such as landslides, sinkholes and seismic activity.

Under Cobb the survey will concentrate on keeping current information available on the Internet at <>. KGS will expand its Web database of maps and information on Kentucky's natural resources as well as the Web-based Earth science education network designed to aid teachers and attract students to the study of geology. The network explains Earth science concepts to students from kindergarten age to 12th grade.

"The survey stores millions of bits of information on geology, maps, and resources," Cobb says. "Making it available on the Internet will make it easier to distribute that information."

As the state geologist, Cobb will not only manage the survey but will also spend time in Frankfort briefing legislators on Kentucky's ground-water availability, water supply, minable coal and mineral availability, and oil and gas resources. Legislators use this information to make decisions on issues such as water usage, waste management, flooding and natural hazards, and mining.

Cobb also says he loves teaching at UK and does not want to cut back on that, he says. "There's something about being with students that keeps me charged up," he says.