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Nestell receives honorary life membership award from Permian Basin Section of SEPM

Merlynd Nestell
Merlynd Nestell

A geologist at The University of Texas at Arlington has been honored for his contributions to geological sciences in the Permian Basin of West Texas.

Merlynd Nestell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, was named an Honorary Life Member of the Permian Basin Section of the Society for Sedimentary Geology (commonly known as SEPM, the acronym for its former name, the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists). The award has been given annually since 1960.

Nestell received the award during the monthly meeting of the West Texas Permian Basin Section of the SEPM on May 16 in Midland. Three of his former master's students - Johnathon Bogacz, Robert Nail and Michael Sweat - were in attendance.

"I was surprised that this happened; there are some very well-known geologists and paleontologists that have received this honor," Nestell said. "It's very nice to be recognized by your peers, and I'm honored to receive this award."

The Permian Basin contains one of the world's most well-known and thickest deposits of rocks from the Permian geologic period, which spans almost 47 million years, from the end of the Carboniferous Period (299 million years ago) to the beginning of the Triassic Period (252 million years ago).

Asish Basu, chair and professor of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said Nestell's decades of research and experience working on the biostratigraphy of the Permian Basin make him a worthy recipient of the award.

"Dr. Nestell has devoted a great deal of time to researching the Permian Basin and has made important contributions to our knowledge of this geologic period," Basu said. "He is very worthy to receive this honor from the Permian Basin Section of the SEPM."

Nestell — who is also a professor in the UTA Department of Mathematics — has authored or co-authored over 50 publications and meeting presentations concerning the biostratigraphy and microfossils of Permian strata in the Delaware Basin, which is the second-largest component of the Permian Basin. Nestell's wife, Galina Nestell, an adjunct professor in the EES Department, co-authored a number of the publications.

"Much of the area where we have been working is on large private ranches and little or no access has generally been available for many years," Nestell said. "The kind cooperation of these large ranches has been integral to the success of this work, as has the cooperation of the U.S. Geological Survey and Mountains National Park."

Nestell has been a College of Science faculty member for 48 years and is one of the longest-tenured faculty members at UTA. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in 1957, an M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin in 1959 and a Ph.D. in Mathematics with a minor in Geology from Oregon State University in 1966.

He came to UTA in 1969 as a member of the mathematics faculty; his joint appointment with the Department of EES came in 1978 after a 1½ faculty development leave in the Department of Geological Sciences at Princeton University. He has twice been named College of Science Teacher of the Year (1990, 1994) and in 2003 he was inducted into the UTA Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

He has a lengthy record of service, having been a member of over 30 committees at the department, college, University and national levels. He has also served as an academic advisor and as faculty advisor for various student organizations. He has been field trip leader for numerous departmental geologic field excursions since 1977.