James P. Kennett, PhD

Title: Geology and Oceanography Researcher, Educator
Company: University of California Santa Barbara
Location: Goleta, California, United States

James P. Kennett, PhD, Geology and Oceanography Researcher and Educator at University of California Santa Barbara, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Scientists for dedication, achievements, and leadership in geology and oceanography.

Dr. Kennett became involved in his profession because when he was 10-12 years old he decided he wanted to be a geologist. He had an interest in nature study with emphasis on biology. He lived in Wellington and the geology was not very interesting but luckily his grandparents owned a dairy farm and they would go to visit quite a bit. He noticed that the area was very good geologically and began collecting fossils and rocks because they were diverse and new to him. Initially, he would take his collections to the museum in Wellington and would talk to the director or the scientist there, which was very inspiring and encouraging. Although his emphasis was in biology, as he started collecting the fossils he was directed to the Museum of Geological Survey. From going there, he discovered geology by talking with them and seeing their offices and collections and was given encouragement by two or three of the workers at the Museum of Geological Survey. He put together books, not published books, but getting to know the scientists when he was a kid, visiting the institutes, built up his interests and that stayed with him. When he was an undergraduate at Victoria University of Wellington, they didn’t know much about the geology of the oceans. He realized that it was the way he wanted to go. It turned him onto marine biology. He was attracted to coming to the United States because the real action development of marine biology was happening there and not so much in the British Empire. Dr. Kennett earned a Doctor of Philosophy in 1965 and a Doctor of Science in 1976 from the Victoria University of Wellington.

The highlight of Dr. Kennett’s career was being a pioneer in developing paleoceanography as a new field and contributed to the understanding of that. He was also proud of his graduate students, He had 20 PhD’s and numerous masters that had done so well and helped to develop the field of marine biology and paleontology. When he started as a young professor, he had all males with the occasional female, who would turn out to be pioneers, and later on when he retired, it started to become all women. Dr. Kennett started his career as a science officer for the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute from 1965 to 1966. From there, he came to the United States as a research associate with the Allan Hancock Foundation at the University of Southern California from 1966 to 1968. In 1968, he went to Florida State University to take on the role of assistant professor, staying until 1970. He then joined the University of Rhode Island in 1970, remaining until 1987, where he was an associate professor and professor. From there, he joined the University of California Santa Barbara in 1987, where he remains to this day as a Professor Emeritus. He previously held the positions of professor and director of the Marine Science Institute before retiring in 2006.

As a testament to his success, Dr. Kennett has received a Shepard Medal from the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists in 2002, an Achievement Award from the University of Rhode Island in 1981, a McKay Hammer Award from the New Zealand Geological Society in 1966 and 1967 and a Joseph Cushman Award from the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research. He was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the European Union of Geosciences. He is also listed in numerous editions of Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and Who’s Who in America.

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