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In memory of William T. Frankenberger, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry

William T. Frankenberger

William T. Frankenberger, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry, passed away suddenly on August 14, 2021 at the age of 69. He retired from UC Riverside in April 2011 after 30 years of distinguished service in the Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences. After graduating high school in Kansas, he received a track scholarship in pole vaulting at Emporia State University, graduating in 1974 with a BA degree in Biology. He then attended Iowa State University in 1975 and received a Master’s degree (1977) and Ph.D. (1980) in the Department of Agronomy.  In 1982, he received the Emil Truog Award from the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) for the most outstanding dissertation nationwide in Soil Science.
 
In 1981, Dr. Frankenberger joined the faculty at UCR. His research interests included agronomic and environmental microbiology with an emphasis on microbial production of plant hormones, microbial transformations of oxyanions (selenium, arsenic, chromium and perchlorate) and bioremediation of hazardous chemicals.
 
Dr. Frankenberger received the highest honor in Environmental Protection from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (1995) for developing an innovative bioremediation technology, overcoming political and bureaucratic hurdles, for permanent, cost-effective and safe cleanup of selenium in the environment. In 1988, he filed a patent to remove selenium via microbial detoxification from contaminated sediments at Kesterson Reservoir in Central California. This innovation persuaded the US government to change its plans to create a capped landfill over the Superfund site at the reservoir, instead using his intrinsic bioremediation method on the dewatered sediments at the 1200-acre site. The University of California cited Dr. Frankenberger’s work as one of UC’s greatest 50 research accomplishments during the period from 1983-1989.  Since then, federal and state regulatory agencies have adopted intrinsic bioremediation as a viable option in remediation of hundreds of sites containing other hazardous chemicals including solvents, pesticides, and petroleum products. 
 
Dr. Frankenberger has received numerous national awards including election as Fellow in five scientific societies (ASA, SSSA, ASM, AAAS and AIC). He received the American Society of Agronomy Environmental Quality Research Award (1996), the Soil Science Research Award (1997), the Agronomic Research Award (1999), and recognition for being one of the 100 most highly cited researchers worldwide in the area of ecology/environment. During his career he published 240 journal articles and authored or edited 8 books.
 
In November 2015, Dr. Frankenberger established an Endowed Faculty Professorship in Soil Science at Iowa State University in the Department of Agronomy. 
 
Bill spent his retirement years in Stevensville, Montana with his wife Margaret Beebe-Frankenberger. He leaves behind two sons (Spencer and Grant) and a step-daughter Melanie. He was preceded in death by his son Ryan.
 

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