Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science

Ameha Atnafu Muluneh

School of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University



Dr. Ameha Atnafu Muluneh is an early-career Ethiopian geoscientist who uses data and models to improve our understanding of continental rifting processes in Africa, with implications for rifting and passive margin formation worldwide.In the past 6 years since completing his Ph.D., Dr. Ameha has published 10 peer-reviewed papers.He has developed analytical and numerical models to predict dynamic stresses on the extending African plate, and he made direct comparisons with fault kinematic and palaeomagnetic data sets.The work forms a strong foundation for understanding of plate rheology, along-axis segmentation, and transform fault initiation at incipient seafloor spreading centers.

Dr. Ameha’s publications demonstrate expertise in paleomagnetism, structural geology, and geodynamics.In addition, he has extensive experience in hydrological and geological mapping from the Geological Survey of Ethiopia prior to his graduate studies.Ameha has forged new links between his home university in Addis Ababa and major research institutes worldwide. He successfully gained third-party funds from the Canon Foundation for a research stay at Kyoto University, Japan; the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Academy of Sciences to work at the University of Rochester, N.Y.; the Canon FoundationKyoto University Japan-Africa Exchange Program at Kyoto University; the Disaster Prevention Research Institute;and The World Academy of Sciences–German Research Foundation Cooperation Visits Program for a research visit to the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Helmholtz Centre. He very recently gained a competitive grant to work at Oxford University, United Kingdom.He is an affiliate of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (Geophysics) in Trieste, Italy. 

His scientific excellence and multidisciplinary approaches allow him to integrate international collaborations into worldwide visible research on the East African Rift System and to create new opportunities for students and colleagues. He is also a strong advocate for the junior staff members at Addis Ababa University, and he has involved young colleagues in a number of his international collaborations. Ameha also has made major contributions to the promotion of two geothermal prospect areas in Ethiopia.He has very solid evidence of grant capture from both academic and industrial sources, capitalizing on funding that links structural geology to water resources and hydro infrastructure in particular. 

Dr. Ameha is a thoughtful, generous scientist with a passion for research.I speak for many in commending Ameha Atnafu Muluneh for outstanding contributions to our understanding of the geodynamics and kinematics of rifting and implications for hazards and resources.


Cynthia J. Ebinger, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, New Orleans, La.



It is an honor and a great pleasure to receive the 2020 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science from AGU.

I am grateful to Cindy Ebinger for her dedication during the nomination process.Eleven years ago, when I was an M.Sc. student, I missed the chance to get introduced to her in Afar. Back then, I would have never imagined myself being nominated by her for this incredible award. I also thank her for hosting me during my visit at Rochester in 2016.

Many people helped me throughout my career, and there are six people who deserve a special mention.

I thank Tesfaye Kidane, my M.Sc. thesis adviser and a great research collaborator, who not only helped with my scientific endeavor but also showed me the tricks of surviving in the business. I am grateful for his continuing support and advice.

I also thank my Ph.D. supervisor, Carlo Doglioni, for being a wonderful mentor and for sharing scientific insights. Marco Cuffaro deserves a big thank-you for teaching me GMT and Matlab and also introducing me to the mathematics of plate tectonics.

Likewise, I owe a lot to Giacomo Corti for being an amazing colleague, friend, and research collaborator. Since the day we met in his office in Florence in 2011, I quite enjoyed working with him on several projects studying the Ethiopian Rift.

Over the past 3 years, I have enjoyed working with Derek Keir. Derek has given me so many great opportunities, including better understanding of the seismotectonics of the Ethiopian Rift. His provoking discussions and scientific insights are extremely valuable.

Recently, I started collaborating with Sascha Brune, who I admire the most for his enthusiasm for the Ethiopian and Afar Rifts and also for providing me with access to the numerical modeling facility at GFZ, Potsdam, Germany. I am immensely fortunate to work with all of the scientists mentioned above.

I also acknowledge my colleagues at the School of Earth Sciences, Binyam Hailu, Behailu Birhanu, and Agazi Negash, for the wonderful science ideas we share during coffee (and beer) breaks. I am so incredibly thankful to my wife, Israel; my three children, Amanuel, Alula, and Delina; and my mom and dad for the love and support, which kept me sane.

Ameha Atnafu Muluneh, School of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia