Geotimes

From the Editor

This issue of Geotimes celebrates the science regularly produced, gathered and delivered by state geological surveys.

State geological surveys occupy a variety of administrative positions within state government. A survey may be part of a major state agency such as a department of natural resources or environmental protection. It may be attached to a university, or, in rare cases, may exist as a stand-alone state agency. Typically, state survey staff members conduct a combination of earth-science surveys, field studies and research that result in significant, new data on natural resources. In one way or another, all state geological surveys disseminate these new data to a broad spectrum of customers such as state agencies, local governments, educational institutions, the private sector and individual citizens. Some surveys also have regulatory functions.

No matter what an individual survey’s state-specific mission, mandate or statutory responsibilities might be, a goal common to all surveys is to put good, objective science into the hands and heads of decision-makers as they formulate public policy.

State geological surveys have different opportunities and ways of obtaining good science. Some do the science themselves or in collaboration with external colleagues. Some serve as information clearinghouses — identifying, collecting and organizing relevant scientific work produced by academia, government and the private sector. Some serve as bridges — facilitating direct communication and technology transfer between non-survey science producers and a variety of customers. Many surveys do all these things.

However they obtain information, state surveys are also committed to delivering relevant science to the appropriate public forums and deliberations in a timely, comprehensible, interesting fashion.

Feature articles in this issue demonstrate the expertise, disciplinary breadth and creativity that state surveys bring to this effort.

Gary Christenson of the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) focuses on that organization’s work along the Wasatch Front, a growing urban area where recurring natural hazards include earthquakes, floods and assorted slope failures. UGS’s geologic hazard maps have become an important tool for many of the city and county planners who live and work in this geologically active region.

Ken Bradbury describes the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey’s work on understanding and quantifying fluid movement in the fractured carbonate rocks that serve as important but exceedingly vulnerable regional aquifers in northeastern Wisconsin. The work has supported the development of a wellhead-protection plan for municipal wells in the city of Sturgeon Bay.

David Gosselin and colleagues from the Nebraska Geological Survey present their work characterizing the geographically variable groundwater geochemistry of Nebraska’s Dakota aquifer. They explain how local groundwater chemistry may be a guide not only to the origin, movement, recharge potential and mixing of groundwater, but also to good strategies for managing groundwater.

Effectively and efficiently transferring relevant geoscience information to appropriate decision-makers is no easy task. However, field trips have an almost universal appeal. Paul Bauer explains how the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources conducts annual Decision-Maker Earth Science Field Conferences that appear to have successfully accomplished this transfer.

Of course, state geological surveys do not and should not have a corner on doing and delivering good, relevant earth science to decision-makers and policy-makers. But state surveys do provide models that are working and, I hope, inspiration for the profession to consider.

James M. Robertson
Geotimes Corresponding Editor


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