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Director's Message

Article Author(s): 

Lee Allison

125th Anniversary of Arizona Geological SurveyThe Arizona Geological Survey celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2013, tracing our origins back to the creation of the Office of Territorial Geologist in 1888, 25 years before Arizona became a state. Over this time we underwent a number of transformations, moving into the University of Arizona in 1893, where we served under a variety of names but for the longest period as the Arizona Bureau of Mines. For the last 25 years we have been an independent agency reporting directly to the Governor, one of only two state geological surveys in the nation in that position.

My colleague Priscilla Grew, when she was State Geologist of Minnesota, was asked by a state legislator when her organization would be finished carrying out its geologic survey of the state. She famously replied, “When you’re finished legislating.”

During 125 years, our mission has grown and evolved, in response to changing needs of our society and environment. When Arizona became a state in 1912, more than 40% of the residents were involved in mining, and we focused on basic geologic mapping and identification and assessment of mineral resources. We continue to carry out those tasks, and more work still needs to be done. Arizona is consistently the number 1 or 2 non-fuel mineral producing state in the country, yet only about one-quarter of the geology of the state is mapped at a scale of 1:24,000 or better. Of course, AZGS continues to play a prominent role with Arizona’s natural resources and natural hazards. We are deeply involved in natural hazards assessment and mitigation, groundwater geology, environmental geology, and the rapidly growing specialty area of geoinformatics, or geoscience cyberinfrastructure.   

In this, our 125th anniversary year, we are celebrating the efforts of hundreds of geologists and geoscientists to understand Arizona’s remarkable geology and apply that knowledge to making our lives safer and richer. All told, AZGS and its predecessor agencies have published more than 1,000 geologic products (maps, reports, assessments, etc.). As we continue to respond to new demands and take advantage of new technologies, we are taking the lead in creating new products and establishing new communication pathways to serve Arizona. All of our publications are now digital and put online as soon as they are released. A lot of our work is communicated to our constituents through electronic and social media, including blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and a new online video magazine, “Arizona Mining Review.”

Over the past year, AZGS has continued to grow due to our success in bringing in external funds to support and underwrite our work on state issues. This allowed us, as one example, to continue operations of the Arizona Broadband Seismic Network, the first statewide earthquake monitoring system, without any direct state or federal support.

AZGS has maintained services and expanded into new areas during the economic recession by creative, entrepreneurial, and aggressive pursuit of new funding opportunities. In 2013, AZGS raised over 90% of its total budget from grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements, mostly from federal sources, and almost entirely through competitive solicitations. We started FY13 (1 July 2012 – 30 June 2012) with about three-quarters of the annual budget revenues in place and raised sufficient funds during the year to meet all obligations.

We start FY14 (1 July 2013 – 30 June 2014) with funding in place or committed to fully fund the Survey for the full year. We continue to be successful in moving from a primarily state-funded to a grant-funded mode of operation. One of our challenges is to maintain this level of fund-raising to help us meet Arizona’s continually growing and evolving needs.

Lee Allison

Director, State Geologist
Arizona Geological Survey

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