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AZGS moving out of state government to the University of Arizona

Article Author(s): 

Michael Conway

Overview. On 30 June 2016, the Arizona Geological Survey transfers out of State Government to the College of Sciences at the University Arizona. This is not new territory for us, we were ensconced at the university for most of the 20th century, leaving in 1989 to become an independent state agency. Our return to the U of A was presaged by Governor Ducey’s FY-2017 budget proposal, which zeroed out the AZGS budget and transferred AZGS duties to the University of Arizona.

AZGS Financial Resources. In fiscal year 2017, the University of Arizona has stepped forward to provide AZGS a one-time allocation of ~ $941,000 equal to the Survey’s annual appropriation; thereby providing some breathing room to get our feet set squarely on the ground. Going forward, AZGS will become an entirely soft money shop, wholly reliant on grants and contracts to support staff, produce high quality geologic reports and maps, and fulfill our state mission of addressing the geology, mineral resources, and natural hazards of Arizona.

Unfortunately, most of the administrative overhead revenues from grants and contracts will be retained by the U of A. This amounted to an amount greater than our state appropriation in recent years, thus reducing funds roughly in half that we used to conduct geologic bedrock and surficial mapping, update earth fissure maps, monitor earthquakes, and conduct outreach to inform Arizonans of the geology and geologic hazards.

With loss of overhead from grants and contracts, and in the absence of a dedicated funding stream from state government, staff reductions are inevitable. Since the move to the University of Arizona was announced, five people have found other employment and our chief of geoinformatics, Steve Richard, and chief of economic geology, Nyal Niemuth, have selected to retire. They will be sorely missed as will the others, all of whom filled important and strategic positions at AZGS. At the moment, there are no plans to replace staff. Other staff have been notified of pending lay-offs.

Polly Rosenbaum Building, site of the Arizona Mining, Mineral and Natural Resource Education Museum. (Courtesy of Cronkite News)Arizona Mining, Mineral, & Natural Resource Education Museum. On 6 August 2016, AZGS takes possession of the Polly Rosenbaum Building, formally the El Zaribah Shrine Temple, and former home of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum from the Arizona Historical Society. Shuttered in 2011, the building requires ~ $700,000 to $900,000 of structural repairs before it can be occupied. The Arizona Dept. of Administration is the landlord but requires that AZGS as the tenant to assume responsibility for all repairs and remodeling.

The Arizona Historical Society, the current curators of the 20,000 specimen mineral collection, will deliver those materials to AZGS following the museum renovation.



AZGS Digital Resources. It is our intent to maintain and grow our online digital resources going forward. Some select AZGS digital resources:

  • – AZGS web environment
  • AZGS Online Document Repository – with AZGS and predecessor geologic bulletins, circulars, open-file reports and contributed maps and reports from 1915 to 2016
  • Natural Hazards in Arizona – interactive hazard viewer: earthquake epicenters, faults, earth fissures, floods and fire risk
  • AZGS Mining Data – with more than 20,000 documents (400,000 pages), 1,000s of mine and geologic maps, and 6,000 images

Where to from here? Later this month we move to the Arid Lands Building on the northeast side of campus: 1955 E 6th St, PO Box 210184 | Tucson, AZ 85721

Our e-mail addresses will remain unchanged for now, but we will receive new phone numbers.

The following news articles, op-ed pieces, and blog posts document the last several months of activity leading up our transfer to the University of Arizona.

News Articles & Op-Ed pieces

Blog posts from Lee Allison’s Arizona Geology Blog (in chronological order from most recent to oldest))

Chief, Geologic Extension Service
AZ Geological Survey

Acknowledgements. Since learning of Governor Ducey’s plan to eliminate funding and move AZGS out of state government, it has been a tumultuous roller-coaster of a ride. Our friends and stakeholders in the geosciences, professional societies, Univ. of Arizona, mining industry, other industry stakeholders, and the State Legislature have stepped forward with encouragement and further promises of assistance going forward. AZGS staff have received dozens and dozens of e-mails and phones calls wishing us well and offering help. Our thanks to all of you for your support and kind words.

We are moving forward into an uncertain future, but with the active support of our many stakeholders, we will survive.

Follow us at Lee Allison’s Arizona Geology Blog, AZGS Facebook or Twitter accounts for regular updates on the fate of the Arizona Geological Survey.

Visit the Arizona Experience Store
Visit the Arizona Experience Store
AZGS Digital Document Repository
AZGS Earth Fissure Viewer
State Geothermal