Wednesday, November 23, 2011

USGS Director Marcia McNutt's Statement on the Importance of State Geological Surveys

The following written statement by USGS Director Marcia McNutt was released on November 22, 2011:

For more than 130 years, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been working in partnership
with State Geological Surveys to provide science information that is vitally important to the U.S.
economy, the safety and health of American citizens, and the sustainability and security of their
natural resources. The USGS fully recognizes and supports the need for State geological surveys
to help meet the growing challenges society faces in its interface with the natural world on a
planet undergoing modification from both natural and man-made causes.

The USGS cannot fully implement our mission without the State geological surveys. Over our
long and productive history of partnership, we have established successful ways of working
together to mutually support our citizenry and reinforce the best features of both Federal- and
State-based government, without overlap or duplication. For example, the USGS, with input
from States, provides national standards, benchmarks, and datums, such that individual State
products can be linked at the State boundaries. However, without the contributions of the States,
national maps, data bases, models, and resource assessments would be sparsely populated. This
symbiotic relationship allows the State surveys the latitude to determine which data sets are most important to their constituencies, while knowing that those data sets can be linked within a
regional context, and that the scientific standards are authoritative.

Partnerships such as this are even more important as resources at the Federal and State level
continue to decline. State geological surveys maintain a network of applied geoscience activities
throughout the country independent of the distribution of the Federal workforce. By continuing
to leverage our resources, information and knowledge, we will help the Nation and States
address future economic, sociological, environmental and resource challenges now and for
generations to come.

Marcia McNutt

Monday, November 21, 2011

Geologic sources of natural acid rock drainage in Colorado

Is high, pristine mountain water always clean and pure? Can streams unaffected by human activities and livestock influences be unfit for human consumption, or fish? A new study by the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) has some surprising answers. The study examines specific areas in Colorado that have naturally poor, surface-water quality due to the area’s geology.
The report, titled “Natural Acid Rock Drainage Associated with Hydrothermally Altered Terrane in Colorado,” identifies a number of streams in eleven different headwater areas of Colorado where surface water is acidic and has high concentrations of metals upstream of any significant human impacts. [Right, this stream, in the East Mancos River headwaters in the La Plata Mountains of southwest Colorado, is naturally acidic with high concentrations of metals simply because of the surrounding geology. Credit, Colorado Geological Survey]

Rocks in these areas were altered by intensely hot water circulating in the earth’s crust, often associated with volcanic activity during Colorado’s geologic past. The “hydrothermal alteration” of the rocks changed their composition by dissolving some minerals and depositing others. In the affected areas, the hydrothermal-alteration process deposited metal-sulfide minerals, commonly pyrite (fool’s gold), in the rocks.

When these rocks are exposed at the surface, they interact with oxygen and the iron sulfide "rusts" to form iron oxide minerals, creating striking yellow, orange, and red colors – similar to the oxidation of metal in an old rusty car. “Acid rock drainage” occurs when the sulfur that is displaced by the oxygen combines with water to form weak sulfuric acid. The acidic water then dissolves minerals from the bedrock, often adding significant amounts of dissolved metals to these headwater streams. Natural acid rock drainage has been active in Colorado for thousands, possibly millions of years.

The CGS collected 101 water samples from headwater areas and identified specific streams in the following areas as being affected by natural acid rock drainage: Silverton area, Lake City area, Platoro-Summitville area, Kite Lake area and East Trout Creek in the San Juan Mountains, the La Plata Mountains, Rico Mountains, headwaters of Lake Creek south of Independence Pass, the Ruby Range near Crested Butte, Red Amphitheatre near Alma, headwaters of the Snake River in eastern Summit County, and the Rabbit Ears Range.

Colorado headwater areas where geology generates natural acid rock drainage, causing poor water quality. For better viewings options for this map, visit

Through detailed geologic mapping, the study characterized the type and intensity of hydrothermal alteration and correlated the geology with surface-water chemistry. Many of the areas exhibiting intense hydrothermal alteration also contain historic mine sites. Frequently, Linkacid rock drainage from natural sources and mine sites combine to cause severe downstream water quality problems. In these situations it is important to distinguish the natural, or background, water quality so that realistic clean-up goals for water quality can be set.
Funding for this study came from the Colorado Geological Survey portion of the Department of Natural Resources Severance Tax Operational Account. Colorado severance taxes are derived from the production of gas, oil, coal, and metallic minerals.

To order the Natural Acid Rock Drainage: Associated with Hydrothermally Altered Terrane in Colorado please call 303-866-2611 Option 0, or visit our online book store at and search for NARD. Price is $30.00 plus shipping.

[This post is taken from the announcement by the CGS]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Search reopened for director of New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources

The search is being re-opened for the position of Director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. Closing date for applications is March 1, 2012, according to Greer Price, Interim Director.

Vacancy Announcement
Director / State Geologist

Search for:

The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources is seeking a new director and state geologist. The director must develop and articulate a forward-thinking vision of bureau programs in applied research and service and embrace a collegial leadership style. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources is a research and service division of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech). Situated in Socorro, New Mexico, on the campus of New Mexico Tech, the bureau has served as the state geological survey for 85 years. With close to 60 employees, the organization has a long-standing reputation for excellence in research, service, and outreach. Our mission includes basic research on the geologic framework of the state, with an emphasis on applied geosciences and the state’s geologic resources. We are also tasked with the gathering, preservation, and dissemination of geologic information to the professional geoscience community, state and federal agencies, and the general public. As a division of the university, the bureau works in collaboration with the academic and other divisions of the university. The position reports directly to the president of the university.

Anticipated appointment date: By Fall 2012.

Salary: Negotiable.

Sustain and enhance the environment for creative research and service at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology in order to meet the mission of the bureau and the needs of the state of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, and the geoscience community in New Mexico. Provide administrative and scientific leadership in natural resource (energy, water, and minerals) and environmental issues; geosciences data collection and analysis; basic and applied research in the geosciences; and public access to, dissemination of, and archival collection of research results and natural resource data using current and innovative technologies.
Oversee the administrative, personnel, and financial affairs of the bureau. This includes direct supervision of a significant portion of the professional staff, and being proactive in seeking additional non-bureau or external funding to support both new and ongoing programs of the bureau.
Establish policies that maintain a balance between the broad goals of research and service, while working with state government and university leadership to address the diverse funding needs of the bureau. This includes interacting with staff in the development and review of programs and personnel to insure that the bureau fulfills its broad goals. Both planning and implementation must be responsive to the needs of the state of New Mexico and sensitive to the state’s public policy issues.
Foster collaborations and positive working relationships with academic departments and divisions of the university, the state legislature, local government, state and federal agencies, the private sector, and the public. Provide leadership and advice for other government bodies regarding resource and environmental policy, and the economic development and management of natural resources.
Promote and maintain a positive public image for the bureau in both state and national discussions regarding natural resource and earth science issues.
Maintain an awareness of new and important developments in geosciences research and relevant technologies to anticipate the directions of geosciences research and applications, integrating this knowledge with an understanding of the specific needs of the state and incorporating it into long-term planning.
As State Geologist, the director or an allowed designee serves on various state advisory boards.
Maintain avenues for outreach through programs that are targeted at a non-technical audience, including the general public and K-12 educators.
Communicate regularly with bureau staff about budgetary, scientific, and professional issues, including their impact on strategic planning, and maintain an open communication with bureau managers.


Doctorate and at least ten years of professional experience in the geosciences.
A minimum of five years of administrative experience, which must include budgeting, supervision, personnel evaluation, and program development.
National recognition in a field of geosciences research, as demonstrated by a record of refereed publications, professional service, and scientific leadership.
Ability to work within a university setting with a wide constituency, including division staff, academic faculty, administration, the public, government officials, and the private sector.
A successful record of obtaining external financial support for research programs through a competitive and merit-based process.
Demonstrated excellence in oral and written communication to both scientific and public audiences.


A notable diversity of both background and experience.
Service on state, national, and/or international committees and professional associations.
Knowledge of geology of New Mexico and/or the American Southwest, including an understanding of regional natural resource issues and how they relate to economic development.
Experience interacting with state and federal agencies and funding institutions.
Ability and experience dealing effectively with public policy issues in a way that demonstrates a balanced approach toward industry and environmental concerns.
Experience with outreach programs that are specifically targeted at communicating technical geosciences data to the public at large.

To Apply:

Applicants should submit a resume with supporting materials (including three letters of recommendation and a signed cover application) to: Human Resources, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801 (no e-mail applications).

For full consideration, application materials must be received by March 1, 2012.

For more information about the application process, please contact:
JoAnn Salome in Human Resources at 575-835-5955 (

For more information about the position itself, please contact:
L. Greer Price, Search Committee Chair, at 575-835-5752 (

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Paul Sims (1918-2011) former Director of the Minnesota Geological Survey

We have learned that Paul K. Sims, USGS Scientist, and from 1961 to 1973, the Director of the Minnesota Geological Survey, passed away October 29 due to a stroke. Minnesota State Geologist Harvey Thorleifson notes that Paul is remembered there with great respect, for among other things, has immense contributions he made to the progress of this Minnesota Geological Survey and to the understanding of Minnesota geology. [right, photo credit Colorado Scientific Society]

The following is from the Colorado Scientific Society, where Paul served as President in 1957:

Illinois Geological Survey, 1943-1944. University of Minnesota, Professor and Director of Minnesota Geological Survey, 1961-1973. U.S. Geological Survey, 1946-1961, 1973- . Worked particularly on the Precambrian of the Colorado Front Range, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, and on ore deposits, as iron in New Jersey, lead-zinc in the Metalline district of Washington, and gold in the Archean of South Pass area of Wyoming

Educated at University of Illinois and Princeton University

Meritorious Service Award, U.S. Department of Interior, 1985. Goldich Medal of Institute of Lake Superior Geology

Member, Society of Economic Geologists (President 1976). Fellow, Geological Society of America