The Michigan Geological Survey, now housed at Western Michigan University, was originally established by the legislature in 1837, only two hours after the former territory officially became the nation's 26th state, making it the first independent state agency. At that time, a geological survey was funded by the legislature for a finite period of time until certain objectives were met and reports were submitted.

The tasks of the early survey involved basic geologic mapping, often in the Upper Peninsula where rich ore deposits had been discovered. By the beginning of the 20th century, the survey had become a more permanent arm of state government. In 1921, it was incorporated into the newly formed Department of Conservation.

Shortly after commercial production of oil became a reality,  the survey grew rapidly and its primary functions were regulation of oil, gas and mineral production. Over the years, the regulatory function became very dominant and the applied research and assessment functions originally included in the survey's responsibility gradually phased out.

Read more about the history of the survey.

Moving to WMU

Since 1921, the survey has been housed in various state departments, most recently in the Department of Environmental Quality. In 2009, state geologist Hal Fitch suggested that the applied research, mapping and natural resource assessment functions mandated for the survey should be transferred to Western Michigan University. Western was chosen primarily because of its extensive collections of core and samples in the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education, its 30-year history of providing data and research to the oil and gas industry and its involvement for many years in geological mapping conducted in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Through the efforts of the University's administration, the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences and Michigan members of industry and governmental agencies, legislation was proposed to effect the transfer of these vital functions. State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker drafted the final bill supported by Reps. Margaret O'Brien and Sean McCann. In Oct. 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder signed State Bill 507, bringing the Michigan Geological Survey to Western.