Michigan Geological Survey receives state funding for continued science support

Contact: Kathleen Refior

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Michigan Geological Survey at Western Michigan University has been awarded $500,000 from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's new state budget for its ongoing research in statewide geologic mapping to assess, protect and sustainably develop vital natural resources. Democratic Sen. Sean McCann of Kalamazoo and Republican Rep. Brandt Iden of Oshtemo advocated for funding the ongoing research within MGS.

Michigan Geological Survey team outside standing together for photo

Members of the MGS and United States Geological Survey Bluff research collaboration team

The immediate state funds will help survey members with their continued work in the state—expanding geological mapping—to better understand resources like water, natural gas and aggregates that are available in Michigan, in order to protect the resources and more efficiently utilize them. Funds will also support the survey's mandate to archive geologic samples and specimens housed in the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education facility at WMU.

"These funds will support ongoing studies that protect our communities from hazards such as flooding and bluff erosion, trace PFAS contamination in well water, and identify new sources of minerals critical to U.S. security and our economy," says Dr. Heather Petcovic, chair of the Department of Geological and Environmental Studies.

The survey has conducted several studies during the past decade throughout the state.

"The Michigan Geological Survey at WMU has been revitalized in the last nine years to meet the societal demands of science and data for Michigan stakeholders to better understand our most important natural resources, where they are and how we can manage and protect them," says John A. Yellich, director of the MGS.

One study has focused on the study of bluffs in West Michigan's coastline. The team is collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey and local county officials looking at the makeup of the bluff geology to better understand the depth of erosion and collapse taking place, and how to protect the bluffs along the coastline.

The survey also recently received a grant in May to assess Michigan's potential for identifying locations that may contain some of the 35 minerals the federal government considers vital to the nation's security and economic prosperity.

"Michigan has assessed less than 7% of the state to provide this important scientific data to manage and protect our natural resources," says Yellich. "These successful data assessments and products present the need for more of this science in priority areas."

At WMU, Yellich is leading an elite team of researchers and experts in the field. The team will spend the next year continuing comprehensive assessments and mapping, as well as ongoing collaborations with industry to assess water, aggregate, natural gas, oil, and subsurface natural gas storage capacity.

“We are grateful to WMU leadership, to our state executives and legislators, and to other groups who worked on our behalf to secure this funding," says Petcovic.

Michigan Geological Survey

MGS, housed in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, has been performing research for the state since 1837, the first official department in the State of Michigan.

In 2011, the survey was moved to WMU and was supported by the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences expertise, resources and extensive research to develop and expand the MGS research and growth.

The survey facilitates research and assessments to promote the identification and use of our natural resources while serving the general public through the presentation of this data for the use of all stakeholders through the survey and the historic data repository.

The department's geological survey and State of Michigan resources include the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education, which is home to the geologic data repository, the largest Michigan collection of core, samples and paper records taken when water, gas and oil wells and geotechnical holes have been drilled across the state over the last 100 years. The geological repository has 30 years of history providing data and research to the oil and gas industry and natural resources community. It's involvement for many years in geological data collection and mapping was conducted in cooperation with the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, formerly the Department of Environmental Quality.

For more information, contact Yellich in the Michigan Geological Survey. To learn more about these WMU facilities, as well as related academic program offerings, visit the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences' website.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.