Rocks Rock: Geological Survey, oldest in the country, is more than meets the eye

Author: Kaia Thompson

Geologist take samples as part of Earth MRI project.
North Carolina Geological Survey geologists "core" sediment in the Coastal Plain region of North Carolina. Photo by Dr. Kathleen Farrell.

The Department of Environmental Quality is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the North Carolina Geological Survey (NCGS). Since 1823, the NCGS has worked to provide unbiased and technically accurate applied earth science information to address societal needs. This includes geologic maps, mineral resource and geochemical information, topographic maps and digital products and earth science education initiatives, and a proclamation from Gov. Roy Cooper.

Housed within DEQ’s Division of Energy Mineral and Land Resources, the Survey supports divisions throughout DEQ and contributes to several aspects of North Carolinians’ daily lives. Here are just a few examples of how the NCGS protects and advances the lives of residents and visitors:

  • Geologic Hazards: This program works to study, prevent and respond to geologic hazards in the state – these can range anywhere from ground collapse, landslides to earthquakes. In the state’s mountain regions, landslides are becoming a larger and more prominent issue due to climate change: as the intensity of rainfall increases, cliffsides are destabilized, leading to more landslides. The Geologic Hazards program has developed a new landslide website and GIS-based mapping tool to better inform communities about landslides, as well as inform users on how to plan and build resilience to landslide hazards. Read more about the Geologic Hazards program and landslide mapping here: Geologic Hazards | NC DEQ.

    Geologist taking sample in the waterfall.
    NCGS geologists map a rock outcrop in the Dan River valley. Photo by Phil Bradley.
  • Geologic Mapping: This program provides maps of geologic resources of North Carolina. Amy Pitts, the division’s Education and Outreach Geologist, calls the geologists in the field making these maps “the heart and soul of any geologic survey.” The NCGS provides online interactive maps though ArcGIS, such as the Terranes and Major Geologic Elements Map, the Fossil Energy Exploration Map, and a Mineral Storymap. Maps and other publications from the NCGS are also available for purchase on the NC Geological Survey Website.
  • Mineral Resources: The Survey is currently working on the Critical Minerals Initiative, a collaborative effort with the U.S. Geological Survey to better understand the known critical mineral resources in the country.
  • Geologic Education: The NCGS educates the public, government agencies, educators and students about the geologic resources of North Carolina. The division works with students and educators of all ages to provide curriculums, certificates and general education regarding earth science and geology. Our lives are impacted by geology every day: our cars, roads, buildings, lights, phones, and even our toothpaste! From landslide mapping to mineral maps, the work of the NC Geological Survey provides North Carolinians with the information needed to stay safe and educated.

The NCGS is celebrating their anniversary events throughout the summer, fall, and winter seasons! Read more about these upcoming events here: North Carolina Geological Survey 200th anniversary | NC DEQ.

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