The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

75° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona Geological Survey adapts to UA move, untimely death of director

Sydney Richardson
Some rocks outside the new Arizona Geological Survery location on Sixth Street on Saturday, Sept. 10.

After a surprising budget cut, the Arizona Geological Survey was forced to become a department of the UA instead of its own state-funded entity.

“Its been a difficult transition—fortunately the university has been very welcoming,” said Michael Conway, chief of geological extension. “We were a state agency from 1989 till 2016, in February of 2016 governor Ducey’s budget proposal pushed us out of state government and zeroed out our state allocation, which at the time was around $931,000.”

The budget Conway is talking about was signed last May, and the survey moved over to the UA on the first of July. Compromises made between Gov. Ducey’s staff and the UA led to the survey receiving its usual $931,000 in allocated funds, but not directly. Funds were allocated to the UA, and then given to the survey. 

After this year, the survey is not sure whether or not it will have any state resources. Since the governor’s budget cut, the survey has had to cut its staff in half, going from around a 30 person operation down to about 15 people. 

The survey faces this uncertain transition without the guidance of the late Director M. Lee Allison, who recently died by accident in his home. 

As the Arizona state geologist, Allison directed the survey for almost 11 years. He was 68-years-old when he died. 

“He was really a remarkable geologist,” said Phillip Pearthree, interim director of the survey. “He was always really interested in the interface of geology and society, because geology is actually a lot more important to society than almost anybody realizes. He was really important to the continuing existence of the Geological Survey, in the wake of the recession his leadership was vital to insuring that we continue.”

Allison worked as a state geologist in Kansas and Utah before coming to Arizona. In Kansas he fought for the theory of evolution to be taught in schools instead of creation science. In Utah he noticed that a proposed Olympic stadium was being built on a major geological fault. 

 Some of his major accomplishments during his time with the survey include completing a map of Earth fissures in the state, as well as creating a network of seismic sensors that record small tremors and report their sources.

Not only was the survey forced to cut staff, but they were also moved into a smaller space that forced them to give away a lot of equipment.

“The office didn’t just transfer over to the university, we had to move all of our stuff, and people out here,” Pearthree said. “That was an interesting thing to do, and quite a bit of work.”

Pearthree said they’re getting acclimated to the university and the very different organizational structure it has. 

During the transfer to the UA, the survey received custody of the UA Mineral Museum in Phoenix. The survey is making progress on turning that museum into the Arizona Mining, Mineral and Natural Resources Education Museum.

“The university seems very keen on the idea of revamping the museum in Phoenix,” Conway said. “It’s a great location on the capitol mall, just down the street from the governor’s office.”

Follow Nicholas Johnson on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search