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Florida Geological Survey

Programs of the FGS

Value to the public, industry, consultants, professional organizations, and government agencies

The Florida Geological Survey (FGS) is the only agency in the State of Florida which collects, stores, interprets, maintains, and publishes geologic and hydrogeologic data from throughout the State. Regional agencies, counties, and cities do not have the data-base or the expertise to justify their own geologic programs. They have relied on the State Geological Survey for this kind of assistance for 100 years. The FGS maintains a well- cuttings and core repository which includes samples collected from over 18,000 drill holes throughout the state. Academia is not the place for an applied earth science program as proven by the experiences of all fifty states and our collective experience from the last century. Universities (including state universities) historically focus on teaching, and research of interest to the current faculty which can result in peer acknowledgement. Their organizations are not set up for long term institutional memory and data maintenance or agency support. In addition, because they have not historically been “applied” programs, they have little current expertise regarding applied geologic programs which is the forte of State Geological Surveys.

Ecosystem Management and environmental dynamics has been an emphasis of many federal and state governmental agencies in recent years. The Florida DEP carries out programs in environmental regulation, land-use management and conservation, and holistic ecosystem / watershed management to integrate science, planning, regulations, and land management practices for the best possible program. Earth science is the foundation of all these programs. Without fundamental geologic and hydrogeologic information and interpretations no basic environmental understanding can be obtained! And without basic understanding of the earth-systems involved, no regulatory or land management plan will be successful. Any environmental regulatory or land management program will be seriously embarrassed if it is suggested that it can implement comprehensive ecosystem management, manage state lands and parks, and pursue environmental regulation without the benefit of a geologic research team to supply earth systems interpretations.

In the early 1990’s the Department of Environmental Protection conducted a wide survey of all data base users. It was intended to begin to plan for efficient ways to integrate the many users of the various kinds of data. 43% of the programs stated that they needed geologic data to carry out their program functions! The FGS has developed its geologic information  through the electronic communication media, including the INTERNET. In this way various programs and others are able to access earth science data and interpretations from their desktop to facilitate their job tasks.

The FGS routinely offers assistance regarding assessment of economic minerals of various land parcels for the Division of State Lands, the Department of Agriculture, the CARL Program, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and several others.

The FGS has a total of 28 FTE’s which is the only DEP earth science research component. Knowledge of the earth materials found under our uplands (in addition to the submerged lands) are important to our society for many reasons such as: we grow our food on them; we extract our drinking water from them (and our drinking water travels through them), we extract building materials from them (including materials to build roads, dams, and buildings, etc.), we dispose of waste in them, we are exposed to natural and societally enhanced hazards (including coastal erosion, flood prone areas, sinkholes, pipeclays, radon, mercury, and others). The economic impact of the earth materials and their benefit to society throughout Florida is at least as significant as that of the marine realm. Try to imagine our life style in Florida if the above topical areas were not available or were lost to us because of pollution or bad management practices.

In addition to uplands earth science pursuits, there has been identified a need for coastal, nearshore geological investigations. Needs for such purposes as beach restoration and inlet management have been identified by the State, the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association, the Environmental Protection Agencies’ consortium pursuing the Gulf of Mexico Program , the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. State geological surveys have been identified by the Federal Government as the lead state agencies in pursuing such investigations. The FGS is currently involved in such coastal studies, and has commitments for additional studies from participating Federal funding sources.

Most government programs at all levels are a fiscal drain on their tax bases. This is not out-of-line because most government services are not designed to make a profit, they are to provide a service to the public, hopefully using their appropriated dollars efficiently. State Geological Surveys, however, do provide economic benefits to the state and taxpayers. Geologic information is used for many purposes by state and local planners (such as avoiding development over a useful mineral deposit, avoiding costly waste clean-up by properly locating landfills or disposal wells). It has been estimated by economists that geologic map data provided by state geological surveys provides a payback of 7 to 55 times the initial investment! This type of assessment has also been carried out by the federal government with the same results.

The FGS has no plant facilities financial encumbrances because of a highly unique relationship with the Florida State University in association with the Department of Geosciences (academic research cooperation through a “Memorandum of Understanding”, and building deed restrictions). This translates into significant dollars (there is no building rent) which are spent on applied research and public service and utilized towards production of task oriented information services for the DEP.

About twenty years ago the National Geological Mapping Act passed Congress (and has been subsequently reauthorized) and was signed into law by the President. This act describes the usefulness of geologic data and partnerships between state and federal geological surveys, academia, and the private sector. Six members of the Florida Congressional delegation were co-sponsors of the act upon the recommendation and encouragement of the Florida State Geologist. It was also endorsed by past DER Secretary Carol Browner, and past DNR Executive Director Virginia Wetherell, and all five water management districts. In addition, the National Governor’s Association through their Policy NR-17 supports the National Geological Mapping Program as a successful and needed state/federal partnership. The FGS has grants under this program each year to study the near- surface geology of various parts of the State.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in their “Ground Water Resource Assessment Technical Assistance Document” specifically states that State Geological Surveys should be the primary agencies for the state ground water regulatory agencies to work with in characterizing the aquifers of the state. In this statement, the EPA has recognized the separate, valuable mission and services carried out by state geological surveys.

The National Academy of Sciences, through a report released by their National Research Council, also recommends the state geological surveys be the primary state programs to be relied on for information related to: geochemistry, biogeochemistry, fluids in and on the earth, sustaining sufficient natural resources, mitigating geological hazards, and minimizing and adjusting to the effects of global and environmental change.



A Brief listing of the groups which the FGS typically interacts and supplies data includes the following:

  • Federal Government: Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,  U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, National Parks Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Other States: all 49 other State Geological Surveys

  • State of Florida: Governors Office of Environmental Affairs, within the Department of Environmental Protection, Ground Water Programs, Waste Disposal, Underground Well Injection, State Lands, Beaches and Shores, Mine Reclamation, Environmental Education, Ecosystem Management Coordination Office, all five water management districts, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Community Affairs, regional planning councils, and Universities throughout the entire state.

  • Counties and Cities: most on an ad hoc basis.

  • Professional Associations

  • Industry representatives and Environmental Consultants

  • The Public

FGS Staff Productivity / Involvement

Geologic project or report production has increased ten-fold over the last fifteen years while staff numbers have been relatively unchanged. This is due to a revised and redirected mission designed to provide applied geologic products with short turn-around time to supply the public and agencies with scientific support to assist with planning and environmental conservation / protection decisions.

The number of interagency assistance contracts and grants has increased from only one twenty five years ago, to more than an average of twelve per year in recent years. These include partnership projects with several federal agencies, state agencies (including several bureaus within the DEP), all water management districts, counties, cities, and universities. These have averaged in total about $200,000 per year in supplemental budget for the FGS.

The “Geological Research Programs” of the Florida Geological Survey have received Davis Productivity Awards, for their increase in applied research productivity serving the Florida public.

The Director of the Survey is Treasurer of the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) and continues as an active member. This is an association of the Chief Executives of the fifty state geological surveys. This national visibility and recognition reflects the respect the other 49 State Geological Surveys have for the Florida program. In addition, it has resulted in a dozen or more federal grants to the FGS for geologic projects (ultimately returning federal tax dollars to Florida which previously went to other states).

 Other professional staff have been elected President of the Southeastern Geological Society, the Florida Association of Professional Geologists, and the Florida Section of AIPG.

Several staff have been singled out by external groups for their outstanding contributions and production. These have included DNR Employee of the Month selections, DNR Sustained Exemplary Performance Awards, Individual Davis Productivity Awards, DEP Total Quality Leadership trainers, DEP Ecosystem management committee members, DEP Employee of the Month, many technical advisory committees members, Legislative committee appointments, and university advisory panels. In addition, several professional staff had been asked to serve on the Florida Board of Professional Geologists Examination Committee (which prepared the professional geologist exam for Florida PG’s).

Due to General Revenue reductions and trust fund shortfalls over the last decade the FGS has lost several staff positions. As a result all staff have taken on several jobs, learned additional skills, and worked many extra hours to continue to provide the professional product we expect. These are really Public Service Heros as described by the Davis Productivity Awards Chairman.

Lectures are routinely given to schools and civic groups on Florida Geology and rocks and minerals, and educational publications have become a continuing part of our publication series (including a new poster series, State Park Leaflets, and maps and Special Publications describing the State’s geologic resources and history). In typical years in response to requests, the FGS sends out an average of 1,000 publications per month to the professional community and the public. More recently our publications are available on our website, providing continuing access for the public.

Last updated: April 06, 2015

  3000 Commonwealth Blvd., Suite 1   Tallahassee, Florida 32303   850-617-0300 (phone)  850-617-0341 (fax)
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