Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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The Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) has the distinction of being the nation's only geological survey created by directive of a state constitution. The OGS enabling act was presented to Oklahoma's first legislature, was passed, and then was signed into law by Gov. Charles N. Haskell on May 29, 1908.

Then as now, the duties of the agency are to investigate the land, water, mineral, and energy resources of the state and to disseminate the results of those investigations to promote the wise use of Oklahoma's natural resources in a manner consistent with sound environmental practices. OGS was an outgrowth of the Territorial Survey, which was established in 1900 in Oklahoma Territory. Led by Dr. Charles N. Gould, the agency was located at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.In 1924 OGS officially was placed under governance of the University's Board of Regents, where it remained at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Fulfillment of the survey's mission is accomplished through field work and research that is published in books, in maps, by open file, and on the internet. Because of the economic importance of the oil and gas industry, petroleum investigations are a mainstay of OGS programs, along with studies of coal resources, also abundant in the state. The survey's maps and research are key elements in the exploration and production of fossil fuels and are used extensively by academia and industry. Other maps are also useful for leisure activities and outdoor sports for which detailed information about the terrain is important.

The survey also studies nonfuel mineral resources, including clays, shales, limestone and dolomites, crushed stone, copper, bentonite, salt, gypsum, uranium, helium, and iodine. Iodine is produced in the United States only in Oklahoma. Survey work helps architects and engineers find sites for structures and roads and is critical to locating building materials such as dimension stone, crushed rock, and gypsum, a key ingredient in the manufacture of sheetrock.

Since 1965 OGS has operated a geophysical observatory near Tulsa to monitor earthquakes. A seismograph located in that building and others are placed strategically throughout the state. Some fifty small earthquakes occur in Oklahoma each year, although most are not felt.

The most recent addition to the survey is an expansion of the core and sample library that was established in 1937. The new Oklahoma Petroleum Information Center was opened in 2002, allowing the expansion of the library to house more than three hundred thousand cores from Oklahoma and elsewhere, preserving for future study and analysis earth samples acquired from wells drilled as far back as the 1920s.The building also houses the OGS publication sales office and an extensive library of petroleum data for Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Geological Survey's history is entwined with public service.Through research that is used to enhance exploration and production of fossil fuels, maps that lead to supplies of sand and gravel and successful fishing trips, and lectures and talks given to school and public organizations, the Oklahoma Geological Survey helps Oklahomans best use the abundant natural resources of the state.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: David Deming, "Charles Newton Gould: Geologist," Shale Shaker: The Journal of the Oklahoma City Geological Society 52 (June-July 2002). Charles N. Gould, Covered Wagon Geologist (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959). Elizabeth Ham, A History of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1908-1983 (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1983).

Connie Smith

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