Moore Hall in Lawrence

About the Kansas Geological Survey

The Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) is a research and service division of the University of Kansas that investigates and provides information about the state's geologic and groundwater resources. The KGS has no regulatory authority and does not take positions on natural resource issues.

KGS scientists pursue research related to surface and subsurface geology, energy resources, groundwater, and environmental hazards. They develop innovative tools and techniques, monitor earthquakes and groundwater levels, investigate water-quality concerns, and map the state's surface geology. Their analyses, findings, and data are shared with the scientific community and general public through publications, online resources, and presentations. The KGS also houses thousands of oil and gas and water well records filed with the state over several decades as well as thousands of rock cores and cuttings brought to Earth's surface during oil and gas drilling.

The main headquarters of the KGS is in Lawrence on the west campus of the University of Kansas, and the KGS Well Sample Library is in Wichita. Between the two locations, the KGS has a staff of approximately 115 employees, including 35 student employees. The KGS reports to the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Kansas and has a 12-member advisory council to provide review and guidance.

Rolfe Mandel is Director of the KGS, which has four research sections and several supporting units that provide public services and online resources.

KGS Research Sections

  • Energy Research—geology related to oil and gas exploration and other energy resources
  • Exploration Services—geophysics, seismic techniques, and earthquake monitoring
  • Stratigraphic Research—stratigraphy, mapping, and geoarchaeology
  • Geohydrology—groundwater and water quality

Energy

The KGS Energy Research section concentrates mainly on subsurface geology related to oil and gas exploration and the development of other energy-related resources. A recent area of focus has been south-central Kansas, where horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing activity (also known as "fracking") peaked in 2014 in the Mississippian limestone play—a complex group of oil- and gas-bearing rocks. KGS researchers have been studying the play's geology and monitoring the area's increased earthquake activity to determine the relationship between the earthquakes and drilling activities, especially the disposal of saltwater produced with oil and natural gas.

CO2 Sequestration. With industry and government partners, the Energy Research section is conducting a multi-year project to test the viability of storing carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by industrial sources. CO2 is a natural and essential component of the atmosphere. However, rising levels of CO2—due to emissions from vehicles and such stationary sources as electric, cement, ethanol, and fertilizer plants—contribute to climate change. The project uses CO2 to release trapped oil unreachable by traditional recovery methods. The CO2 also will be injected deep underground for storage.

Oil and gas records, cores, and cuttings. Oil and gas records, logs, cores, and rock cuttings submitted to the state or donated are housed at the KGS and accessible to the public. For more information, see the Data Resources Library and Wichita Well Sample Library entries below.

Exploration Services

KGS Exploration Services researchers develop and use non-invasive seismic techniques to identify rocks and geologic features in the shallow subsurface. Their goal is to create less expensive, less invasive, and higher fidelity technology to image and characterize the underground. Employing seismic reflection techniques, they use explosives or a specially equipped truck to create a vibration that sends seismic (sound) waves into the ground. They then measure the rebounding energy, which reflects off different rocks in different ways, to produce images of rocks, faults, structures, voids, tunnels, and abandoned mines. The images can be used to identify potential sources of petroleum and other natural resources and develop plans to mitigate safety hazards. The section also provides exploratory drilling for KGS research projects and manages the annual groundwater-level measurement program.

Earthquake monitoring. The KGS installed a multi-station seismic monitoring network in the state in 2016. Staff members maintain and collect data from earthquake recording stations to detect and analyze seismic activity. An updated list of Kansas earthquakes, an interactive map showing earthquake locations, and other resources are available on the KGS earthquake webpage.

Stratigraphic Research

Stratigraphy, the organizing principle for most geologic disciplines, is the branch of geology that deals with the order and age of rock layers, or strata. KGS geologists investigate the composition, chemical properties, and fossil content of surface and subsurface rock layers to determine their age and the environment in which they were formed. The KGS Stratigraphic Nomenclature Committee reviews, updates, and standardizes the stratigraphic nomenclature (names of rock units) for Kansas as new information becomes available.

Geologic mapping. For the KGS mapping program, scientists map the surface geology of the state county by county. Geologic maps depict bedrock—the solid rock at Earth's surface or directly beneath the vegetation, soil, and thin deposits of unconsolidated material—and thick layers of sediment. These maps are essential for basic geologic research, evaluating natural resources, and land-use planning. Available county maps can be viewed online or purchased from KGS Publication Sales (Lawrence 785-864-2157 or Wichita 316-943-2343 x200).

Geoarchaeology. Geoarcheology includes the investigation of sediments, soils, and landforms to help identify areas of potential cultural deposits and assess prehistoric environments. The KGS houses the Odyssey Archaeological Research Program, established to find evidence of the earliest people to inhabit the Central Great Plains and western portions of the Midwest and gain a better understanding of their environment.

Geohydrology

The KGS Geohydrology section investigates water-level declines, water quality, and geology of the High Plains aquifer and other water resources. The High Plains aquifer is a massive network of water-bearing formations that underlies parts of eight states and includes the extensive Ogallala aquifer. It is the primary source of municipal, industrial, and irrigation water for much of western and central Kansas.

To monitor the condition of the High Plains aquifer and other aquifers, the KGS and the Division of Water Resources (DWR) of the Kansas Department of Agriculture measure groundwater levels in about 1,400 wells annually. The results are available online. The KGS also maintains a Kansas Master Groundwater Well Inventory—a central repository that imports and links together the state's primary groundwater well data sets—and continuously monitors and collects data from several western Kansas wells as part of the index-well program. Real-time data for 12 western Kansas wells are available online. The KGS also has a Kansas High Plains Aquifer Atlas featuring more than 70 maps—several animated or interactive—on a variety of topics related to the aquifer.

Water-well and groundwater-level records. Groundwater records submitted to the state are housed at the KGS and accessible to the public.

Public Services, Publications, and Online Resources

  • Data Resources Library
  • Drill Core Library
  • Wichita Well Sample Library
  • Kansas Data Access and Support Center (DASC)
  • Publications and Publication Sales
  • Kansas Field Conference

Data Resources Library. The Data Resources Library at the KGS in Lawrence is the State of Kansas repository for oil and gas and water well records. It holds documents for more than 450,000 oil and gas wells, including more-recent records submitted digitally and older scanned documents. The records can be accessed online through the KGS oil and gas production data page or the Kansas oil and gas interactive map. Water-well completion records are available online and through the Kansas water wells interactive map. Records also can be viewed at the Data Resources Library.

Drill Core Library. The Drill Core Library in Lawrence is the repository for more than 68,000 boxes of core and rock samples from more than 5,000 drill holes. The materials can be viewed and studied onsite.

Wichita Well Sample Library. The Wichita Well Sample Library preserves and makes available more than 145,000 rock cutting samples submitted to the state by oil and gas companies. A database of the collection is available online, and cuttings can be viewed and checked out at the Wichita office. KGS publications are also available there.

Kansas Data Access and Support Center (DASC). Operated under the direction of the Kansas GIS Policy Board and Kansas GIS Director, DASC serves as the geospatial data clearinghouse for the state of Kansas. Kansas GIS data related to geology includes water, energy, and environmental resources. Other types of Kansas data, including census, demographic, transportation, utilities, recreation, and geographic boundaries, are also available.

Publications. The KGS publishes printed and online publications and maps, both technical and educational, about its research and the state's geology and natural resources. The KGS publication page provides access to the publications catalog, books available online, maps, Current Research in Earth Sciences bulletins, nontechnical public information circulars, and other resources. KGS maps and publications can be purchased from the KGS Publications Sales office, 785-864-3965, and the Wichita Well Sample Library, 316-943-2343. The Publications Office in Lawrence also sells U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps for Kansas.

GeoKansas. An online educational resource, GeoKansas features photos and facts about the state's rocks and minerals, fossils and first people, oil and water, earthquakes and environmental hazards, deep geologic history, places to explore, and more.

Interactive maps and groundwater atlas. The following maps and atlas are accessible online:

KGS online photo library. The photo library contains hundreds of downloadable photographs of geologic sites, landscapes, and natural resources in Kansas. They can be accessed by county or subject.

Kansas Field Conference. The KGS has conducted an annual Kansas Field Conference since 1995 to give state legislators and other decision-makers a first-hand look at natural-resource issues in different regions of the state. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, the Kansas Water Office, and the Kansas Department of Transportation are co-sponsors. Kansas Field Conference guidebooks are available online.

More about the KGS. A list of all KGS staff accomplishments (Acrobat PDF file, 2.3 MB), including refereed and non-refereed publications, presentations, abstracts, and awards, is available for 2004-2017. A listing of Kansas statutes that refer to the KGS also is available.