— September 6, 2023
The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) has received $640,321 in competitive grant funding from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) STATEMAP program, a component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. The STATEMAP program is the main source of federal funding for geologic mapping at state geological surveys.
“We’ve historically been very successful,” says Matt Zimmerer, director of the bureau’s Geologic Mapping Program. “As of this year, we’ve been cumulatively awarded the most out of any state in STATEMAP’s 31-year history, and we received the fifth-highest award of this year’s funding cycle.”
The funding will support a range of projects at NMBGMR and will draw on numerous bureau scientists' expertise, including field geologists, GIS specialists, geochronologists, petroleum geologists, and hydrogeologists.
“The work will also support students,” says Zimmerer. “Undergraduates who work in the GIS and mapping group get to learn how to make maps, so we’re also serving the mission of New Mexico Tech and student growth. We’re really excited to help train the next generation of mappers—and maybe they’ll come work for us.”
Projects were selected with the help of the STATEMAP Advisory Committee, which includes members from the federal government, state government, academic researchers, and private industry. “The committee gives us useful guidelines for where to place emphasis on future mapping projects,” explains Zimmerer. “It’s a really great way to make sure that the mapping we’re doing isn’t just for our own needs but for everybody in the state. We try to make sure that the committee is diverse, that it’s a good mixture of everyone.”
Work on STATEMAP projects has historically focused on three regions of the state: the Rio Grande rift, where most New Mexicans live and where most of our water comes from; the San Juan Basin, home to a large amount of oil and gas production; and the Pecos River region, which is also home to oil and gas production as well as major wind energy development. “There’s always a research component to our maps,” says Zimmerer, “but there are also societal and economic issues involved, and we try to make our maps usable for New Mexico.”
The STATEMAP projects will fall into two broad categories. “The first category is what you might call our ‘classic mapping,’ so mapping 7.5-minute quadrangles at 1:24,000 scale. The second is related to the U.S. GeoFramework Initiative, the goal of which is to map the entire country in 2D and 3D seamless coverage,” Zimmerer says. Projects in this second category will include a 1:100,000 compilation map near Carlsbad, a compilation of stratigraphic data for the San Juan Basin for a future 3D mapping project, and a 3D mapping project in the High Plains. As the only state geological survey with a geochronology lab, NMBGMR will also supply data for a USGS initiative to create a geochronology database. “We also have a bunch of old legacy maps that we’re updating to modern maps,” adds Zimmerer, “so instead of only being a paper or PDF map, they will have GIS data, which makes the maps user friendly and more functional.”
Zimmerer sees plenty of opportunities when it comes to future STATEMAP work at the bureau. “We’re definitely committed to our long-term goals, but as new projects come up, like carbon sequestration work or new research, our mapping can support that,” he says. “We try to stay flexible and can contribute as needs change.”