A new public information circular on uranium, authored by Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) geologist Robert Gregory, offers a broad scope of information about the heavy metal’s occurrence, associated geology, historical uses, types of mining and major discoveries. It additionally details early research on uranium, harnessing energy from the naturally occurring chemical element and its role in the nuclear fuel cycle.
The largest economic reserves of uranium in the United States are found in Wyoming.
Photo caption: Wyoming uranium districts, both current and historic. Outlines are generalized (Graphic by James R. Rodgers, 2016).
Mapping is critical in assessing energy, mineral and hydrologic resources of an area. Maps also disseminate new data gathered in the field. The WSGS recently published five geologic maps under its StateMap program:
Work has already commenced on the next set of maps (1:24,000 scale) to be published in 2017:
Preliminary bedrock geologic map of Bridger Pass 7.5’ quadrangle, Carbon County
Preliminary bedrock geologic map of Fort Steele 7.5’ quadrangle, Carbon County
Preliminary surficial geologic map of the Muddy Gap area, Fremont and Carbon counties
The Bridger Pass project is part of a map series aimed at understanding the geology on the eastern margin of the Atlantic Rim in Carbon County. The Fort Steele map is part of a long-term WSGS energy team study on the Mesaverde Group in south-central Wyoming. The map will complement and coordinate with the Survey’s Unconventional Reservoir Database Project as part of the National Coal Resources Data System. The map of the Muddy Gap area is part of a long-term project to investigate poorly understood Quaternary faults in Wyoming and to produce information regarding hazards they pose.
The WSGS plans to release a report soon on the availability of Fort Union Formation coal in the Great Divide and Washakie basins. The study involves correlating coal beds in more than 3,000 wells to model coal resources across the basins from Rawlins to Point of Rocks. The GIS-based study focuses on the shallower rim areas for future coal mining, but also correlates stratigraphic coal groups across the deeper part of the basins. Coal geologist Chris Carroll is authoring the report.
The study is the second of a two-part project on the Fort Union Formation in the eastern Greater Green River Basin. The first examined the hydrocarbon-generation potential of the Lance and Fort Union petroleum systems.
Black Butte coal mine excavating Fort Union Formation coal on the west side of Washakie Basin.
Geologists Wayne Sutherland and Robert Gregory are heading up a team in creating an online, interactive mines and minerals map of Wyoming. The GIS-based map will display locations of abandoned and active mines, sample locations for mineral resources and sample analyses, where available. Historic coal mines will also be depicted. The map will be constructed to allow ongoing updates, similar to the new interactive Oil and Gas Map of Wyoming.
WSGS oil and gas geologists Rachel Toner and Ranie Lynds are using a five-year grant from the U.S. Geological Survey cooperative National Coal Resource Data System (NCRDS) program to characterize Wyoming’s unconventional Upper Cretaceous oil and gas reservoirs. They are developing a statewide spatial database of Wyoming’s unconventional reservoir tops, along with associated well and production attributes. The database will also eventually include formation tops, thicknesses and associated stratigraphic data collected by other WSGS geologists during their individual projects.
Toner and Lynds completed the first year of the grant in 2016 focusing on reservoirs in the Denver Basin in Wyoming’s southeast corner. Toner will use data from the project to begin a Denver Basin characterization study of unconventional reservoirs in the basin, specifically the Codell Sandstone.
Years 2 and 3 of the grant will concentrate on reservoirs in the Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming.
This subsurface picture of the NCRDS and Denver Basin project is from the USGS' core repository of the Codell Sandstone, starting at 8,843 feet.
Work is moving forward on a new geochronological map and database. This project, led by geologist Jacob Carnes, aims to compile publicly available radiometric data along with data collected for WSGS projects. The data will be presented as an interactive ArcGIS online map and as queryable tabular data.
The Survey welcomed Erin Campbell-Stone to the team in September. The new energy and mineral resources division manager brings with her nearly 20 years of experience coupled with a high level of enthusiasm for the field of geology.
“I love the geology of Wyoming, and I’m looking forward to serving the residents of the state by working toward economic recovery as well as providing geologic information for the public,” Campbell-Stone says.
Her job duties include collaborating on projects in oil, gas, coal, uranium, trona, minerals and gemstones with the division’s five geologists. Her background is in structural geology and mapping, which she will apply toward continued work on the Geologic Map of Wyoming as well as working on structural interpretations across the state.
Campbell-Stone says she’s drawn to the field because interpreting geology is similar to working on a fascinating, enormous puzzle.
“By gathering and analyzing data from the microscopic to the regional scale, we can interpret geologic history in order to make predictions about resource location and hazard risk,” she explains.
Campbell-Stone earned a bachelor’s degree in geology with a minor in mathematics at Occidental College (Los Angeles) and a doctorate in structural geology with a secondary emphasis in geophysics at the University of Wyoming. She spent four years with Chevron Corporation in Louisiana and California before returning to Laramie to teach at UW for the last 15 years.
In her spare time, Campbell-Stone enjoys cross-country skiing, quilting, working on the third edition of the “Roadside Geology of Wyoming,” trying to spend time with her teenage children and camping in her 1957 Shasta, “Bluebell.”
The paper and digital versions of the 2016 Oil and Gas Map of Wyoming won top honors in the "Poster Competition" and "Mapping Application Competition" at the fifth annual Wyoming Geospatial Organization (WyGEO) conference Oct. 6-7 in Cheyenne.
WSGS natural resource analyst, Jim Stafford, presented the maps at the conference.
To learn more about the print version of the map, please see the news release. Information about the interactive online map can be found here.
Students from across Wyoming participated in Earth Science Week, Oct. 9-15. The annual celebration, recognized worldwide, is a week set aside to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the earth sciences and to encourage stewardship of the earth.
Activities ranged from students in a Thermopolis after-school program learning about fish fossil prep from Kemmerer quarries, to Encampment sixth-graders examining stromatolites and the geologic history of the Snowy Range west of Laramie.
Riverton students learned about geology during field trips to Red Canyon and Sinks Canyon State Park near Lander.
"Storytimes" at Crook County Library in Sundance and Albany County Public Library in Laramie focused on earth sciences. Patrons of the Laramie library and Sheridan Fulmer Library enjoyed viewing fossils on loan from the WSGS.
Some of the activities involved resources from toolkits provided by the WSGS. As in previous years, the Survey offered 50 complimentary toolkits created by the American Geosciences Institute. This year, toolkits were sent to more than 30 communities in all corners of Wyoming.
The week concluded with an Earth Science Day event Oct. 15 hosted by the WSGS and University of Wyoming Geological Museum. More than 360 attendees made fossil identification kits, learned about Wyoming fossils and rocks, participated in a scavenger hunt and toured a fossil prep-lab. They viewed thin sections under a microscope and used cupcakes to learn how geologists find rock layers beneath the earth’s surface.
Below are some photos taken during Earth Science Day by the WSGS and the UW Geological Museum as well as photos provided by libraries and schools in Wyoming. More information about Earth Science Week, including links to activities and additional photos, can be found on the WSGS education webpage.
Jack Drew, 11, examined a thin section of granite under a microscope with assistance from WSGS geologist, Jacob Carnes, at Earth Science Day.
Audriana Sherlock, 8, and Smith Sherlock, 6, learned with cupcakes how core samples allow geologists to find what rock layers are beneath the earth's surface at Earth Science Day.
Earth Science Day participants made their own Wyoming invertebrate fossil identification kits.
Eighth-graders in Jordan Seitz's earth science class at Encampment K-12 School studied the geologic history of the Snowy Range and the earth processes that have caused it to look the way it does today.
Riverton Middle School seventh-graders learned about geology in Red Canyon south of Lander.
Patrons at Crook County Public Library in Sundance celebrated National Fossil Day Oct. 12 as part of Earth Science Week.
Albany County Public Library (Laramie) youth services specialist, Deb Shogren, and Rio Esquivel compared their foot size to that of a dinosaur.
Elaina Loveland, 5, stopped by the fossil display at the Albany County Public Library. The fossils were on loan from the WSGS.
Dr. J. David Love, a highly regarded Wyoming research geologist, was inducted into the 2016 Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Love was honored posthumously for having made lifetime contributions to the conservation of Wyoming's outdoor heritage. The induction ceremony occurred Oct. 22 in Cody.
Love worked for the U.S. Geological Survey for 45 years. His office was co-located in the WSGS building on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie.
Love is known for his mapping and surveying in Wyoming as well as for his work that led to exploitation of mineral resources in the state. He authored more than 200 geologic publications, including two geologic maps of Wyoming (1955, 1985). Some of his well-known work includes theorizing how Jackson Hole and the Tetons were created, an oil discovery in Yellowstone National Park and a significant discovery of large deposits of uranium in Wyoming in the 1950s. Love was also active in preserving the wilderness such as campaigning to preserve Wyoming's Red Desert.
The WSGS Memoir No. 5, "Geology of Wyoming," was dedicated to Love and includes a synopsis of his life and contributions to Wyoming geology.
Read more about Love and the three other inductees on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website.
Dr. J. David Love at the Tetons in 1972. Photo by WSGS geologist, Wayne Sutherland.