Upper Peninsula Geological Repository; settling into a new home

North Central UP

K.I. SAWYER, Mich. (WJMN) – In Fall 2020, the core samples of rock at the Upper Peninsula Geological Repository found a new home at the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base.

Melanie Humphrey area geologist for Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy says they hope to take appointments for visitors starting this summer once they get more organized.

Core samples at UPGR

Humphrey says they’re still working on putting up more shelves for storage and creating a database to keep track of where everything is located. The new facility offers easier access to the collection and space for researchers to look at the samples.

“What draws researchers here is the fact that it is organized and accessible, that is number one priority for this collection,” said Humphrey. “Other things that we offer are climate controlled areas for people to view core so if they let us know ahead of time, we can get it out, you know get it out so they can spread it out and look at it also we will offer sampling services as well so if a researcher needs a sample to analyze or to do what they call a thin section which is where they cut it real thing and look at it under a microscope to look at the minerology we will offer those services as well.”

The repository is filled with core samples primarily from the Upper Peninsula.

“Regionally the samples originated in the Western part of the Upper Peninsula, we do have a smaller amount of samples from the Eastern end as well but it’s primarily from the geology of the U.P.,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey says the collection is useful for many different types of research.

“Most of the visitors are geologists, research geologists, they could come from Universities, federal or state agencies, like the United States Geological Survey has been a frequent visitor, and also mineral exploration companies as well,” said Humphrey. “And they come to look at, they could look at mineral composition of the earth, about earth’s history or structure, you know just kind of depends on what the research interest is.”

Humphrey says the samples are important to researchers because of costs associated with drilling core samples.

Core samples at UPGR

“The cost to drill these samples is a lot it can be be in the thousands of dollars to drill the hole,” said Humphrey. “So having these preserved in an organized way can help researchers, it’s a resource for them to access without having to spend the money to drill if we already have that representative geology.”

Samples are from a variety of types of rock and depths.

“The core samples here are very well documented, we have what’s called a drill log that tells the location of where they were drilled as well as at the depth,” said Humphrey. “So these rock samples because we know where they are three-dimensionally in the earth they tell us a lot of information about the geology subsurface.”

The collection has samples of all ages and is still growing.

“This collection has been preserved by the state for about 40 years so originally it was stored in a couple of cold warehouses, smaller buildings, that were beyond capacity, and in need of repair so we saw this as a suitable place for a long term core storage solution,” said Humphrey.

Shelves of core samples available for research at UPGR

Many of the samples are from exploration and former mining companies, EGLE doesn’t do the drill for core samples themselves.

“We have a lot of complex geology in the Western U.P. so you could drill one hole and 20 feet next to it you could have completely different geology going on because of structure, folding and faulting,” said Humphrey. “One hole that we have which is very interesting is we have a pretty deep hole that was drilled in Alger County that is over 7,500 feet in depth, deepest hole in the Upper Peninsula, and it actually goes through all the way to what we call basement so into like the basalts.”

EGLE doesn’t do the type of research the core is used for, but they do use it to make some decisions about the environment.

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