The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS) was created by the Wisconsin Legislature in 1897. It is the descendant of earlier state surveys in Wisconsin, which date back to 1854.
The WGNHS, a part of the University of Wisconsin, is an interdisciplinary organization that conducts natural resources surveys and research to produce information used for decision making, problem solving, planning, management, development, and education. Survey is defined to include resource inventory and basic and applied research and analysis. The WGNHS has no specific regulatory or enforcement responsibilities.
Survey staff members conduct topical as well as local, regional, and statewide research projects; collect and store data and physical samples; analyze these data and samples; communicate results to the public via publications; and respond to numerous requests for technical advice and service. Some projects are conducted jointly with state, federal, and local agencies as well as with other units of the university.
Maps, records, and reports—including interpretations and recommendations—produced by the WGNHS provide basic data for resource, land-use, and environmental management. For example, they can help to identify areas with potential for nonmetallic and metallic mineral resources; to determine general groundwater availability; to locate groundwater supplies; to prevent/mitigate groundwater contamination; to locate storage/disposal facilities; to locate bridges, highways, and other structures; to analyze weather patterns; to determine limitations/suitabilities to the use of soils; to advise on problems of aquatic vegetation; to provide advice and interpretation on natural hazards that may affect human health and safety; and for many other applications.