Introducing our new Director
2022-09-12 | CGS Admin
Matt Morgan, Colorado Geological Survey, Director and Colorado State Geologist, Red Rocks Park, Morrison, Colorado, July 2022. Photo credit: Matt Morgan.
It may not suit everyone, but here at the Colorado Geological Survey we think having a passion for rocks is a good thing. For that reason and many others, we are proud to welcome our new Director and Colorado State Geologist, Matthew “Matt” Morgan. Matt is no stranger to the CGS, having first taken a job with us in 1996. Most recently he was serving as the Deputy Director and Senior Research Geologist until accepting the offer of Director and taking over the leadership role this September. As Deputy, he managed the extensive CGS geologic mapping program among many other major geoscience projects situated across Colorado.
Taking field notes at the Anton Scarp trench on the High Plains of Colorado, July 2006. Photo credit: Dave Noe for the CGS.
For Matt—originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin—western landscapes were the mythic setting of Spaghetti Westerns, eventually brought to life on family vacations west of the Mississippi. When the opportunity to attend college at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology came up, Matt jumped on the chance. Initially majoring in astronomy, an elective course in geology* changed everything and he received a B.S. in Geology in 1996. After graduating, Colorado landscapes, climate, geology, universities, and the CGS job beckoned: he and his future wife relocated to Denver.
*”I had to take an elective so I took a geology class that was taught by Dr. David Johnson. It was clear he loved what he did and his lectures captivated me. We went into the New Mexico desert and looked at amazing rocks and faults and I was blown away that a person could actually study rocks for a living. I was hooked.“
On the lower reaches of the West Salt Creek landslide, Mesa County, Colorado, June 2014. Photo credit: Jon White for the CGS.
In 2006 he received his M.S. in Geology from the Colorado School of Mines where he studied the Alamo meteorite impact breccia of southern Nevada. He has authored or contributed to more than 100 journal articles, reports, maps, and proceedings addressing a wide range of geological subjects from earthquakes and landslides to geomorphology, mineral resources, and meteorites. He is a recent recipient of the GSA/AASG John C. Frye Memorial Award for his work on the CGS publication, The West Salt Creek Landslide: A Catastrophic Rockslide and Rock/Debris Avalanche in Mesa County, Colorado.
On a cold day in the field at Titanium Ridge, Elbert County, Colorado, February 2019. Photo credit: Mike O’Keeffe for the CGS.
As the State Geologist, Matt considers a successful geologic survey one that—plain and simple—provides timely and unbiased geologic information to the public and other stakeholders statewide. This process starts with detailed investigations of the relevant geologic issues: mineral and water resource potentials, geohazard evaluations, among others that directly affect the well-being of Colorado residents across the state.
A particularly high priority is making CGS research—in the form of maps, reports, and digital datasets—of the finest professional quality and easily and freely available online.
Among the specific items that the new CGS Director will address:
- Promote the CGS. With State budget shortages following the economic recession of 2008, the CGS was on the chopping block. We were nearly lost in oblivion. Since that time, with strong staff and leadership, we have regained funding, rebuilt programs, and hired new staff to meet our mission. We also moved to the Colorado School of Mines. The reset put CGS into survival mode and self-promotion fell down the list of priorities. Currently, we have the budget and solid external funds and now is the time to promote ourselves as the go-to geoscience organization in Colorado.
- Expand our programs and diversify our project portfolio. We currently have excellent programs in the areas of geologic hazards, mineral resources, and geologic mapping. I would like to see us expand our groundwater resources program and work in the areas of carbon capture and sequestration, and geothermal energy. All of these are important in today’s society where we are pressed to find precious resources at the same time development is rapidly expanding into potentially hazardous geologic areas.
- Continuing to more closely integrate into the Colorado School of Mines. The CGS is now part of a world-class science and engineering institution. We have access to highly respected research partners, students, and laboratories. We are in the early stages of integration with the Mines community. Opportunities abound through collaborative research, hiring and mentoring high-caliber students, curriculum development and interdepartmental information exchanges. As State Geologist, I will be involved on campus and promote collaboration between Mines and CGS at every opportunity.
Matt with his family on a hike in Red Mountain Open Space, Larimer County, Colorado, April 2020. Photo credit: Matt Morgan.
On a more personal note, Matt has several interests outside of work including: collecting meteorites, fly fishing, playing guitar, and cooking—especially traditional Mexican/New Mexican cuisine.
When out on family hikes and asked by his teenage daughters why they always have to be looking at rocks, Matt replies, “Because I love ’em!”
Matt, his wife Karen, and their two children Kylie and Elena, reside in Lakewood and definitely do have a passion traveling and exploring the geology of Colorado.