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April 24, 2009
By Patrick McDonnell
A green Rhyolite tuff in the shape of Nevada is the first rock sample displayed at the far left side of the new Great Basin Science Sample and Records Library’s reception counter. The rock forms an unusual oil reservoir, one in volcanic rock, that occurs in Nye County’s Railroad Valley.
In a geologic sense, the rock sample, like ones from diamond-drill holes in the state’s many mineral-exploration sites, represents dramatic change and exemplifies the new home of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology’s Publication Sales and Information offices. Four employees in the key bureau outreach function are moving to the new, two-story, 10,000-square-foot library, which opens Monday, April 27 at the southwest end of the Desert Research Institute’s campus off Raggio Parkway in north Reno.
For more than 40 years, the public has found publication sales and information services at the Scrugham Engineering-Mines Building on the University of Nevada, Reno’s main campus, and the bureau’s other functions at the University — among them analytical laboratories, faculty research offices, cartographic services and the office of bureau director Jon Price — will remain in Scrugham.
The new building will also house the office of the Geological Society of Nevada as well as publications of the Nevada Petroleum Society. Price, also the State Geologist, said he is looking forward to the day the facility opens at DRI — one of the world’s largest multidisciplinary environmental research organizations with approximately 460 scientists, technologists and other support staff.
“We are excited about this building,” said Price. “We will have a 5,500-square-foot warehouse that is two stories high with storage racks. It will help us to preserve geoscience data and samples.”
The Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology is a research and public service unit of the University and is the state geological survey. The Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering administers the bureau.
Price said the public will benefit from the way that scientists and public officials will be able to access the collections.
“We will have samples from most of the geothermal, oil and gas exploration wells drilled in Nevada, and several thousand samples from mine dumps,” he said. “For example, they will be useful for reanalysis with new elemental and isotopic analytical techniques as scientists investigate how and when the rocks formed and changed over geologic time.”
There are various applications for the information culled from the sample and records library. Data and samples could offer solutions on several topics, including:
“The partnership with the Desert Research Institute is a great one,” said Price. “Its scientists do a lot of environmental geoscience research and the Great Basin Science Sample and Records Library can complement that research by providing space for DRI research collections and by providing access to databases and practically irreplaceable sample collections.”
In addition to the specimens atop dozens of storage racks, built with base isolators to reduce the risk of an earthquake overturning samples, the building will house aerial photographs, digital data, topographic maps and a rock-viewing room behind double-paned windows. Other windows in the building, which faces south toward downtown Reno, contain an energy-saving feature highlighting Nevada’s position as the nation’s top gold-producing state. A thin, 17-nanometer-thick coating of gold insulates the windows, improving the efficiency of air conditioning in summer and heating during winter.
“The thin layer of gold is on the inside of the panes,” Price said, noting that the precious element is not subject to abrasion from Nevada’s common, windblown sand and silt. “It’s about $900 worth of gold on all the windows together.”
As visitors to the building leave the facility, a final look at the vertical wooden “core boxes” containing the many rocks unearthed below Nevada soil is worth the time. The rocks include: sandstone — the state rock and, in the reception-counter sample, a 2.5-billion-year-old gneiss from Angel Lake; silver-infused rock from the famous Comstock Lode at Virginia City, for which Nevadans will celebrate a 150th anniversary this year; and a sample from the very outcropping underlying the building foundation — Andesite from a volcano that erupted about 15 million years ago, during the Miocene epoch.
“Every rock is from Nevada and each has a unique story,” Price noted.
NBMG scientists conduct research and publish reports on mineral resources, engineering geology, environmental geology, hydrogeology, and geologic mapping. Individuals interested in Nevada geology are encouraged to visit the bureau’s website.