Former Kansas Geological Survey leader receives Distinguished Service Award

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

LAWRENCE — Rex Buchanan, director emeritus of the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas, received the American Geosciences Institute’s Distinguished Service Award for his achievements promoting the geosciences and natural resource issues affecting Kansans.

Buchanan served as KGS director from 2010 to 2016 and spent a 38-year career at the KGS as a science communicator. He clarified complex scientific research for policymakers and the public, providing analysis on politically sensitive issues.

"Rex is a truly great communicator who always has an insightful story to tell or example to illustrate a point,” said Allyson Anderson Book, executive director of the American Geosciences Institute (AGI). “He has provided exceptional support to our staff, and all of us at AGI thank him for his distinguished service."

Buchanan was a member of AGI’s Critical Issues Advisory Committee from its inception in 2013 until his retirement. He helped define the mission and structure of the Critical Issues program and moderated a panel on groundwater perspectives from Kansas and Nebraska.

During his tenure as KGS director, two major issues addressed by the research staff were an unprecedented increase in earthquakes in south-central Kansas and endangered groundwater resources in western Kansas.

In 2014, Buchanan was appointed to the three-member Governor's Task Force on Induced Seismicity (earthquakes caused by human activities) that was charged with devising a plan for investigating the cause and remediation of the increased earthquake activity.

Subsequently, the KGS installed a network of seismic monitoring stations, and scientists linked the increase in earthquakes to the deep-underground disposal of wastewater produced with oil and gas. Buchanan continues to serve as director of the KGS Consortium to Study Trends in Seismicity.

He also has been instrumental in explaining KGS research and data on declines in the High Plains aquifer to policymakers and water users. The bulk of water used by irrigators, municipalities and industries in western Kansas is drawn from the High Plains aquifer, a network of water-bearing rocks that includes the massive Ogallala aquifer.  

A native of Little River, Buchanan continues to provide insight into Kansas history and the environment through talks, publications and the media, including as a regular commentator on the Kansas Public Radio network of local NPR affiliates.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 52 scientific and professional associations that represents more than a quarter-million geoscientists.