Every year since 2007, the Utah Geological Survey has released a calendar featuring photos of Utah’s unique geologic wonders. Each image is captioned with an explanation of how the geologic phenomenon in the photo was formed.
The photos come from both artists turned geologists and geologists turned artists. Mark Milligan is the latter.
He said Utah can be divided into three parts: first, the Rocky Mountains, driven up by compressional tectonic forces, with their famous landscapes of folded rock; second, the Colorado Plateau, with what is often called “layer cake” geology and the red rocks that Utah is so famous for; and third, the basin and range.
“The oft forgotten basin and range has a lot of beautiful scenery and geology, and it’s been subjected to tensional stresses on the earth’s crust, so you get these wide, flat valleys with high, linear mountains,” Milligan said.
The idea behind the calendar is that while most Utahns appreciate the beautiful landscapes created by geologic processes, few people understand how those processes continue to impact us today. That’s part of the Utah Geological Survey’s mission: to educate Utahns about geologic resources and hazards.
“For example, the Wasatch Fault created the Wasatch Mountains,” Milligan said. “If you’re reminded that we live in a seismically active area every time you look at the Wasatch Mountains, you’re more likely to prepare for that hazards, and it all ties into what we see as geologists and what we see in our landscapes.”
Also, the Utah Geological Survey just has a lot of really beautiful photos of Utah landscapes.
“Every year, the calendar seems to get better,” he said. “Our geologists become better photographers.”
The calendar has also improved since artists from the geological survey started to join in as they gained a greater appreciation for Utah’s geology.
“Last year we did have a reprint, I can’t remember if we reprinted it one or two times,” he said. “Those reprints also sold out.”
Because the calendar is meant for educational purposes, not fundraising, the prices stay low, making it available to more people.