Welcome to the Urban Geology of Detroit website. This site chronicles past and ongoing research carried out by the Department of Geology at Wayne State University. It was focused on metropolitan Detroit in southeastern Michigan and includes Geologic Mapping and studies in Sedimentology, Geomorphology and Soil Science.


The geologic mapping project was carried out from 1999-2015 with funding from the U. S. Geological Survey’s EDMAP program grants 00HQAG0090, 02HQAG0078,05HQAG0054, 06HQAG0075, G12AC20181, and G15AC00176. The results can be observed by following the links below for Quaternary Geology and Urban Geology.  You can download maps and reports found there.


Geologic mapping was initially focused on the Quaternary Geology of the fifteen USGS 7.5 min quadrangles shown in Figure 1. The Northville, Redford, and Royal Oak Salem, Walled Lake, and Pontiac South quadrangles were mapped and detail, and the remainder in reconnaissance.  Subsequently mapping was focused on the Urban Geology in the eight 7.5 min quadrangles in Figure 2, which encompass the city of Detroit. Studies of Native and Anthropogenic soils were also carried out as supporting work for geologic mapping.


Our past studies of Quaternary Geology have dealt with stratigraphy and lithofacies analysis of glacial deposits, provenance analysis of tills, and soil-geomorphic studies of glacial landforms and soil chronosequences.

Research projects examining Urban Geology have examined the physical, chemical and mineralogical properties of anthropogenic surficial deposits, along with studies of the application of geophysical characteristics to urban geologic mapping.


Urban Soils have been studied to develop new methods for classification and mapping, to determine the characteristics and environmental impacts of artifacts, and to assess the nature and extent of heavy metal contamination. The focus of these studies has been on soils of anthropogenic origin, and their urban ecological setting.




Relevant WSU M.S. Theses in Geology

Shu, Jianing, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), An improved sequential extraction procedure for heavy metals using chemical chelation to counteract resorption, 1994.

Sledzinsky, Graznya, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Geochemical behavior of lead in an Alfisol and an Ultisol at high levels of contamination, 1994.

Hammoud, Ahmad, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Geochemical forms of Pb, Ni, Zn and Cd in undeveloped urban soils, Detroit, Michigan, 1995.

Olszewska, Dorota, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Heavy metal contamination and artifact weathering in an urban soil chronosequence, Detroit, Michigan, 1996.

Vandenbrink, Wesley, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Sequential extraction analysis of artificial sediments using a chelating agent (NTA) to counteract resorption, 1998.

Lichy, Curtis, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Quaternary geology of the southern Northville 7.5 minute quadrangle, southeastern Michigan, 2006.

Coram, Michael, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Stratigraphy and provenance of Late Pleistocene glacial sediments in the Pontiac South quadrangle, southeastern Michigan, 2011.

Clawson, Craig, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Relative dating and correlation of soil chronosequences developed in sandy Late Quaternary glacial sediments, Detroit, Michigan, Using potassium adsorption isotherm analysis, 2011.

Brian Dubay, M.S. (Dept. of Geology), Urban soil genesis, weathering of waste building materials, and bioaccessibility of lead in a chronosequence at former demolition sites, Detroit, Michigan, 2012.

Katharine Orlicki, M. S. (Dept. of Geology), Evaluation of soil electrical conductivity and magnetic susceptibility as tools for mapping urban soils, 2015.

Philip Backers, M. S. (Dept. of Geology), Evaluation of hygroscopic soil amendments and natural freeze-thaw cycling to accelerate the mechanical breakdown of artifacts in demolition site soils, 2015.

Mellisa Powers, M. S. (Dept. of Geology), Background levels, geochemical forms and bioavailability of arsenic in urban soils of Detroit, Michigan, in progress.

Weyhrauch, Jon, M. S. (Dept. of Geology), Anthropogenic 226Ra and other radioactive nuclides in urban soils of Detroit, Michigan, in progress.

Neidermiller, Dawn, M. S. (Dept. of Geology), Geologic map of Precambrian rocks in the Superior province near Timmins, Ontario, Canada, in progress.