Geotechnical engineer

 

Repairs to a culvert on the Dempster Highway, north of the Arctic Circle 1990

Repairs to a culvert on the Dempster Highway, north of the Arctic Circle 1990

 

“Geotechnical engineering is the science that explains mechanics of soil and rock and its applications to the development of humankind. It includes…the analysis, design and construction of foundations, slopes, retaining structures, embankments, roadways, tunnels, levees, wharves, landfills and other systems that are made of or are supported by soil or rock….

“Everything you see around you is supported by soil or rock. Geotechnical engineers are responsible for that. Anything that is not supported by soil or rock, either floats, flies or falls down.”

http://www.whatisgeotech.org/

 

When it comes right down to it, what is it that geotechnical engineers care about? Slope stability, settlement, bearing capacity/trafficability. It’s as simple and as complex as that.

Teton Dam -- failed due to slope instability - piping leading to a loss of contents on first filling with tragic loss of life.

Teton Dam — failed due to slope instability – piping leading to a loss of contents on first filling with tragic loss of life.

 

Dempster Highway, NWT Canada. Built on permafrost, engineered not to melt the permafrost (which causes settlement and landslides.

Dempster Highway, NWT Canada. Built on permafrost, engineered not to melt the permafrost (which causes settlement and landslides.

 

 

I work in a number of different areas in geotechnical engineering — some simply hard core geotechnical engineering (foundations, slopes, dams, dumps), oil sands (pitwalls, other slopes, dams, dumps, tailings), mine waste (covers all types of mine wastes from the mining industry — waste rock, tailings, and a host of other streams), soft tailings (how to cap and reclaim tailings that is too soft for normal mining equipment), geotechnical risk assessment, sulphur storage, and grouted piezometers and other geotechnical instrumentation).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oil sands geotechnique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mine waste geotechnique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soft tailings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geotechnical risk assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sulphur storage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grouted-in method of installing piezometers in boreholes

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in the field of engineering or geology generally, let me recommend to you some of my favourite books:

  • Henry Petroski , Professor of Civil Engineering Duke University
    • To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design (1985)
    • Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering (1994)
    • Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering (1997)
  • Donald Norman, director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego
    • The Design of Everyday Things
  • Richard Goodman, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkley
    • Karl Terzaghi: the Engineer as Artist (1988 biography)
  • Willard Bascom (1916-2000)
    • The Crest of the Wave: Adventures in Oceanography (1990)
  • Sarewitz et al
    • Prediction: Science, Decision Making, and the Future of Nature (2000)
  • Silver Donald Cameron
    • The Living Beach: Life, Death, and Politics Where the Land Meets the Sea (1998, also 2014)
  • William Cronon, Professor, Univerisyt of Wisconsin-Madison
    • Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (1996)
  • Thomas Homer-Dixon, Professor University of Waterloo
    • The Ingenuity Gap (2000)
  • Simon Winchester
    • The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology (2001)
  • Mario Salvadori
    • Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture (1990)
  • David McCullough
    • The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Jared Diamond
    • The World Until Yesterday: What we Can Learn from Traditional Societies?
    • Guns Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
  • Carl Sagan
    • Cosmos
    • Pale Blue Dot
  • Dan Gardiner
    • The Science and Politics of Fear
Gord visiting the Geological Society in London in 2016 to see an original Smith geology map

Gord visiting the Geological Society in London in 2016 to see an original Smith geology map

 

 

Pebble Beach, near Marathon, Ontario, Canada

Pebble Beach, near Marathon, Ontario, Canada