Australia and New Zealand Conference on Geomechanics 2023

Professor Anna Giacomini, Dr Merrick Taylor, Dr Shiaohuey Chow, Dr Ellen Rathje, Dr Fred Baynes, Dr Daniel King and Ann Williams

On behalf of the Australian and New Zealand Geotechnical societies we welcome you to the ANZ2023 conference.  ANZ2023 is a regional conference of the ISSMGE and is held on a 4 year cycle in between the ICSMGE conferences. The aims of this conference are to reconnect people post-covid, help develop the next generation of geotechnical leaders through plenary and session presentations and to stimulate technical discussion.

Our profession will play a key role helping society achieve a safe, prosperous and sustainable future.  Recent droughts have driven a boom in dam design and construction aimed at ensuring communities have drinking water.  Recent rainfall has triggered extensive slope failures which has impacted roads, rail and urban infrastructure.  The energy transformation from fossil fuels to something different is driving large scale solar, wind and pumped hydro construction all of which have substantial geotechnical components.  Other technologies such as hydrogen, waste to energy, geothermal etc all will require geotechnical input. The digital age is well and truly upon us and the possibilities of using technology are almost endless.  AI has been used to predict future rail maintenance and landslide susceptibility.  Various automations are being developed by everyone to make their work more efficient.  Structural health monitoring, instrumentation, autonomous vehicles will all require digital input along with construction monitoring, intelligent compaction and so on. Biogeo-technologies are being researched and may become practical into the future.  Unsaturated soil mechanics has been adopted in some places to reduce construction costs but comes with risks that need to be understood.  Stochastic methods more generally are becoming increasingly common as we grapple with the age old problem of making decisions in the face of uncertainty. Teaching our people new skills will be key which begs the question to what extent should it be done through universities or businesses? Teaching old skills such as engineering geology, groundwater, geophysics and laboratory testing has disappeared from universities to a large extent.  This has only become acutely apparent now we are building dams again and our profession lacks skilled people having not built any dams for 30 years.  How do we regain these skills quickly?

Cairns is the first regional centre in Australia to be awarded the ANZ conference. Cairns was chosen because it has good transport connections, has many activities for partners and families, and its geology covers most areas of interest.  We hope you get the chance to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef, the Kuranda Range and perhaps the Atherton tablelands and Cape York peninsula.  There is also fine wining and dining to be had.

Our profession has an exciting future. We look forward to seeing you all in July 2023, getting philosophical, celebrating luminaries and enjoying each others company.

Dr Richard Kelly
Chair Organising Committee
Dr David Lacey
Secretary Organising Committee
Professor Robert May
Technical Committee Lead


Professor Anna Gacomini

Professor Anna Giacomini University of Newcastle

Professor Anna Giacomini received her PhD in 2003 from the University of Parma, Italy, and joined the University of Newcastle in 2005. She is currently Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Newcastle and, since May 2019, along with her full time research and teaching academic role, she is also the Director of the Priority Research Centre for Geotechnical Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering, Science and Environment of the University of Newcastle.

Anna has been working in the field of rock mechanics and rockfall analyses for more than 20 years. Adapting to the new Australian Environment, she has extended her extensive research experience in rockfall analysis and rock mechanics from civil engineering to mining. Since 2009, she has been leading several major research projects through industry and government funds on rockfall hazard and mitigation developing new designs for engineered barriers to protect valuable major corridors, infrastructures, and recreational areas from rockfall hazards. Anna’s contribution to science in rock mechanics and rockfall analysis has been recognised by several awards such as the recent 2019 John Booker Medal from the Australian Academy of Science and the 2019 Best Practice Industry Engagement Award she received from the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources. Anna has published over 150 scientific works, she serves as Editorial board member of four prestigious International Journals in the field, as reviewer for several national and international funding bodies and many international journals in the rock mechanics and engineering fields.

Dr Merrick Taylor Beca

Dr Merrick Taylor is a Chartered Engineer (Geotechnical and Seismic) and Senior Associate with engineering consultants Beca based in Auckland, New Zealand. He has more than 20 years’ experience (15 in consulting and 6 in post-graduate research) having developed specialist capabilities in earthquake geotechnical engineering (MSc, PhD), and experience in the design of critical infrastructure for resilience.  He has been involved with and led the delivery of geotechnical and seismic engineering design services for a diverse range of clients in Australasia, the South Pacific, and further afield, covering major commercial and government building projects, industrial facilities, and infrastructure projects across the land transport, maritime, water and energy sectors. He is experienced with leading and delivering all aspects of geotechnical design from initial desk study, ground investigations, geological interpretation, geotechnical site characterisation, seismic hazard assessment (PSHA, site response, liquefaction hazard), and from concept through to detailed design of foundations and earthworks, construction monitoring and peer review.

Dr Shiaohuey Chow University of Melbourne

Dr Shiaohuey Chow is a Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Melbourne. She is an experimentalist in geotechnical engineering (laboratory soil element testing, laboratory 1g model testing, centrifuge modelling and field investigation) with research interests in offshore geotechnics. Her expertise includes offshore geotechnical site investigation using free-fall penetrometers, anchoring solution in sand and strain rate effects in soil. Her works have received several international best paper awards, including the Telford Premium Prize in 2016 and Manby Prize in 2014 from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), UK. Shiaohuey is an Associate Editor for the Géotechnique Letters and International Journal of Physical Modelling in Geotechnics. She is also a member in the Technical Committee 214 on Foundation Engineering for Difficult Soft Soil Conditions of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE), and a Committee member in the Australian Geomechanics Society (Victorian Chapter).

Dr Ellen Rathje University of Texas

Dr Ellen Rathje is the Janet S. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), and a Senior Research Scientist at the UT Bureau of Economic Geology.  She has expertise in the areas of seismic site response analysis, seismic slope stability, liquefaction, field reconnaissance after earthquakes, and remote sensing.  Dr. Rathje is a founding member and previous Co-Chair of the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association, and currently the Principal Investigator for the cyberinfrastructure for the NSF-funded Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI).  She has been honored with the 2022 Peck Lecture Award from the ASCE Geo-Institute, the 2018 William B. Joyner Lecture Award from the Seismological Society of America and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and the 2010 Huber Research Prize from the ASCE. She was elected Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2016.

Dr Fred Baynes Baynes Geological Pty Ltd

Dr Fred Baynes was educated in the UK and worked for a site investigation contractor in the UK before he immigrated to Australia in 1980, where he has worked as an engineering geologist for contractors, consultants and utilities. Fred is now an independent consultant engineering geologist with a continuing love of field work and provides advice to major projects in the civil, mining and oil and gas sectors throughout the world.

Fred’s publications have endeavoured to explore the basic principles which underlie good practice in engineering geology and demonstrate how engineering geological studies can contribute to projects. The approach that he advocates is to focus on field studies, concentrate on “getting the geology right” and develop effective geological models of all sorts to facilitate successful project delivery. He continues to regularly teach geology to civil engineering undergraduates and professional development courses on engineering geology, geology for engineers, landslides and logging rocks and soils and was involved in the revision of the Australian Standard for geotechnical site investigations.

Fred was involved in the International Association of Engineering Geology from 2003 to 2014 and was President from 2007 to 2010. He has been an active member of the Australian Geomechanics Society for 30 years.

Dr Daniel King WSP-Golder

Daniel King is a Principal Geotechnical Engineer at WSP-Golder with over 13 years of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Hons1) and Bachelor of Science (Physics) from the University of Melbourne. He completed his PhD at Monash University in 2017 investigating the serviceability behaviour of geosynthetic reinforcement column supported embankments based on an industry funded field case study completed as part of Regional Rail Link. He was awarded the 2017 Best Paper in Geotextiles and Geomembranes, Editors Choice award July 2018 in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal and was the recipient of the 2017 Jack Morgan Young Geotechnical Engineering award. He has been a committee member of the AGS Victoria since 2014, has had considerable involvement in the yearly AGS Victoria Symposiums since 2016 and is the current AGS Victoria Chair. He has worked broadly in the field of geotechnical engineering with some notable projects include the stone column ground improvement design for an iron ore stockyard in Port Hedland, piled raft foundation analyses for two 60-level residential towers in India, ground movement risk assessments for Hazelwood Mine closure and recently as Civil Lead for a 250 m high ground anchored wall at a mine site in PNG.

Ann Williams Beca Ltd

Ann Williams is a Professional Engineering Geologist and a Technical Fellow with the consulting firm Beca Ltd, based in Auckland New Zealand. Ann has more than 30 years’ experience in engineering geology, hydrogeology and the identification of geotechnical risks related to infrastructure projects. She has scoped, directed and reviewed these aspects of many projects from concept design through assessment of effects and consenting to construction and monitoring. Ann understands well geotechnical hazard and risk issues in dynamic landscapes and has undertaken landslide risk identification, mapping and mitigation assignments for projects throughout New Zealand, as well as in Samoa, Vanuatu, Indonesia, Timor, West Papua and Papua New Guinea.

Ann is a Past Chair and Life Member of the New Zealand Geotechnical Society Inc., and past Vice President (Australasia) of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment (IAEG). She is a member of the editorial boards of a number of international journals. She was instrumental in establishing a register of Professional Engineering Geologists (PEngGeol) in New Zealand and is a PEngGeol assessor and Fellow of Engineering New Zealand. She was recently elected to the Board of Engineering New Zealand. Ann is the recipient of the 2022 NZGS Geomechanics Lecture Award.

Engineers Australia members participating in AGS technical sessions can record attendance on their personal CPD logs. Members should refer to Engineers Australia CPD policy for details on CPD types, requirements and auditing guidelines.