Engineers Australia

What does GIS offer Geotechnical Investigations?

Colin Mazengarb, Senior Geologist, Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT)


We are somewhere in the midst of a revolution in spatial technology. 30 years ago Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) were in their infancy. Engineering designers embraced CAD software whereas geoscientists began to explore the possibilities of GIS in their field. Back then only organisations with deep pockets and mainframe computers could entertain using GIS, and rarely in engineering applications. Fast forward to today and GIS has matured to a point that it extremely relevant to engineering, is no longer cost prohibitive and there is an explosion of data available to consume, analyse and interpret. In addition spatial technology has recently broadened beyond the GIS label and is now found in the form of mapping apps residing on smart phones and tablets. Very soon consumer grade GPS on smart phones will be capable of decimetre accuracy while terrabytes of spatial data can be freely accessed live over the web at your desk or in the field. All technology revolutions by their very nature are disruptive, and this is impacting on software vendors, data suppliers, surveyors and GIS consultancies.

For whatever reason, there is a widespread belief that many geotechnical practitioners are not taking advantage of the benefits that GIS presents to their business objectives. In addressing the question in the presentation title, the discussion will be expanded to discuss why engineering-geologists and engineers should consider learning to drive the software itself and not leave it entirely to GIS specialists.

Colin’s presentation will be illustrated with examples of geotechnical work he has undertaken in Tasmania and New Zealand, including mine subsidence, landslide zoning, debris flow and rock fall runout modelling. Through these examples an outline of some of the more recent developments in GIS will be discussed.
His talk is a prelude to the GIS for Geotechs course he has developed in association with the Australian Geomechanics Society.

About Colin Mazengarb

Colin trained as a geologist at the University of Auckland, graduating with a MSc degree. He practised as a regional geologist with the NZ Geological Survey (and successor organisations) for 20 years including 1 year as a visiting geologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey. In 2003, he took up a position as an engineering-geologist with Tasmania’s geological survey.

His career was initially founded on classical regional geological mapping projects but subsequently broadened to natural hazards and engineering-geology heavily utilising GIS and other forms of digital technology.

Colin lives in Hobart with his wife and 3 adult children and when not working enjoys cycling, tennis and family activities.

Venue location

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