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 title of this presentation, 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 is an engineering-geologist currently based in Hobart with over 20 years of GIS experience. His 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 to be held in Melbourne on 15 February 2018.


Venue location

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.