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What Is Engineering Geology?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Engineering geology is a hybrid discipline that uses comprehensive knowledge of geology to assess and manage engineering projects. Geologists in this field are typically highly skilled scientists with a strong educational background in both geology and engineering. Some of the many careers in engineering geology include building and infrastructure site analysis, pollution clean-up assessments, and environmental resource management.

Geology, which forms the base of theoretical knowledge for this discipline, is the study of the Earth's substances and processes. By understanding the materials and environment of a prospective building site, a geologist can assist in developing a plan to safely build nearly any type of structure. Understanding how the natural features of a site affect the engineering processes that will be necessary to build safe, stable, lasting structure is critical to this science. The analysis of an engineering geologist may affect everything from site location to building materials.

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The basic goal of engineering geology is to determine which geological issues may affect a project, and plan how to address these issues safely. If a city wishes to construct a new courthouse, an engineering geologist may be called in to analyze the prospective site for any potential hazards, as well as to provide an assessment of the site that will help determine how the courthouse is built. Some of the tasks involved in completing these jobs may include soil analysis to determine soil makeup and potential contamination, as well as assessing the risk of natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, on the site.

In addition to providing risk analysis at the beginning of a project, engineering geology also plays a major part in the upkeep and maintenance of existing sites. Since many buildings date from older periods when site assessment was minimal, it is important for modern scientists to periodically check for potential hazards from a geological standpoint. Earthquake retrofitting, for instance, is done to help buildings better absorb the shocks and tremors caused by an earthquake, and may be designed based on the analysis of a geological engineer.

There are many different careers in engineering geology that may be available to those with proper training. Some geologists work with construction and infrastructure-building companies, to assess and maintain buildings, roads, and pipelines. Engineering geologists with an interest in conservation may work with wildlife restoration or pollution clean-up organizations, providing ongoing assessments of progress or damage at a particular site. Geologists may also find lucrative work in the industrial world, particularly by providing assessments for mining operations, where geological concerns are critical to safety. Some may also work with governments to determine emergency plans for natural disasters caused by geological events, such as floods, earthquakes, or volcanoes.

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