2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM

Consulting Engineering Geology Workforce Crisis: Making Do and Limiting Liability

KEATON, Jeffrey R. and MUNRO, Rosalind, MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc, 5628 E Slauson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90040, rmunro@mactec.com

Consulting companies providing engineering geology services face a variety of challenges, including workforce. Science assignments tend to be studies (e.g., fault and slope stability evaluations), whereas engineering assignments tend to be developmental (e.g., characterization of a site for design of a building). Consulting is a mature practice, with many highly regulated aspects which must follow guidelines closely. Many projects are awarded on price which reduces mentoring opportunities and stifles innovation.

Consulting assignments include field (e.g., describing ‘soil' and rock samples on drill rigs and mapping geologic features at project sites), laboratory (e.g., classification tests), analysis (e.g., stereographic projection of rock structure data), and communication (e.g., memos and report sections). Completeness, accuracy, and timeliness are key factors. Basic (e.g., accurate field observations) and advanced (e.g., interpretation of geologic processes and rates) skills are essential. Consultants must understand scope, schedule, and budget limitations and be able to work in rapid succession on multiple projects involving different groups of people.

Undergraduate academic preparation varies from BA in Earth Systems to BS in Geology; few degrees are in Engineering Geology or Geological Engineering; most graduates require technical (academic) as well as industry training. Large-company consulting practice requires diverse abilities, ranging from geologically simple sites for building development to complex geologic conditions for deep tunnel design. Differentiation among facts, inferences, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations is essential in consulting practice. Communication tends to be a general weakness orally, in written form, and in terms of effective use of illustrations. Professional liability is a major concern, which requires attention to all of these details.