The participation of the geological engineer in a project usually begins with desk research. They can identify and investigate local soil conditions by studying maps and geological records, aerial photographs, and satellite images.
Geological engineers must take into account conditions such as soil, rocks, and groundwater. They must ensure that the surrounding rocks and soil will provide a safe and adequate foundation for the engineering structure to be built (tunnels, bridges or dams).
For this reason, they should investigate factors such as the strength of the foundations and potential landslides and landslides. On occasion, they must take into consideration whether a river that is being dammed has a lot of suspended sediment, for example.
Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important in the field of geological engineering. For example, geological engineers must consider and anticipate the effects of works on the water table (water that runs below the ground) and the risk of reducing the water supply to local populations, towns and farms.
If they work in countries that experience frequent earthquakes, geological engineers will also have to investigate the probability of an earthquake occurring in the area, as well as forecast its strength and impact.
If the project can go ahead, then the engineers must consider what steps to take to ensure the stability of the structure.
After the initial investigation, the geological engineer begins a detailed investigation of the site. You can use different techniques to assess ground conditions. For example, geological engineers supervise the drilling of boreholes by running video cameras down the tunnels, allowing the geologist to visualize the rock layers deep below.
Geological engineers can also use computer software to model rock layers and simulate how the rock will react when undergoing engineering work.
The geological engineer has to ensure that the works to be carried out will not exceed the established budget.
Following these investigations, geological engineers write and report on their work, and discuss their report with other team members, such as civil and structural engineers, soil scientists, and project managers.
Once development has started, the geological engineer checks that the materials and conditions conform to the predictions.
In addition to their participation in civil engineering works, geological engineers help local authorities to choose safe sites that meet all sanitary requirements, ensuring the adequacy of the surrounding soils and rocks (the liquids that seep from landfills can contaminate rivers and other water sources).
Geological engineers also advise on abandoned mines and quarries, taking into account whether the sites are safe and suitable for tourism or for recreational activities such as climbing.
Geologists investigate industrially contaminated land and assess it to make sure it can be built on.