Engineering Geologists vs Geological Engineers vs Geotechnical Engineers

True Geoengineer, Ed Medley wrote an article attempting to answer this question in the March/April 2009 issue of the Geo-institute’s Geo-Strata Magazine I remember reading it at that time and enjoying it.  If you are a member (and you’re logged in), you can probably find his original article at the Geo-Institute site.  But he recently republished it in more or less the same form on his blog.  I highly recommend it for those who find their own specialty/degree/geo-profession difficult to define for people.  I particularly liked his elegantly simple “phase sequence” of Applied Earth Sciences which I will repeat here with on minor change, replacing his “Soil/Foundation/Rock/Groundwater Engineering” with just “Geotechnical Engineering”.

Engineering – Civil Engineering – Geotechnical Engineering – Geological Engineering – Engineering Geology – Geology

When you write it out like that, it really does make sense.  In fact it makes so much sense and I like it so much, I think I will create a scoring system out of it so you can plot where you fall on a 6-point…let’s make it a 10-point range covering all these disciplines.  Maybe we could call it the Ed Medley Factor or EMF or perhaps Applied Earth Sciences Scale (AESS) although that last one seems to be pronounced a little dirty.  Let me know if you have any better ideas.  But imagine the next AEG meeting or Geo-Institute conference where people had their EMF or AESS right on their name tag.  Just a thought, might have to ruminate on that a little longer to see if it’s really a good idea.

To continue on the same topic a bit longer, Ed also posted something about some recent discussions he was having on the LinkedIn group for Engineering Geologists.   There were differing opinions on whether geological engineers and engineering geologists were the same thing, or whether engineers could ever be geologists.  I won’t get into the details, but if you’re interested check it out.  I will say I think Ed has hit it entirely on the head.  I think much of the confusion simply arises out of the fact that people throw titles and labels around without really thinking about what they mean, and also the true Geological Engineering program and degree is quite rare, so most people really don’t even realize there is such a thing.

As I write this post, I’m thinking back to my undergraduate days in Geological Engineering, and I am pretty sure I didn’t really have a clue about all of the differences between these various disciplines.  And I distinctly remember that there was not much cooperation between folks in my program (housed in the Mining and Geological Engineering Department at the University of Arizona) and the Geologists in the Geoscience department or the Civil Engineering Department.  The Geologists seemed annoyed that we took spots in their courses and field camp and that we frequently were on the high end of the grading scale.  The Civil Engineers seemed to look down on us slightly, perhaps thinking that we didn’t have as rigorous of a program.  There were rivalries, cliques and very little cooperation.  But now all of that stuff just seems silly.

I work at a company that employs nearly all ranges on the EMF/AESS.   And I recognize the skills and value of all of those disciplines.  Very few people in consulting fly solo 100% of the time, and everyone has different skill sets that come into play and are needed to get the job done.  It comes down to recognizing what your skill set is, practicing within your area of expertise, and respecting the skills and abilities of your colleagues.  I wish I had realized that a little better back in school.

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Rockman is a Daddy again!

IMG_0489I’m so happy to report that I’m a Daddy for the third time…and it’s a girl…for the third time as well! Gabby was born on 2/16/2011 and she is just as gorgeous as can be!  I’m taking a little time off from work and from blogging to be at home with the family, but I have stockpiled some nice little Gabby-sized blog entries that I can publish in between diaper changes.  I’ll be back in action (albeit slightly less well rested) soon, and gearing up for the Geo-Frontiers conference in Dallas in mid-March.

IMG_9460    IMG_9447

A Geoengineer’s Christmas List 2010

My own personal Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)!

The SenseFly swinglet CAM UAV has a 12 mega-pixel camera mounted on a lightweight aerial frame that requires no piloting skills.  You connect the ground station to your laptop via USB and provide waypoints for the vehicle to fly, taking pictures at designated intervals.  It can land on its own, and you can provide updated instructions on the fly.  If it loses contact for some reason, it will just orbit on the flight path.  In the absolute worst case, it circle down and land at its slowest speed.  The package runs about $10,000 (US) according to the Google Earth Blog.  But it includes everything you need to fly minus the laptop.

Thanks for the hook up Santa!

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My Love Hate Relationship with Geocaching


I am not a geocacher, but I’ve always thought it sounded like a fun thing to do when my kids get a little older. But this author has some unique insights into the hobby that I never thought about before. Thing like impacts to trails and the environment when you go off the trail, density of caches, potential hazardous terrain for people who may not be experienced in the outdoors and even bomb scares! [Source: GPS Review. Image: nicolemariella]

More Nuclear Power – No Geologic Repository

President Obama’s decision to cut funding to Yucca Mountain has, for me, been the most disappointing decision he has made so far in his presidency. And yet he has also professed his desire to increase the use of Nuclear Power Plants to meet the United States’ energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Well, in my opinion, you can’t have it both ways.

People are concerned about the security risks of transporting spent nuclear fuel, and possible long term environmental risks. What about the risks of hundreds of “Obama Barrels” (to borrow a phrase by geoblogger Ontario-geofish) littered around our nuclear power plants for the next hundred years. posted this CNN video showing the dry storage of spent Nuclear Fuel at a Chicago area nuclear power plant. Check it out. Sorry about the rant, but this topic is a hot button with me.

Welcome new Sponsors: Nicholson Construction and Dataforensics!

I am very grateful for the support of two new sponsors this year, Nicholson Construction and Dataforensics. Please let them know you appreciate their financial support of GeoPrac!

Nicholson Construction Logo Nicholson Construction is a specialty geotechnical contractor headquartered out of Cuddy Pennsylvania. They have expertise in many different techniques, including micropiles, augercast piles, soil-nailing, ground anchors, jet grouting, compaction grouting and stone columns among many others. Find more info about the on Our Sponsors page or at the Nicholson Construction website.


Dataforensics Dataforensics is a software company specializing in geotechnical and geoenvironmental data management. Their products include PLog, the most popular field borehole logging system on the market, PLog Enterprise – the only GIS based geotechnical data management system, PDensity and PConcrete for field and office data management of construction QA/QC, PWell for groundwater monitoring data management, and a cone penetration testing software package called RAPID CPT. Read more about Dataforensics on the Our Sponsors page or at the Dataforensics website.