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GeoNiagara 2021 will present a diverse range of keynote speakers and guest presenters as part of the daily program, and will include six plenary presentations including the RM Hardy Keynote Address (CGS), the Stockholm Water Prize winner (IAH), and the 2021 Canadian Geotechnical Colloquium.

RM Hardy keynote address | dr. Mark diederichs

Underground Construction in Complex Rock Environments: Promises and Pitfalls of Observational Design

The Observational Approach for geotechnical design and construction was proposed by Karl Terzaghi in 1945 and then reworked and discussed by Bjerrum and Terzaghi in the early 1960's as a means to cope with the inherent uncertainty of working and construction with and through Earth materials. While this process was successfully weaponized by Terzaghi in many significant engineering works, Ralph Peck wrote a seminal paper in 1969 on the advantages and limitations of the method (in soil mechanics). To use a tunnel example, the basic premise of the method is that rather than attempt to define and locate, a priori, all conditions along the tunnel, the project team conducts enough exploration to define the nature, pattern and range of properties, assess the most probable deviation from these conditions, establish a design based on most probable condition, with a toolbox of modifications to the design should there be a foreseeable deviation from this baseline. Measurable quantities during construction (wall displacement, ground settlement, support loads) are to be determined and monitored in as much as they reflect actual conditions. The as-built design is then modified to suit actual conditions. This method has served geotechnical engineering well, but as Peck observes, "“It is, of course, essential that the quantities to be observed should reflect the phenomena that will actually govern the behaviour of the works to be constructed....A mistaken preconception of the nature of the problem may lead to omission of observations of types that would have disclosed the real reasons for concern.” This last statement is never more a truism than in major tunnelling and underground construction projects in complex rock with extensive tectonic history and speaks to the critical importance of fundamental Engineering Geology as a both a precursor and a critical tactical tool for the implementation of observational design. While in many projects in rock engineering, observational design has been reduced to recording immediate tunnel performance or rock properties at the working heading and modifying the local design according to tabulated, prespecified approaches. In complex geological environments, this approach fails in a manner consistent with Peck's warning quoted above. This talk will highlight, through case histories on four continents, the critical importance of creating and updating the broader geological model, throughout construction, in addition to geotechnical monitoring of the immediate project envelope.
Mark Diederichs, PhD, PEng, FEIC, began his career with a BASc in Geological Engineering (1987) and completed an MASc in Rock Engineering (1989) at the University of Toronto. He moved on to a position as a field micro-seismic engineering technician at Creighton Mine in support of an industry-academic collaborative research program to improve monitoring and response in deep dynamic mining environments. From there, he worked with an R&D team at Laurentian University on a variety of projects including conventional ground support, support for large mining stopes, micro-seismic and rockburst research, and other tools in support of mining geomechanics. He is the author of a handbook on mine support and completed his PhD in brittle rock mechanics at the University of Waterloo in 1999. He has been a Professor of Geological Engineering at Queen’s University since 2001, has authored 400 refereed articles on a variety of subjects in rock mechanics, engineering geology, and rock engineering. He has been an active consultant in Canadian and international mining and tunnelling for over 25 years and currently acts as a senior international advisor and reviewer in site investigation, rock engineering and design, risk management and contractual issues for major underground and surface mining, tunnelling and cavern construction, hydroelectric power projects, nuclear repository geoscience, and engineering and rock mechanics including structural instability, squeezing and swelling ground, and brittle fracture and rockbursting.

2021 CANADIAN GEOTECHNICAL colloquium | renato macciotta pulisci

Risk evolution of natural and cut-slopes as a function of measured performance and climate change


Renato Macciotta Pulisci, PhD, PEng is an Assistant Professor in theFaculty of Engineering - Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Alberta.

2020 stockholm water prize winner | dr. john cherry

Ten Reasons Why Our Relationship With Groundwater Is a Total Mess


Dr. John Cherry’s research pioneered the field of “contaminant hydrogeology”. He holds geological engineering degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, University of California Berkeley, and a PhD in hydrogeology from the University of Illinois. He joined the faculty at the University of Waterloo in 1971 and retired in 2006 as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus. He co-authored the textbook “Groundwater” with R.A. Freeze (1979) and co-holds several patents, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Foreign Member of the U.S. Academy of Engineering. He was the Chair of the Canadian Expert Panel on the environmental impacts of shale gas development. He has received awards from the USA, UK, Switzerland, Canada, Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, 2016), IAH President’s Award (2019) and the 2020 Stockholm Water Prize. He is currently a Principle Investigator at the G360 Institute and Project Leader for the Groundwater Project ( a project aimed at democratizing groundwater education globally. He is the Director of the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Contamination Research.

iah-cnc luncheon guest speaker | dr. nandita Basu

Nutrient Legacies: The critical role of the subsurface in addressing surface water pollution


Dr. Nandita Basu is an Associate Professor and University Research Chair, jointly appointed in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Waterloo.  Nandita is currently the Director of the Collaborative Water Program at Waterloo, Member of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Hydrology. Nandita is a watershed hydrologist and biogeochemist, and her research interests cover a broad range of issues related to water in human-impacted environments in her research.  Her current research focuses on the legacies of nutrients that accumulate in the subsurface and lead to time lags between implementation of watershed conservation measures and water quality improvement. Her team is developing travel-time based models to quantify these time lags and to help identify management strategies such as wetland restoration and creation of riparian buffers to maximize nutrient removal and minimize watershed response times.

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