Geological engineering involves geology, civil engineering, and fields such as mining, forestry and geography. These engineers apply earth sciences to human problems. Specialty areas include geotechnical site studies of rock and soil slope stability for projects; environmental studies and planning for construction sites; groundwater studies; hazard investigations; and finding fossil fuel and mineral deposits.
Geological engineers investigate things that are part of or are made to be part of the earth, including roads, mines and quarries, dams, petroleum production, railways, building projects, pipelines, and forestry operations.
They engineer clean-up and environmental assessments where pollution occurs. They survey for minerals and drinking water; they search for building material resources, and they map potential landslides and earthquakes. The variety in this field is enormous.
What do They do?
Many of these specialists consult for engineering or environmental firms. Many are employed by highway departments, environmental protection agencies, forest services, and hydro operations.
Construction industries depend on geological engineers to assure the stability of rock and soil foundations for tunnels, bridges, and highrises. Foundations must withstand earthquakes, landslides, and all other phenomena which effect the ground, including permafrost, swamps and bogs.
Geological engineers find better ways to build and manage landfills. They find safer ways to dispose of toxic chemicals and garbage, and to manage sewage. They plan excavations and design tunnels.
Transportation infrastructures depend on geological engineers to determine strong terrain and safe pathways for airports, railways, highways, and even pipelines.
These engineers are heavily employed in energy fields, exploring for more natural resources (oil, gas, uranium, tar sands, geothermal and coal). They develop ways to mine hard-to-access resources, and in the least polluting manner. They are responsible for the safety of pits, reservoirs and mining facilities, guarding against earthquake damage and environmental risks—even for nuclear reactors.
Groundwater is another geological engineering specialty. Industries and farms need reliable water sources, sometimes requiring dams or well drilling. Water supply to hydroelectric dams is regulated by these engineers; they design dikes and they work at preventing shoreline erosion.
Ore and other metallic mineral deposits (lead, zinc, iron, nickel, copper) are essential to transportation and construction industries. Geological engineers discover new sources of minerals, as present supplies diminish.