critical issues

Disaster Risk Reduction: The role of geological survey organizations in understanding risk and informing risk reduction actions

Monday, February 6, 2023

Geological Survey Organizations (GSOs) play a critical role in understanding geo-hazards and risks as a required component for designing and implementing disaster risk management policies and programs. This forum will provide three virtual workshops to support the exchange of information among executives and senior managers on the role of GSOs in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) at a National Level. The forum will provide a high level overview of the role of GSOs in disaster risk reduction, including strategies, awareness of and advocacy on hazards and risks, financial risk management, building codes, and early warning systems.

The forum will also provide an overview of the range of national interinstitutional governance structures within which GSOs function, in the context of national level DRR and climate change adaptation policy settings. Speakers will discuss the common challenges and opportunities for effective use of hazard and risk assessments in national DRR policies, investments, and programs, identify gaps and enablers for enhancing the role of GSOs in DRR, and evaluate how the focus and investments in climate adaptation can be a threat but also an opportunity for enhancing geo-risk awareness and resilience measures.

The forum will be hosted as a set of three regional sessions, with each regional forum featuring pre-recorded lectures from science policy experts and geoscientists and a live moderated discussion session with attendees.

All sessions will be conducted in English with live captioning in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Modern Chinese, and Arabic.

Please contact Sahar Safaie at sahar.safaie@sageonearth.ca with any questions about this forum.

Session Schedule

Part I: The Enablers: Mechanisms that facilitate GSOs' role in disaster and climate risk management
06 February 2023  13.00 - 16.00 GMT

Part II: The Science and Technology: Advancing methods, tools, and capabilities in hazard and risk assessment
13 February 2023  16.00 - 19.00 GMT

Part III: The Risk Management Goal: How GSOs can support awareness and advocacy, enhancing building codes, early warning systems, and local level resilience planning
20 February 2023  03.00 - 06.00 GMT

Register for the forum

Exploring for the Future International Showcase

Thursday, August 11, 2022

By 2024 the Australian Government will have invested $225 million in an unprecedented level of precompetitive geoscience data acquisition and knowledge generation. Led by Australia’s national geoscience organisation, Geoscience Australia, the program is gathering and analysing geological, geochemical and geophysical data. Results are publicly available and are informing decision-making and investment in Australia’s resources sector to deliver a reliable pipeline of resources for the world.

The Exploring for the Future International Showcase will provide an overview of the program’s impact and will share scientific advancements made to date, through a series of short talks and a question and answer session. At its heart, the program is stimulating industry today by delivering an improved understanding of Australia’s potential minerals, energy, and groundwater resources.

More information is available on the website (www.ga.gov.au/eftf) and you can access the vast array of datasets and decision support tools developed by the program through the Data Discovery portal (https://portal.ga.gov.au/persona/eftf).

View the next presentation in this event.

Presenters and topics

  • Welcome and introductory remarks, Dr. Karol Czarnota
  • Value of precompetitive geoscience, Dr. Andrew Heap
  • Big data acquisition, tools and the portal, Dr. Laura Gow
  • Uncovering resource potential: Tennant Creek to Mount Isa, Dr. Geoff Fraser
  • Advancing mineral systems science, Dr. Arianne Ford
  • Hydrogen and green steel potential, Dr. Andrew Feitz

The presentations will be followed with a moderated discussion between the presenters and event attendees.

All sessions will be conducted in English with live captioning in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Modern Chinese, and Hindi.

Please contact eftf@gmail.com if you have any follow-on questions about the presentations or the event.

This event is organized by Geoscience Australia and hosted by the American Geosciences Institute

pdf download iconDownload the event flyer

 

Geo-hazard Early Warning Systems to Protect Vulnerable Populations

Friday, April 22, 2022

This free webinar, featuring two Geoscientists without Borders® (GWB) humanitarian projects, provides information about the challenges and ways forward for implementing hazard early warning systems in data sparse locations to protect vulnerable populations. Our speakers will discuss geophysical methods carried out to build a robust database aimed at predicting natural disasters, such as landslides and earthquakes, ultimately to improve existing models and advance warning times for populations in high-risk hazard locations.

View the next video in this webinar

Our speakers

  • Dr. Václav Kuna, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute of Geophysics, Czech Academy of Sciences

NepalEEW: Testing the feasibility of an Earthquake Early Warning System in Nepal
YouTube download icon Video | pdf download iconAbstract | pdf download icon Presentation slides

  • Dr. Thomas Oomen, Professor of Geological Engineering, Director of Computational Science and Engineering PhD Program, Michigan Technological University

Landslide Early Warning in a Data Sparse Region, Challenges and Way Forward: The case of Idukki, Western Ghats, India
YouTube download icon Video | pdf download iconAbstract | pdf download icon Presentation slides

Additional resources

The above GWB projects help address United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for Goals). For more information on UNSDGs, please visit https://sdgs.un.org/.

For more information about these and other GWB humanitarian geoscience projects, please visit: https://seg.org/gwb, follow us on social media, GWBatSEG and email at withoutborders@seg.org.

About our speakers:

Václav Kuna (*1988) works as a postdoctoral researcher at the at the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic since September 2020. He received his Ph.D. degree in seismology at Oregon State University in Oregon, USA, studying seismicity and tectonics of the Blanco Transform Fault Zone in the northeast Pacific Ocean using seismometers placed at the ocean bottom around the fault. During the Ph.D. studies, Vaclav has participated in several large-scale broadband seismic experiments in the Caucasus mountain range and Himalayas and was part of a team monitoring aftershock seismicity after the M7.8 earthquake in Nepal in April 2015. This experience steered his scientific interest away from a purely academic seismological career towards more mission-driven science. At the Institute of Geophysics, Vaclav studies novel, low-cost Earthquake Early Warning systems based on IoT (Internet of Things) principle. He wants to test the feasibility of such a system in central Nepal to help to reduce the extreme seismic risks in the region.

Thomas Oommen is a Professor in the Geological Engineering department and the Director of the Computational Science and Engineering Ph.D. Program at Michigan Technological University. He is actively involved in undergraduate and graduate education, research, and service. He teaches the engineering geology course at Michigan Tech, has participated in over $7 million in research grants, and published over 70 peer-reviewed journal articles. His research focuses on utilizing remotely sensed data, machine learning algorithms, and geological knowledge to solve real-world problems that affect human health and safety. Beyond Michigan Tech, he serves as the chair of the editorial advisory board of the GSA and AEG joint publication Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, chair for the Environmental and Engineering Geology division of GSA, vice-chair of the ASCE Geoinstitute Engineering Geology and Site Characterization Committee, a member of the AEG technical committee on landslides, and a member of the AGU Natural Hazards awards committee. He is also an ABET program evaluator for the geological engineering and geology programs.

Additional Questions & Answers from the webinar

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How are you planning to provide power and internet to stations in the mountains?
Power via electric gridline is available in the mountainous regions where we are planning to deploy our sensors. We plan to use wifi/ethernet connection that uses cellular internet available in the region. However, we need to test the stability of both the internet and power connections. Future versions of the seismic sensor will be equipped with a solar panel, battery, and cellular internet connectivity so they can be more standalone in regions like this one.

I'm interested to learn more about the dead zone around the epicenter. In Utah, 85% of our population lives on top of the Wasatch Fault (large normal faults related to extension).
The earthquake early warning system takes roughly 10 seconds since the earthquake origin time to characterize the earthquake. This includes the travel time of earthquake primary waves from the hypocenter to closest stations, data transmission to server, data processing etc. At the time of 10 sec since the earthquake origin, damaging secondary waves will have already reached a region within about 40 km radius around the earthquake epicenter. Therefore, that region cannot receive the alert in time and the EEW system may help only in regions farther away from the earthquake epicenter.

What is the cost of the sensors?
The sensor is now manufactured by Grillo, Inc. and the price is a few hundred dollars (particular price depends on the type of enclosure, sensor with/without gps etc). The sensor design is open-source and published on github (https://github.com/openeew/openeew-sensor) so anyone can manufacture it themselves. In that case the total cost will largely result from the cost of individual components, which depends on the ordered quantity and other factors.

Would one potentially be able to use these types of earthquake sensors to detect earthquake events or submarine landslides and thus create an early warning system for local tsunamis originating very close to shore?
Unfortunately, I am not familiar with seismic signals of submarine landslides. The sensor needs to be deployed on land and cannot be used as an underwater sensor. On land, it can capture accelerations greater than about 40 micro-g. If underwater landslides create signals stronger than this threshold, the system can potentially work for the job. However, new processing methodology would have to be developed/adopted for this specific application.

Can we link Direct push with Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) surveys for landslide studies?
We don't have direct push data for our study region. However, if you have both direct push and ERT data, it will be an exciting link to make.

Are you also using water gauge stations on the different rivers?
We are using groundwater well information.

Would it be practical to use the USDA soil profile (websoil/) in slope susceptibility analysis?
That will be something to explore. However, the question is whether USDA data has sufficient spatial resolution to perform slope stability analysis. Combining USDA data with some geophysical surveys can be promising.

Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative Update

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

This forum will present an update on the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative (CMMI), a joint research program between the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), the U.S. Geological Survey, and Geoscience Australia (GA). Presenters will provide the latest updates to the critical mineral portal (www.criticalminerals.org), the Critical Minerals in Ores database (CMiO), and its underlying deposit classification system. New critical mineral research and modelling results will also be presented from each of the three geological surveys. The forum will conclude with a question and answer period that will allow participants to interact with the speakers and engage on the topics of critical mineral research and public geoscience.

View the next presentation in this event.

Speakers:

  • Albert Hofstra, United States Geological Survey, USA
  • Simon van der Wielen, Geoscience Australia, Australia
  • Marie-Aude Bonnardot, Geoscience Australia, Australia
  • Louise Corriveau, Geological Survey of Canada, Canada
  • Omid Haeri Ardakani, Geological Survey of Canada, Canada
  • George Case, United States Geological Survey, USA

Organized by Geoscience Australia, the Geological Survey of Canada, and the United States Geological Survey, and hosted by the American Geosciences Institute

Please contact Christopher Lawley at christopher.lawley@NRCan-RNCan.gc.ca with any questions about this event. 

Presentation slides

pdf download iconAlbert Hofstra
pdf download iconSimon van der Wielen
pdf download iconMarie-Aude Bonnardot
pdf download iconLouise Corriveau
pdf download iconOmid Haeri Ardakani
pdf download iconGeorge Case

pdf download iconDownload the event flyer

Learn About the AAAS Congressional Science Fellowship: Info Session Hosted by AGI, GSA, AGU's Current Fellows

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

This webinar provides information for geoscientists interested in the AAAS Congressional Science Fellowship Program. The fellowship represents a unique opportunity to make practical contributions of geoscientific knowledge on issues relating to the environment, resources, natural hazards, and federal science policy. A panel of the current AGI, GSA, and AGU Congressional Fellows will discuss their experiences in the program and provide a primer for interested applicants.

About our speakers

  • Sarah Alexander, Ph.D., American Geophysical Union Congressional Science Fellow
  • Amanda L. Labrado, Ph.D., Geological Society of America USGS Congressional Science Fellow
  • Laura Szymanski, Ph.D., American Geological Institute Congressional Science & Engineering Fellow 

Geoscience Research in National Parks: A Welcome and a How-to

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

What comes to mind when you think of national parks? Geysers? Canyons? Family vacations? If you’re like most of us, those are the images that you most often associate with parks. But how about research opportunities? Parks feature diverse natural systems, long publication records, extensive databases and maps, well-documented management histories, professional communicators, and opportunities to make science come to life for millions of visitors. In short, national parks are ideal for scientific research.

The National Park Service (NPS) welcomes the scientific community – including graduate students – to conduct research in over 400 national park units. As evidence of that welcome, the NPS issues about 3,000 research permits to scientists every year. Those scientists come from a wide range of institutions like government agencies, universities, museums, and research institutes.

This webinar provides an introduction and practical “how-to” information for geoscientists who wonder about conducting research in parks. Presenters include NPS science program leaders, the research coordinator at Grand Canyon National Park, and a University of New Mexico geologist who has conducted research in Grand Canyon for much of his career. Topics include general policy that fosters and governs research, geoscience priorities and needs, NPS programs that help outside researchers do science, internship and fellowship opportunities for students, and extensive “insider views” on doing research in parks and building effective relationships. Attendees will learn about the business of science in parks – something never reported in media or popular outlets – and hopefully be inspired to build research programs in America’s public lands “crown jewels.”

View the next video in this webinar

About our speakers

  • Karl Karlstrom, Distinguished Professor of Geology, University of New Mexico  YouTube download iconVideo
  • Ronda Newton, Research Coordinator, Grand Canyon National Park  YouTube download iconVideo
  • Harold Pranger, Branch Manager - Geologic Resources Division, National Park Service  YouTube download iconVideo
  • Timothy Watkins, Science Access & Engagement Coordinator, National Park Service  YouTube download iconVideo

Additional resources

Thank you to our media partners:

Additional Questions & Answers from the webinar

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Is there any funded postdoc?
No, there are no standing funded NPS postdoctoral positions in geosciences.

Are there parallel challenges in parks and in research universities for how they manage interdisciplinarity?
For sure there are! Both Parks and Universities are set up with specific "Divisions" or "Departments" and it seems to depend on the specific people involved the extent to which interdisciplinary collaborations are fostered. But, I'd say there is wide and sometimes formal recognition that there are many benefits if the "siloes" can be bridged. My recommendation is for Parks, scientists, and students to try to develop collaborative networks to promote interdisciplinarity. The challenges can be met with good communication, creative ideas, (and tenacity) and it usually boils down to getting people together to discuss shared goals.

What types of careers are there for geoscientists (with PhDs) in the NPS?
There are about 10 central office ‘geologists,’ many with PhD’s, who generally manage national programs such as Terrestrial Active Processes and Hazards, Coastal Active Processes and Hazards, Paleontology, and Cave and Karst. There are also supervisory geologists – branch and division – but little ‘geology’ and more admin is done. There are a few regional geologists who tend to manage all regional affairs on all geoscience topics. Finally, there are 2-3 dozen or so park-based geologists, some being generalists, and some having specialties, like coastal, geologic hazards, paleo, or cave & karst. Some have PhD’s, and some not. There are also a number of hydrology and general physical science positions similar to all of those mentioned above, and many have a geologic angle to them. These positions are all mostly highly sought after. They get filled only very infrequently and with great competition.

Any new planning for paleo specimen repositories?
This is in discussion with staff at PEFO regarding either setting up the Utah Museum of Natural History or another institution to assist with fossil collections from NPS areas in Utah. There are fossil collections from several NPS areas in Utah that the Utah Geological Survey wants to find a home for.

For research that involves collecting fossil material, how is a repository for the materials determined?
This generally needs to be determined during the time a research and collecting permit is being developed. Some parks want the specimens to eventually be sent back to the park (YELL, GRCA), whereas some parks do not have the capacity to maintain collections in park and do not have a park curator - so an alternative scenario should be determined at the time the research permit is being submitted. NPS lost some of our park curators in Utah, and they have not been replaced.

Is there a procedure for being a designated repository for fossil specimens?
Yes - The NPS needs to refill a position once held that focused almost exclusively on developing repository agreements with museums & institutions, and without this position being filled it will continue to cause a backlog of specimens and out-of-date repository agreements. UNM is an approved repository, but for our ongoing collaborative NSF-funded project on the Tonto Group, the present plan is that we will curate specimens at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (one of the collaborating institutions) during the 3-5 years of the active research. After that, samples may find a permanent home at the Smithsonian Institute and/or Grand Canyon collections. The Eddie McKee and Ressor collections are mostly at the Smithsonian so combining the 1940s and 2020s collections has scientific merit. Denver Museum (James Hagadorn) is in the forefront of modern curation approaches and we want to ensure that the curation meets modern standards for electronic and physical access.

What is the best route to go in order to gain experience in research?
Start by doing it (research that is). 1) Read published literature about research that has been done on your interest and similar topics, 2) Through literature and web (e.g. IRMA), get to know who is actively researching your interest and similar topics (at which Parks), 3) Try to spot the needed next research steps such as: more or updated analyses, better maps, interdisciplinary approaches, etc. that build on past and ongoing research. 4) Write up a proposal draft (any level-- science class, undergrad, graduate level, post-doc, faculty, citizen science, etc) that shows how your ideas for new directions can build on what has been and is being done. 5) Start the research on a shoestring if needed and get communication going with potential collaborators as you seek support from Park science offices or other partners and funding agencies. 6) Stick with it.

Is there a specific process/application form for conducting consumptive analysis?
In terms of analyses, even consumptive analyses that destroy all or most of the sample need to have a legacy. For example, the metadata will include: when and where collected, and goals of the analyses, as well as results. For our work in Grand Canyon, even if we intend to grind up and powder a rock, we curate a representative small sample, for example for some future time when a next researcher wants to try to apply a new technique. We outline this approach in our research and Collecting permit application.

I met a researcher working with coprolite material from the canyon is there a way to find her research?
For coprolites, use Google scholar and search for "Coprolites of grand canyon"-- these fossils generally are discussed along with other fossils of a given age. For the Quaternary, try to Google Jim Mead's publications on pack rat middens for example.

Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative Forum

Monday, June 28, 2021

The global economy is unprepared for the unprecedented growing demand for critical minerals. These materials are crucial for the proliferation of technologies and industries that have become vital for social and economic well-being the world over but they are vulnerable to supply disruption and have been of limited economic interest until recently. Given their importance, in December 2019 the geoscience organizations of Geoscience Australia (GA), the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) created the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative (CMMI) to advance understanding and foster development of critical mineral resources in their respective countries.

This forum is the first release of geoscience products by the CMMI and provides an opportunity to highlight how the CMMI relates to each survey’s critical minerals activities. The forum will primarily focus on filling the knowledge gap on the abundance of critical minerals in ores within a mineral systems framework. To this end, the CMMI compiled modern multielement geochemical data generated by each agency on ore samples, from historical and active mines as well as prospects around the world. To identify relationships between critical minerals, deposit types, deposit environments, and mineral systems, a unified deposit classification scheme was established. This new database will be released to the public at the forum through a new web-based portal. The database enables users to identify individual deposits or deposit types that are potential sources of critical minerals. It also underpins ongoing CMMI efforts to advance critical mineral potential mapping aimed at recognising new opportunities for critical minerals discovery.

View the next presentation in this event.

Please contact Karol Czarnota at karol.czarnota@ga.gov.au with any questions about this event.

Organized by the Geological Survey of Canada, Geoscience Australia, and the United States Geological Survey, and hosted by the American Geosciences Institute

Moderated by Marina Costelloe, Geoscience Australia, Australia

Speakers:

  • Thomas Crafford, United States Geological Survey, USA
  • Geneviève Marquis, Geological Survey of Canada, Canada
  • Andrew Heap, Geoscience Australia, Australia
  • Albert Hofstra, United States Geological Survey, USA
  • David Huston, Geoscience Australia, Australia
  • Christopher Lawley, Geological Survey of Canada, Canada

Event Materials

Visit the CMMI web portal at http://criticalminerals.org/

Presentation slides

pdf download icon Marina Costelloe
pdf download icon Thomas Crafford
pdf download icon Geneviève Marquis
pdf download icon Andrew Heap
pdf download icon Albert Hofstra
pdf download icon David Huston
pdf download icon Christopher Lawley

pdf download icon Download the event flyer

Advances in critical mineral research: A forum in memory of Victor Labson

Friday, February 12, 2021

Organized by the Geological Survey of Canada, Geoscience Australia, and the United States Geological Survey

Sponsored by the World Community of Geological Surveys and hosted by the American Geosciences Institute

New critical mineral deposits are required to secure the supply of natural resources that are used in today’s advanced technologies. The discovery and sustainable development of these new deposits represents a global chal­lenge. Governments and international geological survey organizations are responding by improved multinational cooperation, data sharing, and through investments in geoscientific research. This Critical Minerals Forum brings together representatives from multiple geological surveys organizations to provide an update on the latest geoscience results and to discuss future critical mineral research.

Presentations will focus on advanced mineral system models that are appli­cable to critical minerals and new methods for modelling mineral potential in buried, remote, and/or other challenging mineral exploration settings. Both of these research themes are included within the new Critical Mineral Mapping Initiative that is being conducted between the Geological Survey of Canada, Geoscience Australia, and the United States Geological Survey. Global efforts to expand this collaboration, including the development of an online geo­chemical portal for critical mineral deposits, will be discussed as part of this special session and is open to further contributions, research, and analysis.

Format

The Critical Minerals Forum will be hosted as a set of three regional sessions (Americas, Europe and Africa, and Asia and Oceania). Each regional forum will feature lectures from science policy experts and geoscientists during a live plenary and moderated discussion session with attendees. All pre-recorded science and policy presentations will be made available on­line the Monday prior to the corresponding live plenary and discussion sessions. The pre-recorded science and policy presentations will also be aired live prior to the corresponding plenary and discussion session.

All plenary and discussion sessions will be conducted in English with live captioning in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Modern Chinese, and Hindi.

Please contact Christopher Lawley at christopher.lawley@canada.ca with any questions about this webinar series.

Event Materials

pdf download icon Download the event flyer

Sessions

Americas - 12 February 2021
The role of geological survey organizations to advance critical mineral research

 YouTube download icon  View presentations and discussion session

View additional questions & answers from this discussion session

Moderator, Presenters and Panelists

  • Geoff Plumlee (moderator), United States Geological Survey, USA
  • Warren Day and Anne McCafferty (plenary speakers), United States Geological Survey, USA
  • Geneviève Marquis, Geological Survey of Canada, Canada
  • Jean-Yves Labbé, Québec Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources Naturelles, Canada
  • Natalia Amezcua, Servicio Geológico Mexicano, Mexico
  • Felipe Espinoza, Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería, Chile
  • Felipe Mattos Tavares, Serviço Geológico do Brasil, Brazil

Europe and Africa - 19 February 2021
The past, present, and future directions of critical mineral research

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Moderator, Presenters and Panelists

  • Geneviève Marquis (moderator), Geological Survey of Canada, Canada
  • Daniel de Oliveira and Javier González Sanz (plenary speakers), Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia and Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, Portugal and Spain
  • Saku Vuori, Geologian Tutkimuskeskus, Finland
  • Kathryn Goodenough, British Geological Survey, United Kingdom
  • Blandine Gourcerol, Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières, France
  • Håvard Gautneb and Janja Knežević Solberg, Norges Geologiske Undersøkelse, Norway
  • Lesego Peter and Puso Akanyang, Botswana Geoscience Institute, Botswana
  • Taufeeq Dhansay, Council for Geoscience, South Africa

Asia and Oceania Session - 26 February 2021
Geoscience to support critical mineral discovery

 YouTube download icon  View presentations and discussion session

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Moderator, Presenters and Panelists

  • Andrew Heap (moderator), Geoscience Australia, Australia
  • Karol Czarnota (plenary speaker), Geoscience Australia, Australia
  • Young Joo Lee, Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia, Thailand
  • Seong-Jun Cho, Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, South Korea
  • Regine Morgenstern and Rose Turnbull, GNS, New Zealand
  • Helen Degeling, Geological Survey of Queensland, Australia
  • Dattatreya Jeere, Sandip Roy, and Muduru Dora, Geological Survey of India, India

Earth Scientists in Congress: Life on the Hill during a Pandemic and National Election

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Five current Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows share insights from their first two months on working as staff members for Congressional offices and Committees and ways earth scientists at all career stages can get involved in federal science policy. The panel of fellows will share their thoughts for ~30 minutes and then open the floor for audience questions.

 

Earth Scientists in Congress: Life on the Hill during a Pandemic and National Election

Introduction to Forensic Geology - Petrography

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Forensic Geology/Petrography is not a new tool in the construction industry; however, it is generally not a well-known discipline. Observations detailed in this presentation are not typically covered during university geological studies. Most of these skills are learned on the job and do require a minimum of 5 years of experience directly under a Petrographer to earn a Petrographer title. This presentation will provide the standards followed, typical observations, and a few fun projects. Petrography has proven a beneficial tool in the assessment of concrete and construction stone to aid in engineering and construction applications.

Attendees will receive CEUs at no cost, thanks to sponsorship by JEOL. For more information, see the CEU Credits section below.

About the instructor

Chris Braaten, PG, CPG, is a Senior Petrographer/Geologist at American Engineering Testing, Inc. He graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with degrees in Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies. He has spent 15 years with American Engineering, holding positions in the Construction Materials Department as a Field Technician, Bridge Inspector, and Aggregate Laboratory Coordinator. For the last 9 years he has held a Petrographer position in the Petrography/Chemistry Department. He has performed petrography on construction aggregate from 46 US States and 17 different countries/territories.

CEU Credits

For those who wish to earn CEU credits, please complete the associated on-demand GOLI course that was developed from this webinar.

All registrants who attended the entire duration of this webinar received 0.1 CEUs from the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG). CEUs for this webinar are sponsored by JEOL.

Additional Questions & Answers from the webinar

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Apart from microscopy, do you use XRD? 
Yes, we use XRD, XRF, and occasionally SEM, among other chemistry related techniques.

Are lightweight aggregates used for other purposes in concrete?
Also included besides reduction in dead loads would be improved thermal properties, improved fire resistance, savings on transport of materials, among others

Are there methods for detecting problem minerals (like pyrrhotite) using GIS? Do we have to rely on extrapolation or waiting until these materials are out of the ground to identify potential problem areas?
I am not familiar with anyone using GIS to detect these minerals, it seems as though they are typically found when they have been discovered in the source. Hopefully, a good potential aggregate exploration program would hit some these minerals during coring/sampling and identified by a project geologist.

Are you aware of many cases in the USA where deleterious materials in aggregates have been serious enough to lead to court cases? I have been expert witness in a couple of cases of damage to houses but I think usually difficulties are sorted out earlier.
Yes, most times it is worked out prior to litigation. However, we have been involved as expert witnesses in several court cases.

As we move away from coal burning, is there a substitute for fly ash in concrete?
Yes, a lot of talk about that currently. I would say slag cement (byproduct of steel making) and silica fume are the other more common SCMs. There are also other materials that are currently in development such as finely crushed glass.

Besides the ASTM standards, what other references would you recommend for aspiring material petrographers?
There are great Concrete Petrography textbooks available for purchase online.

Can you address the staining issue on the rock surfaces by sealing them first? Or is this too short term a solution?
I believe sealers could work. You'd have to be careful on what sealer to use (get recommendations from the supplier) and also be diligent about reapplication

Cement of what type can withstand weathering and erosion better: with small cavities or one characteristic is not sufficient for forecasting? Is there any treatment?
Concrete with a lower w/cm ratio is typically denser and less porous. That being said, if you have a concrete driveway for example, you should apply a recommended sealer to help protect the surface.

Did you use only petrography to match the rock in the crime lab's case or were you able to use some kind of geochemistry?
I believe matching came about through microscopic techniques and matching the chemistries of the concrete

Do you agree that the crushed stone aggregate industry gets a bad rap from high alkali cement, the underlying cause of ASR & ACR?  
I'm not sure I've heard the aggregate industry taking the brunt of it, nor do I think they should, as concrete as a whole is a system of many parts/ingredients. Aggregates are a necessary ingredient of concrete. Physical testing should be done prior to a construction using the same ingredients planned in the mix design. Then the mix design can be corrected and additional SCM's added if the tests show ASR potential

Do you consider strained quartz to be a quartz grain that has subgrains or a monocrystalline quartz grain with undulatory extinction?
Strained quartz is typically a monocrystalline grain with undulose extinction. Several microcrystalline quartz grains would be recrystallized quartz, which can also contribute to ASR

Do you distinguish marcasite from pyrite?  Is marcasite more reactive than pyrite in terms of rust staining?
I have only identified marcasite in thin section once and it was due to the crystal habit. It is far less common than pyrite, but I'm sure marcasite would contribute to staining as it is an iron sulfide.

Do you hydrate your concrete sample during thin section preparation?
The concrete does not hydrate during sample preparation

Do you use image analysis software (such as Image-J) to determine proportions of constituents, phase analysis, or shape and fabric determination?
No we do not, we typically stick with visual analysis using the petrographic microscope

Does sea water cause faster damage in concrete structures with reactive aggregates?
Sea water can cause damage to structures. If there is cracking in the concrete (could be from reactive aggregates or other), those cracks leave openings in the concrete for the chlorides from sea water to penetrate, which could start to corrode the steel rebar reinforcement. At that point the structure could start to fail.

Does steel rebar in concrete have a similar effect in terms of iron staining as minerals present in the aggregate?
Typically not unless it starts to corrode from exposure to atmospheric conditions. If it is at depth in the concrete it is protected by the alkaline environment. Steel rebar is also commonly coated with epoxy.

First of all, thank you for transmitting your valuable experiences. the course was very useful for me. also, I want to ask you how to use this method in mining exploration or mineralization outcrop.
Petrography related to mineralization for mining potential is a bit different than what we do. You would still use petrographic microscope, but the interpretation of the minerals would be reported differently. There are many excellent resources for mineral exploration petrography.

For an unfractured concrete slab how deep into the slab do you see hydration of the portland cement particles changing through time?
This may only come about in very large concrete structure pours called "mass concrete". When constructing those, temperature is recorded from the center outward as the chemical reaction taking place can produce quite a lot of heat also called "heat of hydration", which you could possibly see differences in hydration.  Otherwise, in typical concrete pavements or structures, you may only see a difference in hydration at the surface based on how the surface was finished and if there was proper curing.

Have you had experience with cement made with untreated sea sand to eliminate the saline fraction? And if so, what damage does salty sand cause in concrete?
I'm not aware of seeing untreated sea sand. If there is too much chloride in the concrete system there could be corrosion problems with the steel reinforcement.

How about expandable clay minerals like smectite/montmorillonite causing cracks?
Yes, we do look for those as well. These minerals can greatly affect stone used for dimension stone and riprap when exposed to atmospheric conditions

How do you sample when preparing your thin sections of fine aggregates, and how do you assure that the sample is representative of the sieve?
A sample is received and split using a sample splitter for gradation, once the sieve sizes are separated. The material retained on each sieve is then sent through a microsample splitter until we get enough sample to fill our epoxy plugs. If a sieve doesn't have much material retained, then we use all of it.

How has QEMSCAN (automated mineralogy) enhanced the field of forensic geology? With that, what level of chemical analysis is relevant for this field? Major, minor, or down to trace element level?
We have not used QEMSCAN, but we have used SEM, XRD, and XRF along with other chemistry techniques. Most of what we identify, we can identify with petrographic microscopes. XRF is generally used when we are asked to identify the elements comprising cement or if the client wants to get the elemental breakdown of their rock source.

How much automation or machine learning have you used in your petrographic work?
For petrographic work, not much. Our chemistry lab has automated machines to assist, but I'm not really familiar with their equipment.

I have seen animal bone fragments used in concrete (South America). Would that be problematic?
Typically, aggregate should meet some minimum physical testing requirements, but people also have to use what they have. We have seen horse hair used as fibers in older concrete.

I normally purchase geochemical standards from USGS or NIST, and consult EPA methods...so are these actual physical samples or SOPs?
Not sure on the question, feel free to email me.

I suspect that other sulfides, such as chalcopyrite, would also be problematic...true?
Yes, that is correct.

Is there a difference between petrography and petrology?
Petrology is the study of the origin, composition and structure of rock while petrography is the branch of petrology that deals with the scientific description and classification of rocks

Is there a way to estimate % complete of ASR? 
Not sure on the question, feel free to email me.

Just to clarify: According to the IUGS Initiative on Forensic Geology - 'Forensic geology is the application of geology to aid and assist law enforcement, including the police and allied agencies, so they may investigate and solve crimes.' For this (excellent) presentation, engineering would be 'allied agencies'?
I'm not entirely sure, but that would make sense. I personally have not been involved with a criminal case assisting law enforcement.

Please elaborate more in how chert is deleterious?
Hydrous chert (a very soft and porous form) can cause popouts at the surface. Chert itself can be very hard, but is composed of cryptocrystalline to microcrystalline quartz, which is a known alkali silica reactor in concrete.

Pyrrhotite is magnetic.  Do you use that property to identify it?
Yes, though pyrrhotite can also be associated with other magnetic minerals within the rock, such as, magnetite and hematite. So, it would be used with discretion.

Road salts are very corrosive to concrete. Does it matter if we use NaCl or CaCl2?
Generally speaking salt can cause problems when chlorides get into the concrete system from other issues such as microcracking, then the chlorides can cause corrosion problems of the steel reinforcement. Salt also causes more freeze thaw cycles, so if the concrete is not properly finished or is not air entrained, the continual use of salt to melt ice could cause cyclic freeze thaw damage.

So are there more problems overall in the north due to snow and ice issues with stone compared to other areas in the country?
Typically not, in the north we typically have freeze thaw cycles during fall and spring. Other states in the middle of the country or to the south can have a lot more freeze thaw cycles through the entire winter.

What are practices/requirements for saving slides and hand samples after analyses are complete?
We typically save samples for a few months, unless told otherwise by the client.

What is your opinion of self-healing concrete use?
I have heard about it and it sounds cool, but I do not know enough about it to have an opinion on its use.

What kind of concrete (material and/or mixture) you might suggest in/adjacent to a location with Quick clay material?
I would suggest researching soil/cement stabilization.

What pH makes a concrete slab happily reach age 75+ and is your pH determination specific to the aggregate, matrix, cement, or combination of all?
The concrete should stay at a high pH for its life. The majority of concrete does lose pH at the surface over time. If that happens quickly it means something went wrong with finishing or curing of the concrete. That being said, there are many other factors involved to help the concrete reach its design life.

When investigating concrete that failed by ASR, how do you take samples? Do you ever take core samples?
Yes, the majority of the concrete samples we get are cores. We recommend four inch diameter cores reaching the full depth of the concrete if possible.

Would you be able to provide a link for the USGS pyrrhotite map/inventory that you mentioned?
https://www.usgs.gov/news/new-usgs-map-helps-identify-where-pyrrhotite-a-mineral-can-cause-concrete-foundations-fail-may

You mention pyrite and pyrrhotite...would marcasite also be flagged as problematic?
I would guess yes. Yes, it is just far less common. I have only identified it once.

Introduction to Forensic Geology - Petrography

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