September 2004 Meeting

Monday, September 13, 2004
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
Lamar Alexander Building
Room 223


Engineering Geology Mapping in the Information Technology Age

Jeffrey Keaton
2004 Richard H. Jahns Distinguished Lecturer in Engineering Geology

Principal Engineering Geologist and Vice President
AMEC Earth & Environmental, Inc.
Anaheim, California


Observation remains the foundation of engineering geology mapping, but many aspects of observation are being supplemented and even revolutionized by information technology (IT). Data acquisition is being accomplished with the aid of pen-based computers, digital cameras, and global positioning system (GPS) receivers. Quantitative geophysical and geochemical field methods are being used to produce quantitative measures that can be contoured and/or combined with other forms of observations to construct useful derivative maps. Aerial and space-based spatial data provide base maps or targets for subsequent field observations. Geographic information system (GIS) and computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) software are being used to manipulate and display geospatial data, sometimes during field data collection. Numerical analysis of observational data, including calculated grids derived from vector data, is being used to produce useful derivative products. Challenges for engineering geology practitioners pertain to accuracy of field data; structure of database fields; uniformity of symbols, lines, patterns, and colors; and consistency of derived geospatial map products. Engineering geology maps produced with GIS tools have the potential to mislead even sophisticated users for two reasons: 1) the strikingly professional appearance of GIS maps implies precision even when uncertainties are specifically noted, and 2) field data can be collected as a series of seemingly independent observations and converted by a GIS technician into a professional-appearing map without the benefit of geologic principles or the repeated application of the multiple working hypothesis. Consequently, professional discipline is needed to effectively apply modern IT to engineering geology mapping. The true power IT has is its analytical capabilities which requires engineering geologic data to be in digital format.

A promising new technology is 3D Laser Scanning. Initially, this technology was applied to preparation of as-built plans of structures, such as refineries. Opportunities also exist for engineering geology and geotechnical field applications, such as orientation and spacing of joints in rock slopes and grain-size distribution of deposits that include particles too large to analyze in the laboratory. Specialized laser equipment and high-performance computers are required to manipulate huge data sets.

Biographical Sketch

Jeffrey R. Keaton is a Principal Engineering Geologist and Vice President in the Anaheim office of AMEC Earth & Environmental, Inc. His education consists of a BS degree in Geological Engineering from the University of Arizona (1971), a MS degree in Engineering (Geotechnical) from the University of California, Los Angeles (1972), and a PhD degree in Geology from Texas A&M University (1988). He is registered as a Professional Engineer in California, Utah, Alaska, and Arizona. He is also registered as a Professional Geologist in California, Arizona, and Utah, and certified as an Engineering Geologist in California and Washington.

Keaton was employed by Dames & Moore in Los Angeles (1970-1979) and Salt Lake City (1979-1988). He was employed by Sergent, Hauskins & Beckwith (which became AGRA Earth & Environmental, and then AMEC Earth & Environmental) in Salt Lake City (1988-1996), Phoenix (1996-2001), and currently in Anaheim.

Keaton served as Chairman of the Utah Section of the Association of Engineering Geologists in 1980-1982 and was the President of AEG in 1992-1993. He was Chairman of the Engineering Geology Division of the Geological Society of America in 1989-1990. He served as Chairman of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Engineering Geology from 1991 to 1997, as Chairman of TRB Committee on Exploration and Classification of Earth Materials from 1997 to 2002, and as Chairman of TRB Subcommittee on Scour Research from 1996 to 2002. In 2002, he became the Chairman of the TRB Section housing the seven committees that deal with Geology and Properties of Earth Materials. Keaton was one of the 11 members of the TRB Task Force which produced TRB Special Report 247 Landslides: Investigation and Mitigation in 1996; Keaton was principal author of Chapter 9, Surface Observation and Geologic Mapping, and Chapter 16, Important Considerations in Slope Design.

Keaton also is a member of American Geophysical Union, the GeoInstitute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Seismological Society of America, and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME). He participates in the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) through SME, making accreditation visits to undergraduate programs in geological engineering.

Keaton specializes in quantifying hazardous natural processes for use in design and risk analysis. He has written numerous articles regarding engineering geology mapping, debris flows, landslides, collapsible soils, subsidence, fault rupture, earthquake-induced liquefaction, earthquake ground motion, and case histories.


Page updated September 7, 2004