Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On The Road Again

After a nice little break from significant travel, I'll be heading out on the road again next week. I'll be visiting the Kansas City/Omaha Section on Tuesday, December 9th, our North Central Section (Chicago) on the 10th, and the St. Louis Section on the 11th. Anyone in those areas is encouraged to attend - AEG member or not. Information on the meetings is below.

Kansas City/Omaha, Dec. 9: 
5:30pm (presentation at 7pm) at Californos - Westport, Kansas City, MO (more information)
Presentation - Characterization, Rehabilitation, and Monitoring of a Subsidence-Impacted Dam: A Case Study at Powerline FRS, Arizona (full abstract)

North Central, Dec. 10:
5:30pm (presentation after dinner) at Greek Islands, Lombard, IL (more information)
Presentation - Someone is Paying Me to do This! The Geologic, Geohazard, and Geotechnical Field Investigation for the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (full abstract)

St. Louis, Dec. 11:
5:30pm (presentation at 6:45) at Pietro's, St. Louis, MO (more information)
Presentation - Someone is Paying Me to do This! The Geologic, Geohazard, and Geotechnical Field Investigation for the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (full abstract)

I always discuss a few business items with AEG prior to my technical presentation as well. It's the interaction I get with members at these meetings that really gets me excited about AEG. I hope you all can find a way to a meeting.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I Survived GRA and GSA

AEG Presidential Selfie at the
Capilano Suspension Bridge in
Vancouver, BC
Even though I’ve been back from my trip that took me to California and Vancouver, BC for the GRA and GSA conferences, respectfully, I am still trying to play catch-up.

The trip began when I landed in Oakland, CA back in mid-October. I spent a couple of hours at the AMEC office in Oakland and then headed into San Francisco. I met up with Sarah Kalika, the SF Section Chair, at the Hyatt Regency to tour it for advance planning for the 2018 AEG-IAEG Meeting. That hotel will be a great venue.

Then I crossed the street to the SF Section meeting next to the Ferry Building. The SF Giants were playing in the National League Championship Series, so attendance was a bit low (note – don’t go up against playoff baseball with a technical talk). Though it was great to interact with a more intimate crowd.

Then I was off to Sacramento for the GRA conference, where I presented a poster. It was a very interesting meeting and I’m glad that I attended. I see a lot of activity in the groundwater world coming for California – both good and bad – and the overall mood at the conference was a bit depressing with dealing with the realities of the lack of water in the West.

From Sacramento I flew to Vancouver, BC for GSA. This was my first time at GSA and it was nice – I was able to catch up with a few old friends from grad school and there were several AEG members around as well. I participated in the Onto the Future Mentor program, though I didn’t get to spend near enough time with my mentee. It was also a bit disheartening to see that the for all of the interesting career information that was available, it was pretty much only oil and gas companies that were participating (the price tag was way too high for anyone else). I’d be happier if there was more information for other options that students have (such as environmental and engineering geology).

I ended up in meetings most of the time, and only saw the technical talks that were around my own. The meetings were great, though a bit overwhelming. Even as President of AEG I’m continually surprised by just how much our little Association does.

I did manage to skip out one morning and visit a nice urban park/tourist trap – the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s in a temperate rain forest in North Vancouver – and it is beautiful, if a bit pricey and crowded. But it was a nice way to spend a few hours.

Anyway, I’m back now and trying to get some actual work done, keep AEG in hand, and spend time with my family. It’s all just another ball in the air (it’d be easier if I could actually juggle though). But it was a great trip, and I’m looking forward to the next one in December – I’ll be visiting the Kansas City/Omaha and St. Louis Sections. Hopefully I can work in another one as well – I’m looking at you North Central.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

California, GRAC Annual Meeting, Vancouver and GSA...Here We Go!

So, this is going to be a busy couple of weeks for me. Tuesday morning I begin my first big trip touring as President of AEG, though I'm fitting in quite a bit of stuff related to my day job at AMEC as well.

On Tuesday I fly out to Oakland, CA. I'll be stopping in at the AMEC office in Oakland for a bit and then I'll take BART over to San Francisco. I have a meeting at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco about 2018 AEG-IAEG Annual Meeting/Conference. I'm told it's a great space for the meeting and I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Tuesday evening I'm presenting to the SF AEG Section. I'll cover a bit of AEG business, then move on to a technical talk - they chose "Someone is Paying Me to do This! The Geologic, Geohazard, and Geotechnical Field Investigation for the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge." I'm really looking forward to meeting with the SF Section.

On Wednesday morning I drive out to Sacramento for the Groundwater Resources Association of California (GRAC) Annual Conference. I'm presenting a poster titled "The Development of Guidelines and Procedures for Land Subsidence Investigations: An Arizona Perspective". On Thursday evening after the conference I'm meeting up with the AEG Sacramento Section for happy hour drinks at the River City Brewing Company. That should be a great time.

Friday morning I fly up to Vancouver, BC for the Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Conference. My schedule is way too packed to try and put it up in this post, but I'll be doing a lot of meeting for affiliated societies of GSA and the American Geosciences Institute (GSI). I'm also participating in the mentor program and presenting a talk on "Utilizing InSAR for Geotechnical Asset Management of Landslides in Colorado". Somewhere in between the meetings, my presentation, being a mentor, and visiting the AMEC office Burnaby, I will be manning the AEG booth, so come on by and chat if you can.

Anyway, if you're going to be at any of the events mentioned above, come introduce yourself to me and we can chat. As busy as I'll be during that time, I'll definitively have a need to quench a thirst. I also hope to blog and tweet throughout.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Presidential Presentations

One of the more enjoyable things I get to as President of AEG is travel around to some of our regional Sections, present to and interact with local meetings. I've repeatedly been told by Past Presidents that this is the most 'fun' part of the job and it's one I'm looking forward to a lot. 

My Section visits begin next week with a visit to the San Francisco Section on Tuesday, Oct. 14th (details available at this link), where I'll be talking about my involvement with the geo-investigation for the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (in addition to general AEG business). On Thursday evening, Oct. 16th, I'll be joining the Sacramento Section for drinks at a brewery in downtown Sacramento (details in image).

Generally, as President I will be giving a technical talk plus some general discussion of AEG business. I have 4 technical talks plus 1 general applied geology talk that it appropriate for students and the general public (titles are below).

  1. Someone is Paying Me to do This! The Geologic, Geohazard, and Geotechnical Field Investigation for the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge
  2. Seismic Refraction as a Tool for Geotechnical, Geologic, and Geohazard Investigations
  3. Characterization, Rehabilitation, and Monitoring of a Subsidence-Impacted Dam: A Case Study at Powerline FRS, Arizona
  4. Application of Satellite-Based Interferometry (InSAR) to Geologic and Geotechnical Investigations
  5. Between a Rock and Geologic Disaster. Working as an Applied Geologist

Below the cut I have added the text for the full abstracts.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The 57th Annual Meeting of the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG)

Last week was the 57th Annual Meeting of AEG in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was a spectacular meeting and one that I was proud to be a part of. For me, the most significant part of the meeting is that I officially became the 58th President of AEG. It is quite an honor to President of such a great organization and to ‘join the club’ of the many prestigious individuals who have served as President of AEG ahead of me.

The meeting was a great success with some excellent technical sessions covering a wide range of topics including land subsidence and earth fissuring, landslides (with multiple presentations on the tragic Oso Landslide), dams, landfills, debris flows, and seismic hazards. I probably heard the most positive comments regarding our field trips and keynote speaker – Wayne Ranney. Wayne was a leader along with Phil Pearthree of the Arizona Geological Survey for a multi-day field trip to the Grand Canyon and Wayne’s keynote address concentrated on the geologic history of the Grand Canyon. Other trips to Kartchner Caverns, Ray Mine, Sedona, and the Phoenix area were equally praised.

For me the entire meeting was a virtual whirlwind – I was at meeting after meeting, shook countless hands, managed to sit in on a talk or two, participated in a round-table discussion on land subsidence and earth fissures, lead a town hall meeting on governance restructure issues, gave a couple speeches (including my ‘Presidential address’ at our Annual Banquet to over 120 people), had a few drinks, and chaired my first Board Meeting. To say the least, now that I am home again I am exhausted and slowly downloading the entire experience.

I am looking forward to an exciting year as the new AEG President!

Monday, September 22, 2014

IAEG 2014 Download

I’m sitting in the airport in Milan, Italy at the start of my long journey back to Flagstaff, Arizona*. I’ve had a wonderful week in Torino, Italy at the IAEG2014 Congress, which is held once every 4 years by IAEG. It was a very nice conference with a huge variety of attendees from around the world (those of us from the USA comprised of less than 2% of the 1100+ attendees). Italy and China had the largest contingencies, but I enjoyed speaking with people from all over Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and North America (such as Turkey, Hungary, Italy, UK, Japan, China, Singapore, Netherlands, India, Australia, and New Zealand, to name just a few).

It was also a great meeting for AEG, even though we (and the rest of the USA) are dreadfully underrepresented (due to non-participation) within IAEG these days. We proposed to host the next IAEG Congress in 2018 in San Francisco, California and were awarded the meeting. So, in 4 years, AEG will be hosting the IAEG conference – we are very excited for this opportunity and look forward to an excellent meeting.

In addition, AEG Past President Scott Burns was elected President-elect of IAEG to serve a 4-year term beginning in January. AEG Past President Jeff Keaton was elected as the Vice President for North America as well. Both Scott and Jeff have a long history of involvement with both AEG and IAEG and its excellent to have us

so well represented, particularly with us hosting the next conference in 2018. I hope during my presidency with AEG that I can work with Scott and Jeff to increase AEG’s involvement with IAEG and the greater world community.
My poster went well and I’ve made new international connection to serve me professionally and personally. With that, I think I’ll try to rest up for AEG’s Annual Meeting, which begins next week!


*Note: I did not end up posting this until a few days after I had returned.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

IAEG in Torino, Italy

So, on Thursday I’m off to Torino, Italy for the IAEG 2014 Congress (IAEG is the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment). This conference only happens every 4 years, and it’s a big one with lots of really good applied geology presentations. The theme of the conference is ‘Engineering Geology for Society and Territory’.

I have a poster presentation on Thursday (September 18) in the morning poster session. My presentation is titled “Investigative Procedures for Assessing Subsidence and Earth Fissure Risk for Dams and Levees”. The full abstract is posted below for those that are interested. There is a paper included in the conference proceedings, but it’s really just an extended abstract. My colleagues and I have a series of papers that we authored for the USSD (United States Society on Dams) Conference that was in Phoenix in 2013 that cover the topic in much greater detail.

One exciting part of this meeting (other than being in Italy!) is that AEG is proposing to host the next IAEG Congress in 2018 in San Francisco. I really hope that it’s selected as it will be a great meeting to bring to the US for the first time and a spectacular setting. I’ll post the results of the selection here and on Twitter when it comes through.

Speaking of Twitter, I plan to ‘tweet’ regularly while in Italy (probably at odd hours for US folks), so tune in at @AEGFergason for updates.

Abstract for the meeting below:

investigative procedures for assessing Subsidence and earth fissure risk for dams and levees
Kenneth C. Fergason, PG
AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, Inc.
Michael L. Rucker, PE
AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, Inc.
Bibhuti B. Panda
AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, Inc.
Michael D. Greenslade, PE
Flood Control District of Maricopa County

The depletion of groundwater resources in many deep alluvial basin aquifers in the Western U.S.A. is causing ground subsidence, as it does in many regions worldwide. Ground subsidence can severely and adversely impact infrastructure by changing the ground elevation, ground slope (grade) and through the development of ground cracks known as earth fissures that can erode into large gullies. Earth fissures have the potential to undermine the foundations of dams, levees, and other pertinent structures and cause system failure.
Earth fissures that have been exposed to flowing water will most likely have observable surficial expressions such as ground cracking, piping holes, vegetative and tonal lineaments, and similar features, however uneroded earth fissures often do not have surficial expression.

Subsequent to the performance of an evaluation of the overall subsidence experienced in the vicinity of a subsidence-impacted structure, a detailed investigation to search for earth fissures must be performed. Such an investigation must include investigative techniques capable of detecting earth fissures that do not have significant surficial expression. Utilizing the findings of subsidence investigation, additional investigative methods for earth fissure search include photogeologic (lineament) analysis, assessment of the capability of near-surface soils to develop an earth fissure, assessment of the degree of ground disturbance, detailed site inspection, seismic refraction profiling for concealed earth fissures, and excavation of trenches.

Satellite-based interferometry by repeat pass synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) provides unique information about active land subsidence over large areas based on multiple radar images (commonly about 100x100 km scenes) obtained from different time periods. The subsidence or deformation image known as an interferogram can also reveal with proper interpretation some preliminary subsurface information about alluvial basin geometry, lithology and hydrology where active land subsidence is interpreted. However, utilizing interferometry is very a complex task that requires synthesis of available information to properly or best constrain an interpretation.

Effective subsidence risk assessment and mitigation requires understanding and quantification of historic subsidence, and estimation of potential future subsidence that could impact the dams and levee infrastructure.  A primary subsidence mechanism is increasing effective stress due to groundwater level decline within saturated compressible basin alluvium.  Ultimate subsidence magnitude at a given location is a function of change in effective stress, compressible alluvium thickness and material modulus.  Modulus is typically a function of depth and effective stress.  Subsidence rates are assumed to largely be a function of rate of groundwater level decline, alluvium permeability or hydraulic conductivity and distance from groundwater level stress points (such as pumping wells).  Basin alluvium and bedrock interface geometry, and changes and interfaces in basin alluvium lithology, profoundly influence patterns and the degree of subsidence.  Characterization includes collection and synthesis of historic survey and well data, surface geophysical methods for basin and bedrock characterization, and when available, InSAR to document recent or current subsidence patterns.  Utilizing a synthesis of this information, subsidence modeling matching documented historic subsidence and estimating potential future subsidence can be developed to assess potential impacts on dam and levee infrastructure.

Utilizing the results of the site characterization and subsidence modeling, a finite-element stress-strain model can be developed to estimate past and future ground strain. Estimated tensional strain values can be utilized to predict where earth fissures are likely to initiate with future subsidence and reduce the risk of failure.

Multiple case studies from Central Arizona will be utilized as examples, including McMicken Dam and Powerline Flood Retarding Structure which are operated and maintained by the Flood Control District of Maricopa County, Arizona.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

About Me

This post serves as a basic introduction to who I am Professionally and Personally.

I am the current President of the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG). I am Senior Geologist with AMEC Environment & Infrastructure, Inc. (AMEC) in Phoenix, Arizona, though I reside in Flagstaff, Arizona and a registered professional geologist in Arizona.. I have been with AMEC since November 2000. Since that time, I have been utilized as a project manager, technical lead, project geologist, task manager, and field geologist performing geologic, geotechnical and geologic hazard investigations for dams, levees, channels, basins, buildings, roadways, bridges, power plants, transmission lines, mining projects, pipelines, and other structures. In addition, I have been extensively involved in the characterization of land subsidence and subsidence-related hazards such as earth fissures and associated impacts for planning, design and remediation. I have also been involved in projects that utilize remote sensing technologies such as interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) as they apply to geologic and geotechnical characterization, including ground subsidence and earth fissuring and slope stability issues. Involvement in this wide-range of projects has included field investigation, logging and sampling of soils and rock, seismic and resistivity surveys, quality inspection, gravity surveys and analysis, geologic mapping, aerial photographic and remote sensing interpretation, background research, data analysis, report preparation, supervision of drill and other field crews, and overall task management. I have also utilized mountaineering techniques obtained in a specialized training course to map the geology, fracture patterns, and other concerns on canyon walls specifically applied to geotechnical characterization for bridge foundations and slope stability. I have experience investigating geologic hazards such as land subsidence, earth fissuring, landslides and seismic hazards and has received specialized training in the use of LiDAR and high resolution DEMs for landslides and slope stability. I have worked internationally in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Romania, the Czech Republic, and have supported other projects worldwide.

My experience with AEG: Vice Chair, Phoenix Chapter (2003 – 2007); Chair, Arizona Section (2007 – 2010); Website Committee (2008 – 2011); Website Committee Co-Chairperson (2010 – 2011); Governance Committee (2010 – 2011); AEG Secretary (2011 – 2012); AEG Treasurer (2012 – 2013); AEG Vice President/President-Elect (2013 – 2014). I also served on the planning committee for the 2011 Shlemon Conference in Tempe, Arizona and the planning committee for the 2014 Annual Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Education: 1998: BS, Engineering Geology, Texas A&M University, 2001: MS, Geology, Arizona State University.

I am also active with the Arizona Hydrological Society (AHS), The Arizona Land Subsidence Group, The Arizona Geological Survey Earth Fissure Advisory Group, the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER), and the International Association of Engineering Geology and the Environment (IAEG).

I am a proud husband and a father of 2. My son is 7 and my daughter is 4. My wife is a planetary geophysicist with the USGS and my children love all things fun - sports, dancing, music, and the outdoors. We spend as much time outdoors as possible - mostly hiking the mountains outside of Flagstaff, and enjoying the trip down to Sedona when there's too much snow on the ground. I'm also typical of many geologists I know in that I enjoy a good drink - fine craft beer, scotch, wine, etc.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Back From The Dead

I figure it's about time to resurrect this blog and develop a new purpose. At the moment I (Ken Fergason) am the Vice President/President-Elect of the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG) and I will become President at our Annual Meeting in September (It's in Scottsdale, AZ and it's going to be an awesome meeting). I am going to utilize this blog to document my experience as President. I don't know yet how active it will be and what exactly the content will be, but I'm envisioning discussions on my travels, meetings I attend, presentations I give, people I interact with and such. I also imagine there will doomsday travel stories and gratuitous photos from a conference I'll be attending in Italy. Anyway, I'm hoping it'll a lot of fun. So stay tuned as content ramps up over the next couple of months.


PS: Current info on the Arizona Section of AEG can be found here.