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Keynote Speakers

Monday, September 16, 2024

R.M. Hardy Keynote Address

Risk-informed Decision-Making: necessary insight to reduce risk


Suzanne Lacasse


The 2024 Hardy lecture focuses on the benefits of adopting a risk-informed approach and proposes a risk-informed decision-making (RIDM) framework. Four steps characterise the framework: 1) assemble all available information and conduct deterministic analyses; 2) conduct a risk assessment, identify the most significant factors influencing the safety, and prepare a risk picture using risk diagrams; 3) make risk-informed decisions to reduce risk; and 4) do regular reassessments of the risk as it can change with time. Basic concepts of a risk-informed approach are illustrated with examples from practice for slopes in sensitive material and for both embankment and concrete buttress dams. Many probabilistic tools can be used for risk assessment, from simple qualitative estimates to full probabilistic multi-parameter modelling of the hazards and consequences. The effect of risk mitigation measures for landslide and rehabilitation measures for dams is also considered in the examples provided. For landslides, the web-based database and portal LaRiMiT (Landslide Risk Mitigation Toolbox) for identifying and optimising the selection of mitigation measure is demonstrated. An important benefit of the RIDM is the added insight gained by integrating risk assessment in the stability evaluation of slopes and dams. The advantages and drawbacks of the risk-informed approach are discussed.       A risk diagram is also shown to be an effective tool to communicate with stakeholders. In addition, risk analyses, once established, can be adjusted and revised at regular intervals at relatively low cost. The lecture concludes with learnings from the case studies and a recommendation for wider implementation of the risk-informed approach in practice.


Dr. Suzanne Lacasse obtained a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Montréal and civil engineering degrees from Polytechnique Montréal and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After 12 years on MIT's faculty, she moved to the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), where she became Managing Director NGI from 1991 to 2011. She has given the Terzaghi Lecture, the Rankine Lecture, the Jennings Lecture, and the Terzaghi Oration. She has received many awards, including the Canadian Geotechnical Society Legget Medal and the Kennedy Medal of the Engineering Institute of Canada. Dr. Lacasse received PhD's Honoris Causa from the University of Dundee, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the University du Québec and Queen’s University. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering in the USA, Canada, Norway and France. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Academy of Norway and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Dr. Lacasse is Honorary Professor at Tongji and Jiaotong Universities (Shanghai) and Zhejiang University (Hangzhou). She   is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Knight of the Order of the Falcon in Iceland.

Buchanan Lecture

Geotechnical Marriage between Theory & Practice

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Marc Ballouz


In practice, most projects are on fast track and the engineer is often pressured to give a solution quickly. In doing so, she or he could be taking a lot of risk and even facing danger. This lecture emanates from the long experience of the author in Design-Build solutions. It gives guidance on how to approach engineering problems in real life by combining theory and practice, and how they complement each other to give suitable solutions. The SoLGeH approach is introduced, highlighting the importance of collecting data prior to giving any solution based on intuition or an answer haphazardly. A stable theoretical solution lies in providing functionality leading to a cost-effective execution without compromising safety. Engineering is in our every day life; indeed, even analyzing the simple activity of walking on sand can tell us a lot about the interaction between theory and practice. Some case histories will beare presented, each exposing the importance of certain aspects in geotechnical engineering, such as, using different theories/software, monitoring short and long term, site observation, and innovative thinking. As President of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, tThe lecture also shows the importance to stay connected to the international family and be ready to practice and excel worldwide.


Known to be a jack of all trades, his engineering journey started early on when he was 15 on construction sites with his father, a civil engineer. After obtaining his PHD degree from Texas A&M University, he established his own company,  the Institute for Geotechnics & Materials, that quickly became international, known for its Design/Built innovative solutions. He was simultaneously teaching at three universities and currently is a professor of foundation engineering at Texas State University. He has more than 10 key papers in renowned journals on different innovative topics, and more than 150 design/built and forensic engineering reports for projects worldwide, specializing in shoring deep excavations, advanced foundation systems, and saving structures in dilapidation. Amongst his many publications in geotechnical magazines and forums is the famous video “what is geotechnical engineering” that is still on top of the YouTube search polls since 2013, and got him the prestigious International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) Public Relations award. He was active for 8 years on the ISSMGE board from 2009 to 2017. He was serving on the board of the Geo-Institute when he was elected President of ISSMGE in 2022, the highest position representing geotechnical engineering worldwide with 90 country members and more than 35,000 geotechnical engineers around the globe.

Tuesday, September 17, 2024

Canadian Geotechnical Colloquium

Meeting the challenge of geotechnical transportation infrastructure on degrading permafrost

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Ryley Beddoe


As permafrost in the Canadian Arctic undergoes climate driven degradation and changes, the stress and impact it will have on current and future linear infrastructure networks will be significant. Now more than ever, it is critical to work towards an understanding of not only why but also how. How will we learn from today to plan and design adaptation and mitigation techniques for resilient infrastructure in the future? How can we develop models that will allow us to ‘dig deeper’ in our understanding? In her current research in this field, Dr. Riley Beddoe is exploring questions like these, including: How can numerical modelling techniques allow us to predict future infrastructure risk? What adaptation techniques will limit the impact of permafrost degradation for infrastructure networks? How do these techniques change if the network is a railway? An ice road? A highway? In this presentation, Dr. Beddoe will present her and her team’s most recent research results aimed at answering these, and other related arctic geotechnical engineering questions.


Ryley Beddoe is an Associate Professor in the department of Civil Engineering at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC). She received her B.Sc. and B.Ed., as well as her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in civil engineering at Queen’s University. Dr. Beddoe is a Research Director in the GeoEngineering Centre at RMC-Queen’s. She is also a co-investigator with PermaRail and PermafrostNET. Her research program focused on understanding the overarching impact on geotechnical design driven by climate change in Canada’s Arctic. Current and recent research includes investigating how permafrost geohazard impacts infrastructure in the Arctic, monitoring thaw instabilities along the Hudson Bay Railway in Northern Manitoba, and ice road investigations and portage resilience in the Northwest Territories. Her research is supported by Transport Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Government of Northwest Territories, Associate Engineering/NOR-EX Ice Engineering, National Research Council Canada, and the Department of National Defence.

Graduate Student Presentation


Hydro-Québec experience with the design and construction of large rockfill dams

This keynote will be in French

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Pierre Vannobel


The presentation provides a comprehensive summary of the experience acquired during the design and construction of several large rockfill dams at Hydro-Québec. These activities have taken place as part of the development of new hydroelectric installations by Hydro-Québec since the 1970s. More specifically, four types of rockfill dams are discussed: 1) with a very deep plastic cut-off, 2) with a thin central bituminous concrete core, 3) with a wide central core in glacial till, and 4) with a wide inclined till core.

The particularities of the concept characterizing the various typical cross-sections of said rockfill dams are presented and discussed, with emphasis on the materials constituting the zones of these structures. Particular attention is paid to the materials used for impervious elements, filters, transitions, large-scale rockfill and slope protection rockfill, including upstream riprap.

In order to respect the particularities of each type of dam, or even certain specific environmental constraints (e.g., with treatment aimed at removing fine particles), the presentation focuses on: 1) the development of state-of-the-art knowledge, 2) the study of the placement and performance of the plastic materials of the cores (plastic concrete, bentonite-enhanced till and bituminous concrete), and 3) the study of large-scale rockfill (maximum diameter, thickness of lifts, number of compactor passes, compaction energy, in-place moduli of elasticity, Vs1)


Pierre Vannobel is a graduate of the Université de Sherbrooke in mechanical and civil engineering. He also holds a master's degree in geotechnics. He has 35 years of experience in the dam industry. From 1988 to 1991, Mr. Vannobel held several positions with companies that were eventually integrated into SNC-Lavalin, and then worked for the latter until 2001 when Mr. Vannobel joined Hydro-Québec. He is one of the few practitioners with expertise in both dam design and construction. Mr. Vannobel has been actively involved in the design and construction of more than 300 hydraulic embankment structures. His contribution to numerous hydroelectric development projects has earned him renown in the Quebec dam industry.

Wednesday, September 18, 2024

Are we adequately training our geotechnical engineers and researchers to meet the challenges of practice?


Patrice Rivard


The traditional teaching methods in geotechnical and geosciences have relatively unchanged over the past 20 years, despite the increasing need for agility to cope with the rapidly accelerating changes (such as climate change, artificial intelligence, etc.) that the field demands. While the foundations of these disciplines remain strong, it is true that traditional teaching methods may sometimes struggle to keep pace with the rapid and complex changes that characterize our era. To effectively prepare future engineers and researchers to meet these challenges, it is crucial to explore new avenues and adopt more agile and innovative pedagogical approaches. The presentation explores some pathways to enhance the preparation of future geotechnical professionals (learner-centered pedagogy, integration of technology, interdisciplinary approach, experiential learning, awareness of contemporary issues, continuous training, improving academia-industry partnership...).


Patrice Rivard holds a bachelor’s degree in Geological Engineering from Polytechnique Montréal, as well as a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Sherbrooke (UdeS) and l’Institut national des sciences appliquées de Toulouse in France. He also holds a diploma from UdeS in teaching at the graduate level. He is a full professor in the Department of civil engineering and building engineering at UdeS, where he runs the Laboratory of rock mechanics and teaches engineering geology and rock mechanics. Professor Rivard was appointed as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the UdeS Engineering Faculty in January 2024. His expertise primarily focuses on the behavior of rock discontinuities and rock-concrete interfaces. His team has been involved in several projects requiring rock and rock mass characterization, including the extension of the Montreal metro's Blue Line, the development of the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM), the replacement of the Champlain Bridge, and the safety of Hydro-Québec’s dams.

Understanding, quantifying, and protecting the emergence of groundwater


Marie Larocque


There is no doubt that groundwater plays a key role at catchment scale, for drinking water supply, agriculture, industry, and ecosystems. There has been considerable scientific progress in understanding and quantifying the functions of groundwater over the last few decades. We are now in a better position to estimate groundwater renewal, residence time in geological formations, flow over short and long distances, volumes of water available, and the vulnerability and quality of the resource. However, very little is known about the discharge of groundwater into surface reservoirs such as rivers, wetlands and lakes. Questions such as how groundwater discharge supports ecosystems and plays a role in maintaining other groundwater functions, and how these flows are vulnerable to anthropogenic and climatic pressures, remain relatively unexplored. Little is also known about the links between recharge and discharge at catchment scale and the resilience of groundwater discharge. This presentation will examine these questions by addressing the issues involved in quantifying groundwater discharge and the supporting conditions, providing an overview of the situation in Quebec and elsewhere in the world, and exploring the best management practices that should be implemented.


Marie Larocque graduated from Polytechnique Montréal with a degree in civil engineering. She holds a master's degree in water science and a doctorate in hydrogeology from the Université de Poitiers in France. She has been a professor specialising in groundwater in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at UQAM since 2000. She also holds the Research Chair in Water and Land Conservation and is President of the Quebec Groundwater Network. Her research focuses on groundwater flow in catchment areas, from recharge zones to discharge into rivers, lakes and wetlands. Over the last few decades, she has focused mainly on the interactions between natural environments and groundwater. Thanks to her expertise in aquifer characterisation, field monitoring, data analysis, and modelling, she is involved in numerous projects carried out in partnership with government departments, municipalities, and conservation organisations.

From sea to sea to sea: But what lies beneath?
Making room for groundwater in a surface water-centric Canada

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Cynthia McClain


A sub-committee of the International Association of Hydrogeologists-Canadian National Chapter is advocating for the newly established Canada Water Agency (CWA) to make groundwater visible in national water forums, to enhance and coordinate the federal government’s hydrogeological capacity, and to improve collaboration with Indigenous peoples, territories, provinces, academia, industry, and stakeholders. Despite groundwater's extraordinary importance to Canada and Canada’s world-class hydrogeological expertise, groundwater is not visible in national water forums, the federal government's hydrogeological capacity is uncoordinated, was never sufficient, and has been severely diminished, and Canadian hydrogeological expertise has not been fully harnessed to effectively manage our groundwater resources or contribute to global assessments of groundwater. The vast majority of the liquid freshwater in Canada is groundwater. About one-third of Canadians and close to 80% of the country’s rural population rely on groundwater as a source of potable water. More than half of the systems that supply water to First Nations rely on groundwater. Two jurisdictions, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, are 100% and 97% dependent, respectively, on groundwater as a potable water supply. Nearly all surface water features interact with groundwater. Groundwater is crucial for sustaining ecological and human water needs. How fortunate, then, that Canada is a global leader in hydrogeological research. Unfortunately, we are not reaping the full benefits of this expertise. The problems have been understood for decades. For example, one of the goals of the 2003 Canadian Framework for Collaboration on Groundwater was “improving communications and collaboration among all agencies and organizations involved in groundwater activities.” This goal has not yet been attained; however, the creation of the CWA represents a new opportunity to, at last, improve collaborative groundwater management in Canada and give groundwater the profile it deserves.


Cynthia McClain obtained a B.S. of Science from UC Davis in California (major in geology and minor in hydrology), as well as a M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Ph.D. in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University. She has over 15 years of leadership experience in environmental monitoring and research across the United States and Canada. As the Geospatial Centre Director for the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary, she works on provincial-scale mapping of human footprint, wetlands, algal blooms, groundwater dependent ecosystems and groundwater quality. Dr. McClain previously served as a Hydrogeologist for the Government of Alberta, where she played a pivotal role in overseeing the Groundwater Observation Well Network and co-led the Oil Sands Monitoring Groundwater Technical Advisory Committee. Her position as Groundwater Advisor for DataStream underlines her commitment to open water data and freshwater protection in Canada. Recognized with the 2023 Early Career Hydrogeologist Award, and as the Alberta Director for the International Association of Hydrogeologists, she is dedicated to advancing UN sustainable development goals and specifically Canada’s reporting for groundwater on indicator 6.3.2 (Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality).

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