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Martin G. Culshaw - Burwell Award
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2006 E.B. Burwell, Jr. Award
Martin G. Culshaw
British Geological Survey
Citation by Allen W. Hatheway
For the past 15 or so years, Martin G. Culshaw has been in charge of engineering geological activities at the British Geological Survey. During this time he has witnessed and dealt with profound changes in the functional direction of his agency as it has moved to more directly and more effectively serve the citizens of the United Kingdom. These changes were inevitable and there is much to be learned in North America about geology in government being oriented toward serving direct human needs. This Burwell Award takes special note of Professor Culshaw’s artful summarization of From Concept Towards Reality: Developing the Attributed 3D Geological Model of the Shallow Subsurface, prepared as his statement for delivery of the 7th Glossop Lecture of The Geological Society (London).
Twenty years ago Martin Culshaw turned his attention grandly toward the spatial definition of the engineering properties and characteristics of rock and soil masses and, in particular, their three-dimensional characterization in the “shallow subsurface.” This was at a time when computer-based information technology began to achieve the capacity of storing vast amounts of geologist-generated field data as reduced to numerical parameters. This was a fortunate selection of emphasis for Martin as digitization of existing numerical data and advances in computer-based graphics have now become so fruitful as to provide near-instant arrays of three-dimensional (3D) physical models portraying visual associations as enhanced by the use of selected coloring schemes.
Clearly this new association of computational tools has unlimited potential, but only to the degree that experienced engineering geologists are detecting, evaluating, assessing, and interpreting the feedstock of the computer manipulation that creates the highly useful graphic end product. And, without the presence of those same experienced engineering geologists, the end-product models are without special merit or value.
And so Culshaw’s paper is a definitive guide to the existing qualities and to the great potential of our new ability to produce graphic 3D data assemblages. This is an essential step for all of us as the technologies are new and rapidly changing but the nature and direction, for perhaps several decades, will hardly change significantly. Culshaw’s message is that of a menu of tools and a catalog of the existing and incoming banks of data that can, and must, be “mined.” The “ore” of this resource will enable geologists to meet the expanding threats, not only of natural hazards but of the stresses on the land and the triggering of some geologic processes by our intensified urbanization.
Martin’s gross end-product, we see, is Predictive Ground Modeling by which we can and must move forward from the Conceptual Geologic Model (largely the fruit of independent work by Peter Fookes in the U.K. and the late (1946-2006) Martin N. Sara of the U.S.A.). With these “real” geologic models, we learned to embrace from the 1980s to today’s “on-demand” graphical-physical models that can be built “in a moment” from information science geologic data banks. Culshaw cloaks the translation of data-bank geologic parameters into 3D models by following the three key engineering geologic elements set down by the late Sir John Knill (AEG Holdredge Awardee, 2003; Core Values) as: 1) The Geological Model; 2) Geological Properties; and 3) Geological Processes.
The Culshaw contribution becomes fundamentally most useful when viewed as a summation, by methodology and example, of the geologic data sources now at hand and of the tribulations centering on their sustenance and integration. In other words, computer science has already, in a way, advanced beyond our capacities, as nations and agencies, to take full advantage of today’s digital capacities for manipulation and presentation of actual (“real”), as detected, observed, measured, and recorded by geologists in the field.
Inherent to the value of Martin’s presentation is his recognition of the special requirements for assessment of existing and incoming subsurface geological data so that its inherent nature will stand the rigors of the expected evolution of computer storage, retrieval, and manipulation. Here he reminds us to take special recognition of the limitations of the “scale” at which our future 3D representations are to be made and of the special controls that are represented by the Digital Terrain Models (DTM) that will, of necessity, govern the practicality of our future 3D presentations.
There is an element of practical projection to the Culshaw teatment as well. That is, he anticipates a continued need to assess the particular degree of variance of reported engineering properties of earth material units treated in the 3D representations. For these considerations, he sets the stage for needed research and also for formal standardization of property-input data.
After dealing with the ongoing problem of property variance, Culshaw rightfully moves into the matter of representation of time-dependent change in the character of ground to be subjected to 3D characterization modeling. This plays into a further area of indicated research and standardization of 3D methodology; that is, to employ the graphic models as an improvement in various aspects of hazards assessment and of their associated risks. Again, Culshaw injects the profound need to consider scale effects for individual sites.
The overall Culshaw presentation is a carefully assembled assemblage of published examples identifying key geologic situations demanding their own forms of attention, each to respect the natural and repeatable anomalies and heterogeneities of geologic character that must be understood in setting up not only our subsurface databases but in specifying the boundary conditions of the models that will so easily be produced by computer manipulation of our databanks. These examples constitute at once both key parameters and caveats for their computer manipulation. Among the caveats, he particularly stresses the need to evaluate uncertainty.
In summary, Martin Culshaw has forged a comprehensive methodology for 21st century 3D geologic data modeling; a set of geologic considerations and circumstances essential to accurate applications of 3D modeling. These fundamental controls likely will not change and therefore will serve to guide us in this respect for this entire century.
  2006 E. B. Burwell, Jr., Award - Response by Martin G. Culshaw
I am surprised, delighted, and honored to be the recipient of the Edward Burwell, Jr. Award for 2006. I should like to thank the Award Committee and the Engineering Geology Division of the Geological Society of America for making the Award to me. I also particularly want to thank Allen Hatheway for his kind words in his citation.
I wrote the paper that enabled me to win the Award for a reason. Engineering geology in the United Kingdom is struggling to maintain a meaningful presence in our universities. There has been an increased emphasis over the last decade or so on ‘excellent blue skies’ research. This has made it more difficult to obtain funding for applied geoscience research, including in engineering geology. As a result, it has come to be believed that there are few engineering geological research needs to fulfill and that engineering geology is a purely practical activity that takes place only in the commercial world of building, construction, and remediation. I believe that this view is misplaced and that engineering geology is embarking on an exciting new era in its development.
In 2003, I was invited to become the Geological Society of London’s 7th Glossop Lecturer. This invitation placed on me a dual obligation: to present a keynote lecture and to publish, in the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, a paper based upon the content of the lecture. Sometimes, lectures of this type can be seen to be a description of the lecturer’s career achievements; in other words, such lectures can be rather backward looking. I did not want to do this; I wanted to look forwards. I found my inspiration in the work of two very eminent British engineering geologists, Professor Peter Fookes and the late Sir John Knill. Peter Fookes gave the 1st Glossop Lecture, published in 1997, in which he developed and formalized the idea of the conceptual engineering geological model. He developed this idea further in a subsequent keynote paper with Fred Baynes and John Hutchinson at Geo2000 in Melbourne, Australia. John Knill presented the 1st Hans Cloos Lecture at the 9th IAEG Congress in Durban in 2002. He attempted to identify engineering geology’s ‘core values’ and described what engineering geology had achieved and what still needed to be done.
Another key influence on the paper was work carried out by a number of colleagues at the British Geological Survey (BGS), particularly Holger Kessler, Dave Bridge and Simon Price. In about 2001, they began 3D modeling of the shallow subsurface using software recently developed by Hans-Georg Sobisch (of INSIGHT Geological Software Systems GmbH). This software enabled the BGS to use its large-scale, 2D digital geological maps and its extensive borehole log database to produce 3D geological models of the central areas of the twin cities of Manchester and Salford. Whilst 3D geological modeling is common in the oil industry, the lack of appropriate, easy to use software and adequate data has restricted similar spatial modeling in the shallow subsurface. It soon became apparent that, not only would we be able to produce realistic 3D spatial models, but that we could attribute them with real geotechnical data which could then be statistically modeled to show potential variation at the city scale.
In addition, colleagues and I had completed a series of 2D digital maps showing geohazard susceptibility for six geohazards across the whole of Britain, at a scale of 1:50,000. These maps were derived using understanding of the geological processes that cause the hazards and digital datasets that enabled the modeling of hazard susceptibility. So, the models have the potential to be used to determine how hazard susceptibility will alter with changes in climate, particularly rainfall. I stress that these maps were based on process drivers, not previous hazard occurrence.
I realized that these two broad areas of applied research together provided the basis for what engineering geology should be about. So, I suggested that Peter Fookes’ conceptual models now could be taken towards reality in areas with adequate subsurface data and that the engineering geological model was more than a part of John Knill’s engineering geological core values but was at the heart of those values. In the new world of digital data and modeling, the engineering geological model is a significant part of what engineering geologists do. Furthermore, that model has five dimensions to it: 3D interpretation of geological surfaces and the variability of geotechnical properties, the effect of geological processes in changing the 3D model over time (the fourth dimension) and the many uncertainties associated with the data and the modeling process (the fifth dimension). We have barely begun to apply the fourth and fifth dimensions to the developing three dimensional engineering geological models; also, the models being developed need exposing to the hard test of site investigation to determine their place in helping us to understand the ground for development and regeneration. So, there is plenty for the next few generations of engineering geologists to do!
Finally, as well as repeating my sincere thanks to the Engineering Geology Division for this prestigious award, I should like to acknowledge the contribution of my many colleagues at the BGS and elsewhere, who have played significant parts in the development of the work honored by the GSA.

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