Carla Brock Chairs WA’s Geologist Licensing Board

Associate Geologist Carla Brock was recently appointed as Chair of the Washington State Geologist Licensing Board by her fellow board members. The board is comprised of six licensed geologists and one public member and is responsible for licensing geologists; updating the rules and regulations governing the practice of geology in the state of Washington; and investigating violations of the regulations. Carla is starting her second year of a four-term appointment to the board.

Washington State is a member of the National Association of the State Boards of Geology (ASBOG), which develops standardized written examinations for administration by the 32 member states and Puerto Rico, assessing qualifications of applicants seeking licensure as professional geologists. In addition to her duties on the state board, Carla participates as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on ASBOG’s Council of Examiners (COE). The COE is comprised of SMEs from across the country and convenes twice a year, immediately following administration of the tests, for examination development and validation workshops. The COE spends two days reviewing test questions and answers to maximize the fairness and quality of the examinations as measures of competency. The COE is not all work, each meeting includes lunchtime presentations by local experts on interesting and relevant topics and a third day in which local experts lead a geologic field trip.

Carla just returned from the spring COE, which was held in Nashua, New Hampshire and is proud to support ASBOG but also enjoys the opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the country and to learn about local geology.

Geologists love a good roadcut! A quartz syenite ring dike intrudes the pre-Mesozoic tonalite with mylonitization at the contact.

Geologists love a good roadcut! A quartz syenite ring dike intrudes the pre-Mesozoic tonalite with mylonitization at the contact.

Geologists love a good roadcut! A quarts syenite ring dike intrudes pre-Mesozoic tonalite.

Geologists ogling an outcrop in central New Hampshire.

Geologists stomping through the snow in central New Hampshire in search of an outcrop.

Meet Bill Grimm and Isabellah von Trapp

Staff Scientist Bill Grimm and Staff Scientist Isabellah von Trapp recently joined Aspect -- Bill in our Bainbridge office and Isabellah in our Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Bill Grimm.jpg

Bill Grimm, Staff Scientist

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
    I’m from the suburbs of Chicago originally. I came to Seattle a little over a year after graduating from college to do a master’s program in applied geosciences at the University of Washington. My master’s program was a great fit for me, because it combined two of my passions: earth science, and giving back to the communities in which I live. Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest in general, are incredibly interesting geologically, and the program presented a great opportunity to study real earth science-related issues happening in our own backyards.
  2. What inspired you to pursue geology? What made you curious about it?
    I really fell in love with geology when I was on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon when I was about 10 years old. I had always loved maps and cross sections since I was a kid, and seeing the Grand Canyon in real life made me absolutely fascinated with the Earth and its natural processes.
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
    My favorite part of geology is that it’s like a big puzzle. You start with what you know, and you try to fit the pieces together to make the problem make sense. Along the way, you discover new pieces of the puzzle that fit in to the whole, and the more you discover (generally), the clearer the bigger picture becomes.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
    I like to hang out with my wife, hike, play guitar, ski, and read. I’m also planning to start brewing my own beer sometime soon.
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next? 
    I would love to do a trek from northern India through Nepal to the Mt. Everest base camp. I love knowing where I am in the world geologically and geographically and being able to picture myself on a map, and I think it would be awesome to walk from the flats in India across the plate boundary and all the way to the base of the highest mountain above sea level.

Isabellah von Trapp, Staff Scientist

Isabellah enjoying Death Valley geology.

Isabellah enjoying Death Valley geology.

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
    I grew up in Salem, Oregon but I always knew I wanted to live in the Puget Sound-area. I attended college in Tacoma at PLU then set out for grad school in Missoula, Montana. But, after a couple years of cold-ish winters, I was ready to head back to my beloved, rainy PNW where I could easily access the mountains, ocean, and my family within a short arm’s reach. 
  2. What inspired you to pursue water resources? What made you curious about it?
    For most of my growing up years, I strongly believed I wanted to be a dentist…but after about 1 semester in college, I quickly realized that was not the life for me. After floundering around in some general education classes the following semester, I decided to take an introductory-level geoscience class and my mind was blown.

    Soon thereafter, I declared myself as a geoscience major. I took a wide array of geology classes but out of all of them, I loved hydrogeology and geochemistry the most.  After that, it only seemed natural to seek out a master’s thesis project where I could combine both of those things! Fortunately, I’ve been able to pursue a career that allows me to use those skills and develop new ones. 
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
    Everybody needs water. Working in water resources is not only interesting but it allows me to solve real world problems that affect a lot of people. Any job that allows you to simultaneously do science and help people is a cool one in my book. 
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
    Most of the time, I’m daydreaming about what I’m going to eat next. So, in my free time I enjoy perusing every item at Trader Joe’s, cooking, and baking. Aside from that – I  also love to camp, hike, swim, knit, try out new beers, and travel just about anywhere! 
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next? 
    Iceland, Ireland, and Israel – apparently I have a thing for countries starting with the letter I. 

Meet Aaron Fitts and Jasmin Jamal!

Aaron Fitts recently joined Aspect's Bellingham office and Jasmin Jamal recently joined Aspect's Portland office.  Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Aaron Fitts, LG, Staff Geologist

Aaron and 2 1/2-year-old son Arthur.

Aaron and 2 1/2-year-old son Arthur.

  1.  Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
    I grew up in central Maine. The landscape in Maine and New England is a lot like the Pacific Northwest (PNW), except the mountains are smaller and the winters are colder. I spent all my time growing up in the woods or on the coast; I spent the summers racing bikes, surfing, and whitewater guiding, and in the winter I’d be climbing mountains, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. It turned out that you could do all these things in the PNW too, but it’s also way more fun here!
  2. What inspired you to pursue geology? 
    At the end of my Junior year of college, I had completed most of the requirements for a degree in physics and found myself with just electives left for my senior year. I was a bit sick of being stuck in physics laboratories all the time and saw geology as an opportunity to spend some time outside. I took eight geology courses in one year and was able to get a dual-degree. Ironically, I ended up spending most of my time in a basement geochemistry laboratory, though, I got out enough to make it worth it. I decided that I wanted to go to grad school where I could be in landscapes a bit more exciting than the Northeast. My undergraduate advisor recommended that I contact his colleague at Western Washington University in Bellingham, telling me that it was near the coast but surrounded by mountains. That was literally all I knew about the area when I drove across the country to get here. It ended up being a good decision.
  3. What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
    Troubleshooting and problem-solving while working with clients, contractors, and co-workers is my favorite thing about working in this field. There’s something very satisfying about getting something complicated to work out in the end. Getting to do the type of science that I enjoy and seeing cool places at the same time is just a great bonus on top of it all.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
    Lately, my favorite activity has been reexperiencing childhood activities with my two boys (11-months and 2.5-years old). My toddler is obsessed with riding his bike and running on the trails and my infant is obsessed with anything his big brother is doing. My wife and I do our best to keep up with them, but they’re a handful. When we do find time for ourselves, we usually end up riding our bikes anyway.
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next? 
    There are a lot of places around the world I’d like to visit; generally, any place with mountains, probably Chile or Argentina. Honestly though, even given the choice, I’d probably most like to just go to the Methow Valley. I really like it there.

Jasmin Jamal, EIT, Staff Engineer

Jasmin at the Trillium Falls near the Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County

Jasmin at the Trillium Falls near the Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I am from a city called Orange, in a county called Orange, in a state called California. My life-partner Jonathon and I visited Portland a few years back and immediately agreed that this was where we needed to be. Last summer, I finished grad school, he requested a job transfer, and before we knew it, we landed in Portland!
  2. What inspired you to pursue environmental engineering? What made you curious about it?
    Growing up, my mom frequently took my sisters and me on camping, hiking, and biking adventures. I loved the outdoors as a kid but never imagined pursuing an environmental job as a career--I always wanted to be a teacher. During college, I stumbled upon the earth science program and fell in love. Around the time that I finished my undergrad, environmental engineering was introduced as a master’s program at my university. The variety of topics covered in the program were intriguing, so I went for it and fell in love for the second time! My interest in teaching hasn’t ceased but I envision myself now as more of a grey-haired professor.
  3. What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    I like the diversity behind environmental engineering and am motivated by the fact that the environment is ever changing. I hope to work in multiple areas of interest including wastewater and surface water treatment, solid waste management and design, fate and transport of chemicals, and soil and groundwater remediation.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    I enjoy hiking, biking, and camping, but I probably like all of that as much as I like being horizontal with my cat Carrie.
  5. What five people would be your dream party guests?
    I’m going to pick a mixture of living and dead:
    1. My Uncle Tom (deceased)
    2. Barack Obama (living)
    3. Carrie Brownstein (living)
    4. 011 from “Stranger Things” (fictional)
    5. John Muir (deceased)

How Will We Hold Up to The Cascadia Megaquake?

Two recent articles in The Seattle Times explore how the Pacific Northwest's infrastructure will be affected by the next major earthquake.

New Cascadia quake analysis shows building retrofits could save many lives

How to survive the Cascadia Earthquake? Tips from seismologist Lucy Jones, ‘the Beyoncé of earthquakes’

Back in 2015, our very own Dave McCormack chimed in with his thoughts in response to the now infamous New Yorker story, The Really Big One

A Geologist's Thoughts on the Pacific Northwest Mega-Quake Story

Source: USGS

Source: USGS

The Geology of Central Washington's Rattlesnake Ridge Landslide

Geology is on everyone’s mind in Yakima County as officials grapple with the ongoing Rattlesnake Ridge slide and how to help the community below it. This drone footage captures the surface features of the slide in detail. 

Given the geology of the area, Aspect’s Principal Engineering Geologist Dave McCormack summarizes the likely forces behind the slide: “Geologic studies have shown that slides of this nature are fairly common on the flanks of the numerous anticlinal ridges in central Washington. While most are ancient and have not moved during recent history, there are examples, including the Nile Valley landslide of 2009, where old slides have reactivated, or new slides began. These slides occur where basalt flows are interbedded with sedimentary strata. While the basalt strata may be relatively strong, the sedimentary interbeds are often weathered and weak.

When the gravitational driving forces acting on these dipping strata exceed the resisting strength of the weathered sedimentary strata, they begin to slide. There are multiple factors in the delicate balance of gravitational forces versus resisting strength, including the properties of the rock, degree of weathering, groundwater levels, the geometry of the slope, etc. 

Triggers for activation of landslides can include increases in groundwater level, strong earthquake shaking, or changes in slope geometry from natural causes like river migration, or human-caused grading. Because of the multiple factors involved, teasing out the exact triggers of a slope failure can be challenging, and the expected type of failure (fast debris runout, slow creeping failure, rockfalls, etc.) difficult to predict.” 

Geologic insight will continue to be relied on as the slide keeps moving.

The Beauty and Power of LiDAR in Geology

Kudos to the good people at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)/Washington Geological Survey for their absolutely incredible Esri Story Map, The Bare Earth.

Here at Aspect, we use regional LiDAR data treasure troves nearly every single day. From landslide hazard analysis, to stormwater infiltration feasibility, to fault identification and mapping–our team of geologists and GIS analysts are well familiar with the power of this incredible, rich data.  

However, we've never seen such a thoughtful, thorough, and beautiful presentation of LiDAR's role in geology as this. In addition to the breathtaking LiDAR visualizations, it's a wonderful example of the narrative and explanatory power of a story map

Bravo, DNR. Bravo.

...oh... and happy GIS Day/Post-GIS Day! This is a wonderful way to celebrate.

Evaluating Ground Movement from Outer Space: Annaliese Eipert Discusses InSAR satellite technology at AEG meeting

Many of the questions Aspect’s infrastructure staff have on a project revolve around soil movement. We may need to know how much a building’s foundation has settled, or if a steep slope is starting to fail, or the furthest extent of a sinkhole. A new technology— interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR)—is helping us gather better information to answer those questions. Project Geologist Annaliese Eipert will share Aspect’s local experience with InSAR at the monthly Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG) meeting in Seattle on Thursday, March 17.

InSAR measures the changes in ground surface elevation by recording the distance between the ground and a satellite over time, and it does so with accuracy down to the millimeter. It can pierce through rainclouds and cover of night to document conditions without interruption. Unlike Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, which covers conditions for a fixed point, InSAR can collect data on the movement of large parcels of land. It also acts as a time machine of sorts, with the ability to study data gathered in years past. InSAR’s functionality gives us more detailed data to find problematic changes in ground surface and formulate appropriate recommendations and solutions.

InSAR image showing accumulated ground motion in the greater Tacoma area. Image courtesy of TRE-Altamira.

Annaliese’s presentation will focus on how we used InSAR data to help determine the cause of an approximately five-mile-long swath of widespread apparent uplift on the order of one inch in the Federal Way area that was observed between 2007 and 2009. She will also explore the potential causes of observed subsidence along Puget Lowland river valleys and of ground surface deformation in general, as well as the applications and limitations of using InSAR analysis for geologic and geotechnical engineering investigations in comparison to high-resolution GPS and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology.

Annaliese will be co-presenting with Giacomo Falorni from TRE-Altamira, a globally recognized firm with comprehensive expertise in applying InSAR data to large infrastructure projects. Giacomo will provide an introduction to the technology itself and discuss how it has been used on infrastructure and environmental projects around the world. 

A Geologist's Thoughts on the Pacific Northwest Mega-Quake Story

As the aftershocks of Kathryn Schulz’s article The Really Big One in The New Yorker continue to reverberate across western Washington, Aspect is fielding questions from concerned family members, friends, and clients. Will everything west of I-5 really be “toast”? Should I be worried about a landslide on the hill in my backyard? Is my house going to hold up against a 9.0 quake?

Read More

Geology Field Trip!

More than 30 members of Aspect’s technical staff participated in a regional geology workshop. The workshop was led by Puget Lowland geology guru Kathy Troost of the University of Washington and Troost Geosciences.  Friday morning was devoted to lectures and discussion of the geology of the area, and in the afternoon participants got their hands dirty practicing identifying and classifying samples of local soils. Saturday, Ms. Troost led the group to the classic field locations for regional geology: Alki Point, Mee-Kwa-Mooks Park,  Herrings’s House Park on the Duwamish, Discovery Park, and ended with an overview at Kerry Park on Queen Anne.