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Best of both worlds


The Quake Centre is delighted to welcome a new member to the team. Kaley Crawford-Flett is a Geotechnical Water Resource Engineer with Auckland-based Riley Consultants Ltd. She joins us on secondment to lead a research programme into the seismic performance of large earth embankments.


After completing a PhD research programme in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Kaley returned to New Zealand in 2013. Her PhD was a University/Industry partnership with support from the British Columbia HydroElectric Power Authority, similar to this new secondment. It’s also a collaboration that has aligned very closely with her expertise and the work she did in Canada.


Kaley says it was ‘extreme serendipity’ that brought about her new placement, after a chance meeting between her employer, Riley Consultants Ltd. and the Quake Centre. Her new role means that she now divides her time between Auckland and Christchurch. She already had a connection with Christchurch, having completed her degree at the University of Canterbury and having worked in theRiley Christchurch office for a number of years.


Kaley’s Quake Centre research project is focused on earth structures, with particular emphasis on the seismic performance of soils in earth dams. Kaley is quick to emphasise the importance of these structures on people’s quality of life.


“In New Zealand, around 60 percent of our electricity is generated by hydropower, and much of our nation’s potable water is stored in large reservoirs. That’s not to mention our reliance on irrigation, recreation and industrial reservoirs and dams.”


Riley Managing Director Scott Vaughan sees huge benefits to Kaley’s secondment. The firm puts a lot of emphasis on ensuring staff have up-to-date knowledge of Dam Engineering best practice and have invested significantly in staff training via courses, seminars and conferences. He says the UC Quake Centre partnership is a great opportunity to share Kaley’s specific expertise for the benefit of the whole Dam industry.


“Kaley is very passionate about the design and performance of filters within earth dams and the opportunity to continue research in this area whilst still having a foot in the world of consulting. It is an ideal outcome, for her and for us.”


The firm has always had a strong presence in Dam Engineering in New Zealand, with founder Peter Riley a former chairman of the New Zealand Society of Large Dams.


“Peter has retired now but his passion for dams really rubbed off on a lot of Riley staff over the years; we have passionate Dam Engineers right through to Director level.”

Kaley is enjoying the opportunity to be involved in the two vastly different environments of consulting and academia and says that while she is still settling into a regular rhythm, the balance is working well for all parties.



The Project


The overarching aim of the seismically induced internal erosion research project is to advance the state of Dam Engineering knowledge, while addressing the primary concerns of New Zealand industry. The earth structures project will look into the seismic performance of soils in earth dams.


“Internal erosion is a term that describes the loss of soil particles from within a soil structure due to seepage,” says Kaley. “Internationally a number of research institutes are attempting to unravel the science behind internal erosion phenomena but the potential impact of earthquake motions on interal erosion hasn’t been addressed.”


The research will provide science-based ‘decision support tools’ to NZ industry, which will form part of a science-based framework to better understand geotechnical risks, and prioritise monitoring and upgrading activities for New Zealand earth dams. Aside from the creation of world-class testing facilities in New Zealand, Kaley hopes to nurture local expertise in the field of Geotechnical Dam Engineering.













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