Next up in our ‘Get to know us better’ series is Sarah Bastin.


How and why did you get interested in engineering geology?

The 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquakes occurred just as I was completed my undergraduate degree in geology. Seeing the effects liquefaction first-hand and the impact it had on my community inspired me to undertake a PhD and post-doctoral research. After attending many geology and geotechnical focused conferences, I found IAEG and released that engineering geology combines geology and engineering to solve everyday problems. Needless to say, I had found my niche.


Where and when did you obtain your undergraduate degree and, if appropriate, your graduate degree(s)?

I completed my undergraduate degree and PhD at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. The earthquakes kept coming and continued to bring in exciting research opportunities so there was a lot of incentive to stay!


Who have/has been your most inspiriting mentor/supervisor (men and women)?

I have been lucky to have a number of different mentors who have inspired and challenged me in different ways. My PhD supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Mark Quigley continuously challenged my ideas and taught me the importance of clear communication. Dr Martitia Tuttle introduced me to the world of paleo-liquefaction while Prof. Russell Green and Dr Sjoerd van Ballegooy helped me transition into the geotechnical space and encouraged me to diversify my skillsets.


If you did a thesis, what was your thesis topic? 

My PhD focused on the relationship between fluvial geomorphology and lateral spreading in Christchurch following the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes, and evidence for previous earthquakes through identifying and dating paleo-liquefaction features.


Where there any/many other women in your university classes?

My classes were never a 50/50 split, but I don’t remember being consciously aware of any gender bias.



With what companies/organizations did you (have you) worked?

I completed a Post-doctoral position with QuakeCoRE – Centre for Earthquake Resilience after my PhD. My work focused on collating historical cases of liquefaction and comparing observed distributions of liquefaction with that predicted from the simplified methodologies. I also continued working on examining relationships between fluvial geomorphology and lateral spreading.

I am now working as an engineering geologist with Beca, based in Christchurch, New Zealand and have been lucky to have been involved in a range of projects.


What are your main areas of interest within engineering geology?

My main interests are in the natural hazards space, particularly the identification and assessment of natural hazards in order to inform planning decisions and communicate the hazard to local communities.


What were (have been) the most memorable projects you’ve been involved with?

Completing post-event reconnaissance after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake was a pretty memorable experience, particularly driving down roads that had partially slipped away and hunting out evidence of liquefaction and lateral spreading. More recently, I have been involved in a project where I got to complete debris flow and rockfall modelling and got to spend a week wandering the hills to find potential source areas.


Have you been in IAEG or your local young group?

I have been involved in the YEG committee of IAEG since late 2019 and am a member of the New Zealand Geotechnical Society and IAEG.


Have you won any awards (honours) for your technical achievements or your contributions to your profession?  If so, what were they?  Any other notable achievements?

I was awarded Runner up in the Richard Wolters Prize by the International Association of Engineering Geologists at the 2018 San Francisco Congress. The award recognises meritorious scientific achievement by a younger member of the engineering geology profession and is awarded to honour Dr. Wolters’ many contributions to international understanding and co-operation. I have also been shortlisted for the Zonta Women in Science award, won the award for top PhD completed within the Department of Geological Sciences in 2015, and won Best Presentation by a Young Geotechnical Professional at the 2013 New Zealand Geotechnical Society Symposium.


What is it like being a woman in a man-dominated profession?

I believe it is what you make of it, treat others how you want to be treated.