Research Areas

Our research focuses on Geomechanics, Engineering Geology, and Geohazards for a variety of applications, such as tunnelling, caverns, civil infrastructure, mining excavations, natural rockmass formations, and deep geological repositories for nuclear waste storage. We work on surface and underground settings, as well as in natural and human built environments. We utilize various combinations of field research, physical laboratory testing, and numerical computing analyses to produce research in science and engineering.


Geomechanics encompasses our work on rock mechanics, rock engineering, and geotechnical engineering. We use field data, laboratory testing, and advanced simulation tools to investigate and analyze rock and rockmass mechanics in the context of tunnelling, cavern construction, mining, underground waste storage, surface slopes, and natural shoreline rock formations.
Geomechanics field work: tunnel example
Geomechanics lab test: UCS example
Our physical laboratory research in geomechanics evaluates state of practice in ISRM and ASTM methods and aims to progress state of art for compressive (unconfined and confined), tensile, and direct shear tests of homogeneous and heterogeneous rocks, including coupled and time-dependent processes.

See our full complement of laboratory testing equipment on our Facilities page.
We develop new analysis methodologies based on industry standard and state of art geomechanics numerical modelling software (continuum, discontinuum, hybrid) for rock and rockmass behaviours in a variety of applications. Our research aims to advance understanding of geomechanics processes and to provide practical recommendations for numerical modelling input parameters and methodologies in a variety of ground conditions including weak rock, brittle ground under high stress (fracture and damage mechanics), structurally controlled ground, with or without the effects of water, time, and dynamic disturbance.

See our computation capabilities on our Facilities page.
Geomechanics numerical modelling example: FEMDEM tunnel

Engineering Geology

Engineering geology integrates applied geological sciences and detailed understanding of material mechanics and processes related to human activities, current and evolving natural hazards, including underground excavations, slopes, rockfall hazards, and shoreline rock formations. Our main focus is development of intelligent geological models to support engineering analysis, design and risk based decision making, considering process models, potential failure mechanisms, and triggers.
Engineering geology field example: drill core with hydrothermal veins
Engineering geology lab example: microscale crack propagation in SEM
Our geomechanics laboratory testing programs emphasize sample selection to understand the impacts of geological variability and discrete material defects (e.g. veins, breccia, foliation, karst) on material properties and resulting design implications.

We collaborate with the Queen's Facility for Isotope Research (QFIR) in our Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering to conduct geological laboratory analyses such as thin section petrography, X-Ray Diffraction, and Scanning Electron Microscopy with Mineral Liberation Analysis.
Here we expand our numerical modelling focus to include geological variability and discrete geological features. This includes a study of sample scale defects (veins, foliation, grain size) and larger scale features such as discrete fracture networks, vein systems and stockwork, faults and shear zones, as well as alteration and weathering. Modelling includes continuum, discontinuum, and hybrid approaches, as well as exploration of coupled processes (hydro, thermal) within this context.
Engineering geology numerical modelling example: FEM tunnel with explicit rockmass structures


We are transforming our understanding of slope and shoreline geohazards by collecting remotely sensed data, using LiDAR and photogrammetry. The high resolution geometric data provided by these methods, and repeated surveys, provides an unprecedented opportunity to observe pre-failure deformation and hypothesize driving and trigger mechanisms, as well as precursor small volume failure events, enhancing our understanding and ability to provide warning of future events. InSAR, hyperspectral, and thermal measurements will also be integrated into the data collection toolbox within the coming years.
Geohazards field example: sea stack at Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park
Geohazards numerical lab example: LiDAR slope with change detection
In the laboratory, we are developing LiDAR and photogrammetry workflows focussed on semi-automated processing and interpretation, while keeping the geological model and possible failure mechanisms in mind.

It is essential to understand the evolution of shear strength and behaviour of joints, related to the roughness that can be measured using remotely sensed geometric data. This research objective is directly connected with the development of engineering geology and geomechanics laboratory testing.

For shoreline geohazards, the effects of weathering and wave/tidal driven erosion and associated changes in kinematics and stability are addressed through modelling and monitoring strategies.
The application of physics engines, developed for the movie and game industry, to geohazards provides a rapid model development and calculation of probable material movement scenarios. We are developing functionality to consider reasonable ranges of geomaterial property metrics, different trajectory and fragmentation outcomes, and model output of value to industry, and research of geohazard behaviour. Remotely collected data of slope change events provides a basis for calibration of realistic simulation models.
Geohazards numerical modelling example: 3D rockfall simulation in game engine physics model