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Managing slopes adds to physical burden for local geologists
Wong Yat-hei
update on Friday, April 8, 2011
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Steven Williamson's love of nature led him to become a geologist.

"I appreciate hills and mountains, and am interested to see how things are a form in nature," says Williamson, an engineering geologist at Aecom.

Construction consulting firms and contractors hire geologists, Williamson says. "Before the construction of a building, bridge and tunnel, geologists need to inspect the site to look at how the texture of the land and the structure of the landscape will affect the infrastructure," he says.

Geologists make use of rock and soil samples collected on site and aerial photos to build models to help engineers adjust the design of the infrastructure, he adds.

With so many people in Hong Kong living close to slopes, Williamson says an especially important aspect lies in managing slopes, which entails carrying out landslide investigations and suggesting ways to stabilise slopes and prevent landslides.

He adds that the work of a geologist is physically demanding. "In Hong Kong, the weather is hot and humid and it is tough to work outside. One has to be fit and bring enough water and equipment."

Fresh graduates usually begin as an assistant geologist and earn about HK$15,000. University graduates are eligible, but master's degree holders will have an advantage. An assistant geologist can be promoted to geologist after four years, earning about HK$20,000. As a geologist moves up the ladder, he or she will be involved in complicated projects. Outstanding individuals with more than 20 years of experience may become a technical director.

Algy Lee, a geologist who graduated with a bachelor's degree in earth science from the University of Hong Kong, says the programme is the closest thing local institutes offer to train geologists. The university offers a master of science in applied geosciences for those who are not from a related education background.

A geologist doesn't have to be chartered to practise in Hong Kong. Geologists with more than five years' experience can apply to the Geological Society of London for chartership. 

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