Student Profile: Assessing reclaimed land for liquefaction risks

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Reclaimed land is particularly susceptible to liquefaction after earthquakes, and engineers and planners currently have little understanding of how the land’s characteristics might help predict liquefaction damage. QuakeCoRE researcher Ribu Dhakal hopes his PhD research will fill this gap in knowledge by providing better assessment methodologies for reclaimed land.

Ribu’s study is focused on Wellington’s CentrePort, which like the rest of Wellington’s waterfront is located on reclaimed land. The port was severely damaged in the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake, causing closures and significant economic impacts.

As part of QuakeCoRE’s Flagship Programme 2 on liquefaction, Ribu’s research focuses on developing methodologies for the evaluation of liquefaction problems in reclaimed soils. The work will help engineers understand the likely performance of land and structures under various earthquake scenarios, which will be used to better plan future development on reclaimed soils so that liquefaction hazards are minimised.

Ribu says, “This project is a great example of the benefits of local and international collaboration. Along with QuakeCoRE’s Misko Cubrinovski, international researchers such as Professor Jonathan Bray from the University of California, Berkeley, and engineers at WSP Opus have helped advance our understanding of earthquake liquefaction. We are also in the process of testing soil samples in labs in Japan, and could continue them in other places around the world.”

As President of the 2019 QuakeCoRE’s Canterbury Emerging Researcher Chapter, Ribu enjoys the outreach the Chapter does with the wider community and with other chapters to promote international engagement in disaster research. Ribu is particularly enthusiastic about the upskilling that the Chapter provides its members.

“I am a huge advocate for providing young researchers training in the communication of disaster research. This year the Chapter is hosting workshops to help researchers improve these skills prior to our lightning talk competition,” Ribu says.

Ribu has a personal interest in disaster research, having experienced both the Christchurch and Kaikōura Earthquakes and visiting his parents’ home country, Nepal, to help recovery efforts after a major earthquake in 2015.

Ribu says, “I’ve grown up learning about the different challenges and perspectives of earthquake response and recovery in New Zealand and Nepal. My personal experiences have certainly added to my own perspectives of how to improve disaster resilience.”

Photo credit: Stantec

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