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Earth dam researcher wins 2019 Ivan Skinner Award

Dr Kaley Crawford-Flett has been awarded the 2019 Ivan Skinner Award by the Earthquake Commission and New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering for excellence in earthquake engineering research.

The award was presented at the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering’s annual conference today and recognises Dr Crawford-Flett’s work on dam engineering, in particular the performance of New Zealand embankment dams in regard to seismic events.

EQC Director Resilience, Dr Hugh Cowan said that Dr Crawford-Flett has made an excellent contribution to earthquake engineering knowledge and she works in an area with considerable potential for further advances.

“Kaley’s work is highly collaborative and strengthened already unique linkages between researchers and industry in a field where few others were practicing.

“New Zealand presented particular challenges for embankment dam management that were not necessarily understood internationally. This included the variability of soil types and the highly tectonic environment in which the dams are located.

“Earth or rockfill dams accounted for at least 75 per cent of all dams in New Zealand. Most of these embankment structures were designed at least 40 years ago before the evolution of current engineering design standards.

“This Award will allow Kaley to broaden her world leading research and allow her to put time into writing, publishing and presenting her work internationally.”

The Ivan Skinner Award is made each year in support of research that helps reduce the impact of earthquakes on people and property.

Dr Crawford-Flett works as a geotechnical researcher at the University of Canterbury Quake Centre, where she leads academic and industry research on the seismic behaviour of earthfill dam materials.  

She is also a MBIE-appointed member of the Technical Working Group for proposed New Zealand Dam Safety regulation and is a reviewer for several academic journals. Her unique combination of skills and applied knowledge make her a valuable addition to NZ’s research community.  

Photo caption: Dr Kaley Crawford-Flett (on left of photo) being presented with the 2019 Ivan Skinner Award by EQC Commissioner Dr Erica Seville

Dr Crawford-Flett
Dr Crawford-Flett has worked for the University of Canterbury Quake Centre since 2014 where she is a geotechnical researcher and project coordinator.

Kaley leads academic and industry research on the seismic behaviour of earthfill dam materials and has secured the involvement of several of New Zealand’s large asset owners in guiding that work. 

Kaley’s research has included the design of innovative large-scale laboratory equipment for simulated-seismic hydromechanical testing of real dam soils.

Kaley is an elected member of the New Zealand Society on Large Dams (NZSOLD) management committee.  She also serves as a reviewer for various academic journals including Geotechnique Letters, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, and ASCE Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering.

The Ivan Skinner Award
The annual $10,000 Ivan Skinner award is sponsored by EQC and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE) to promote research that reduces the impacts of earthquakes on New Zealand communities.

The award commemorates Dr Ivan Skinner who conceived the idea of ‘base isolation’ to protect buildings and bridges during earthquakes.

Ivan is best remembered for his work at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research during the 1960s. From 1994-2005, he was EQC's Research Director. Ivan was a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, a Fellow of NZSEE, and he was awarded a Queen's Service Medal in 1990.

The award is open to:

  • A New Zealand earthquake engineering researcher who has already demonstrated high promise with early achievements, or
  • An undergraduate student or individual holding other relevant qualifications, who shows exceptional promise in contributing to the field of earthquake engineering research, or
  • Someone employed in a role in which earthquake engineering research is relevant and undertaken.

In addition, pioneering or innovative research based on unusual combinations of knowledge and skills is given favourable consideration.

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