Dr. Scott McDougall

Dr. Scott McDougall, Phd


Landslides and related natural and man-made geological hazards (geohazards) can travel long distances and pose a significant risk around the world to people, property and the environment. The long-term goal of my research program is to help reduce the losses caused by these events by developing a suite of tools and techniques that improve the ability of engineers and geoscientists to answer the following questions:

1) What is the probability that a landslide or related geohazard of a given size will occur?
2) If it occurs, what is the probability it will reach a certain location of interest (e.g. a community)?
3) If it reaches that location, what is the probability it will cause a certain degree of damage?
4) If the resulting risk is unacceptable, how much can it be reduced with various mitigation options?

In the short term, our work is focused on the following key geohazards: rock avalanches, debris flows, debris floods, tailings dam breaches, shoreline erosion and landslide-generated waves. All of these geohazards present us with unique research challenges. To address these challenges, our research approach integrates the following four methods: 1) field data collection and mapping of past events using state-of-the-art equipment, 2) statistical analysis of the data we collect to look for trends, 3) development and calibration of computer models that can be used to predict how far, how fast and in what direction future events may travel, and 4) laboratory experiments to study the underlying fundamental processes that influence the behaviour of these events.

My research interests and mentoring approach draw significantly from my experience as a consulting engineer, and I maintain strong industry connections.  As a result, students, postdoctoral fellows and research assistants in my program gain fundamental and specialized geohazard knowledge and skills that are in high demand in practice.