A Day in the Life of a Hydrogeologist

Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

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In our latest instalment of ‘A Day in the Life of...' we delve into the professional life of ELA Hydrogeologist and Environmental Scientist, Matilda Greenslade. She assists ELA’s clients by exploring for secure water supplies to meet operational demands, understanding the complex world of groundwater dependant ecosystems (GDEs) and meeting overarching regulatory approvals. Earlier in the year Matilda was responsible for managing the installation of groundwater monitoring wells for a mining Client, OZ Minerals in the Arid Zone of the South Australian outback.

5am - I wake up. It is early. I’m in the middle of the outback, Woomera in the North of South Australia to be exact. I’ve been up here for a few months now. I am assisting OZ Minerals by installing a monitoring well network for the Carrapateena Project. The aim of a monitoring well is to obtain groundwater data, which can be used to better understand if changes are occurring to the regional groundwater system, and whether changes are related to natural or operational effects. For me, this involves ongoing communication with the Environment Department to inform them that everyone in the team is safe, the program status, any issues that arise, and most importantly, ensuring all regulatory expectations will be met through installation of these wells. I better get ready to start my day!

6am – The work day starts with a pre-start meeting with the drill crew before we head out into the field for the day’s activities. During the pre-start we talk through the work carried out the previous day, planned work for the day ahead and discuss safety matters that may arise as well as checking in with those in the Adelaide office or from the Carrapateena Project for any supplies we need before we go ‘off the grid’ for the day.

6:30am – Head on out to site. For this drill program, we are traveling from Woomera east onto two pastoral lease stations. The drive out to site can take up to two hours, but thankfully today our site is closer to town with only a 30-minute drive (give or take a few tyre changes due to the dirt tracks).

7am – We arrive at the rig and conduct our daily prestart check on all machinery. For the drillers, this part of the day is a little more time consuming than mine, as they need to ensure all equipment is in good working order before starting. Typically, this time turns into me validating my geology logs, planning ahead and watching the sun rise.

7:30am – Begin drilling, this normally consumes the bulk of my day – as the crew drills, they collect chip samples every 2m, laying them out on the ground for me to analyse and log. This aspect of my day often challenges my technical thinking and interpretation as you need to ask yourself “what’s going on at depth that can help me predict what to do next?” I find this can either be a beautifully smooth-running process, or it can provide complications that you didn’t even think were possible as you try to manage geology, drilling and hopefully – water!

12pm- Lunchtime! Now there’s no walking down to the shops from here. However, between our crew of four we are slowly getting more and more creative and rotate between who turns the generator on for gourmet toasties and coffees (a real luxury out here)!

2pm – Although not every day, periodically we are visited by our client heading out on their weekly groundwater monitoring well run or pastoralists driving past for a chat or a crash course in groundwater. I enjoy explaining the results firsthand to our clients and stakeholders and seeing how much they care and are interested in groundwater resources.

4:30pm – Now the timing of this changes day to day depending on where we are in the stratigraphy (our study of the rock layers and layering) or if we finish the drill hole before construction the next day, but it’s about now that I pack myself up for the day and head back to Woomera. Here I compile all the data collected for the day, and now that I am back in phone service range develop a progress summary of the day’s events and send it back to the Project Manager in the Adelaide office! I also use this time to discuss with her any issues that were flagged throughout the day.

6pm – End of day! Dinner and rest in preparation to do it all again tomorrow!

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More about Matilda

Matilda completed a Bachelor of Science (Mineral Geoscience) with Honours in Geology at the University of Adelaide studying geology, earth systems, hydrogeology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), chemistry and physics. The degree allowed her to secure a graduate geologist position with a junior mining company in South Australia, which challenged her to develop skills to work in dynamic, high pressure environments. These skills, in conjunction with a Masters in Environmental & Business Management enabled Matilda to move into a position with ELA, where she has further developed her hydrogeology, stakeholder engagement, regulatory understanding, project management skills and had the opportunity to work across several challenging projects, supported all the way by ELA’s approachable experts and team culture. Outside of work, you’ll find Matilda at brunch, at home on her family’s farm or playing with her border collie Rugby.

The ELA team acknowledge the Kokatha people as traditional custodians of the land in which work was undertaken for this program.