David Adede is geotechnical geologist. In a nutshell, he investigates subsurface conditions and materials such as soil and rocks to evaluate stability and assess risks posed by site conditions and structure foundations.
Before laying the foundation of any construction, he explains, it is important to understand the geology behind it, for instance, can the rocks and soil in that particular location support the building? How deep should the foundation be to make this possible?
“Ideally, before any construction takes place, one should seek the services of a geologist, however, most developers overlook us, which explains incidents of buildings and bridges collapsing. Before determining the strength of the soil and the rocks, it is very risky to commence any construction,” says David.
His office is the outdoors, and on a given day, you will find him busy collecting stones in a particular location for testing or sampling different types of soils.
David, who has a Master of Science in geology from the University of Nairobi, says that he only got into this career by chance.
“I was more of an artsy type, and therefore wanted to pursue a career in arts. When I joined the University of Nairobi in 2002 where I was to study a Bachelor of Arts, I bumped into the chairperson of the geology department, who wondered why I wanted to pursue arts yet I had excelled in sciences. He briefly introduced me to geology, and then handed me the course outline, which sounded fascinating. That is how I switched camps.”
“One of the factors that I enjoyed while studying the course is the practical lessons, which entailed field work. If you enjoy nature and are interested in knowing how different natural resources were formed, you will enjoy being in a geology class.”
If interested in this course, you need to ensure that you excel in both languages and sciences because geology is inter-disciplinary.
“To study geology, you need to be good at chemistry because you will need to study the chemical properties of rocks. Physics and math will play a key role when examining the hardness of the rocks and calculating the strength. Good understanding of the languages will enable you to write a good report.”
Geology, the science that studies the structure of the earth and its natural resources, is a broad field though, which includes branches such as chemical geology, structural geology and water geology – you are therefore spoilt for choice.”
You seem very enthusiastic about your career, what would you tell a young person considering a career in geology? What are its most rewarding aspects?
What I find rewarding about geology is the ability to understand and appreciate nature and its integration in our day-to-day activities. You get to understand the importance of digging foundations for dams, bridges and buildings, and why some end up collapsing. You also get to understand the making, value and application of some minerals, stones and other natural resources. Through geology, I have been able to see the world in a different perspective.
?What are some of the exciting projects you have been part of?
My company, Rock Link Geological Consultants, which, among other services, offers Environmental Impact Assessments, was part of the geotechnical investigation team for the proposed power substation at Olkaria V geothermal plant, the geotechnical investigation team for the drilling of boreholes at Gikomba Market, part of the team for the proposed Silos at Mazeras, Mombasa, and also took part in the geological field mapping for the proposed Umba Dam in Kwale County.
I have also been involved in projects that required me to travel to various countries, such as Malawi and Somalia.
Currently, we are part of an exciting project in Mombasa that involves investigating the proposed Mombasa to Likoni bridge. If all goes well, people will no longer use the ferry. The bridge is estimated to be the World’s tallest, at 70 meters.
?What are some of the challenges in your scope of work?
Quite many. Although I had prospective clients when starting out in 2013, it was a shaky start. The machines used to get this job done, such as the drilling rigs, are quite expensive to purchase. I had to take a bank loan to buy one at a cost of close to Sh1.5million. At the time, the machines were not available locally, so I had to import. I currently own five of these, and also import and supply locally. Another challenge is that some sites are not easily accessible, and on some occasions, we face hostility from communities, especially when they don’t understand what we’re doing.
What are the job prospects for geology graduates?
Kenya is still a developing country, meaning that there’s still much that needs to be done in terms of developing infrastructure. I got my first job, which involved exploration of coal in Kitui County, a few weeks upon graduation. I know many other graduates who would tell a similar story. Occasionally, we invite geology students to intern with us or join us in fieldwork so that they gain experience. As a geology student, you can also opt to be self-employed as a consultant.
What kind of money can one expect as a geologist?
Payment varies, but an experienced geologist should make over Sh30,000 a day when contracted for a project.