Professor Richard J. Bathurst, P.Eng., BASc., M.Sc., Ph.D., FEIC, FCAE


Employment History


Dr. Bathurst graduated from Queen’s University with a BASc in Civil Engineering in 1976 and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1978. He began his professional career with Golder Associates in Toronto as a member of engineering teams working on large geotechnical projects in Elliot Lake and in Trinidad. In August 1980, Dr. Bathurst began his academic career as a Lecturer in the Civil Engineering Department at the Royal Military College of Canada.  In 1985, while employed as an Assistant Professor at RMC, he earned his PhD in Geotechnical Engineering from Queen’s University. He was promoted to the rank of full Professor in 1991. Since 1996, Dr. Bathurst has been cross-appointed to the Queen’s Civil Engineering Department at Professor rank, and from 1999 as an Adjunct Professor with the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Bathurst is a founding member of the GeoEngineering Centre at Queen’s-RMC, which is a multi-disciplinary group of professors and students in geotechnical, geoenvironmental, geosynthetics, geological and mining engineering, and hydrogeology.


Research Areas


The main focus of Dr. Bathurst’s research has been in the area of geosynthetic reinforced soil wall technologies. He has also carried out research on the mechanics of particulate media, railway track design and performance, highway pavements and drainage, geosynthetics in reinforcement applications and earthquake engineering, geosynthetic barrier systems in harsh environments, development of geosynthetics-related test protocols, geotechnical instrumentation, geosynthetics for flood control structures, saturated/unsaturated hydraulics of geosynthetics, numerical modelling and reliability-based design of reinforced soil retaining wall systems.


Technical Contributions to Reinforced Soil Wall Technologies


Dr. Bathurst has been engaged in research related to the development of practical design and analysis methods for geosynthetic reinforced soil retaining walls for more than twenty-five years. Included in this work is the building of full-scale walls in a specially constructed retaining wall test facility at RMC, which is unique in the world. To date, more than twenty full-scale geosynthetic reinforced soil walls have been constructed and taken to collapse under staged surcharge loading. The 3.6m-high, 3.3m-wide by 6m-deep instrumented structures have been used to examine the accuracy of current methods of design and analysis for reinforced walls. These data have proved useful in calibrating analytical and numerical models developed by Dr. Bathurst and other researchers. A subset of this work resulted in the Gzowski Medal of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) for the best paper published in civil engineering in 2005. More recently Dr. Bathurst and co-workers have won the R.M. Quigley Award for the best paper published in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal in 2006 and 2007 based on their reinforced soil wall research. Since 1999, Dr. Bathurst has been the recipient of a major research grant from the AASHTO MSE pooled fund (a consortium of eleven US State Departments of Transportation) to construct, analyze and model a series of eleven full-scale instrumented reinforced soil walls. Additional funding in support of this long-term project has come from the DND (Canada), NSERC, The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, The National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) and Group TAI (Reinforced Earth Company). The results of the testing program are being used to update current AASHTO design guidelines and the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code for reinforced soil walls built with both metallic and geosynthetic reinforcement products. A new design method for reinforced soil walls has been developed by Dr. Bathurst and co-workers in the USA (the K-stiffness Method), and has been adopted by the Washington State Department of Transportation. This design methodology is being evaluated by other DOTs in the USA and in Japan, and the FHWA to replace current simplified design methods, which have been shown to be excessively conservative and poor predictors of wall behaviour under operational conditions. A paper describing this work was runner-up for the R.M. Quigley Award of the Canadian Geotechnical Society (CGS) for the best paper published in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal in 2003, and was runner-up for the Gzowski Medal of the CSCE in the same year. The research has recently been extended to a limit states design framework and published by the Transportation Research Board of the (USA) National Academies as a Transportation Research Circular (#E-C079). A paper on limit states design calibration concepts won the Gzowski Medal of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) for the best paper in civil engineering in 2008. Dr. Bathurst was an invited panelist and speaker for a specialty session on Limit States Design Methods at the 57th CGS Conference in 2004.

Dr. Bathurst was a pioneer in the development of segmental retaining wall technology. Segmental retaining walls are soil retaining wall structures that are constructed with a column of dry-stacked modular concrete units. These walls have been constructed to heights as great as 20 m using geosynthetic reinforcement layers. Segmental retaining walls can be constructed at 40-50% of the cost of conventional reinforced concrete retaining walls; hence this technology has attracted great interest and a concomitant need for design guidelines and laboratory test protocols. Details of the design, construction and specification of these systems were published in the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) Design Manual for Segmental Retaining Walls in 1993 (co-authored by Dr. Bathurst). The fundamental design concepts were published in a keynote paper by Dr. Bathurst at the 5th International Geosynthetics Conference in 1994. The NCMA document is the definitive international reference for the design of these systems. Dr. Bathurst also wrote the companion Windows-based software program that is distributed worldwide by the NCMA and is a full generic implementation of the manual guidelines.

Specialized laboratory testing protocols are required to quantify the component material properties of segmental retaining walls.  Dr. Bathurst developed test methodologies for interface shear between modular block units and connection between the facing units and geosynthetic layers. These methodologies were published in the NCMA design manual. Subsequently, the two methodologies have become ASTM methods of test (ASTM D 6916 and D 6683). More recently, Dr. Bathurst developed a test protocol for determination of the sustained loading performance of geosynthetic-modular block connection systems (creep connection testing), which has been published in a USA Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidance document. Dr. Bathurst’s contribution to the advancement of reinforced soil retaining wall technologies was recognized by the International Geosynthetics Society Gold Medal Award in 1994 (the first Canadian to win this award).


Dr. Bathurst has also carried out work on seismic issues related to reinforced soil walls, with special emphasis on modular block wall systems. Physical model tests have been performed using a 3m x 3m shaking table at RMC. The scope of the research was expanded to carry out the first physical tests on the use of elasticized geofoam buffers for dynamic earth pressure attenuation under simulated earthquake loading. Recently a CFI grant was used to construct a new larger 250 kN –capacity shaking table at RMC. This is the only facility of its type in Canada dedicated to large-scale testing of earth structures under simulated earthquake loading. Dr. Bathurst gave a summary of the current state-of-the-art with respect to the design and testing of geosynthetic reinforced soil retaining walls, slopes and embankments in an invited 30-page keynote paper delivered at the 3rd International Symposium on Earth Reinforcement, Japan, in 1996. This was later printed in an updated and expanded form as a Chapter in a textbook published by Thomas Telford. A co-keynote paper on the same theme was given at the 8th International Geosynthetics Conference in Yokohama in September 2006.

Dr. Bathurst was the first researcher in the world to propose a design methodology for the analysis and design of segmental retaining walls for seismic areas. The methodology has been adopted by the National Concrete Masonry Association and published as a 187-page design supplement to the NCMA design manual mentioned above. The collected seismic design work by Dr. Bathurst resulted in a second International Geosynthetics Society Gold Medal Award in 1998 (first person to receive this award twice). A displacement method approach to seismic design of segmental retaining walls was published in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal and won the 1996 best paper award (R.M. Quigley Award). Dr. Bathurst has been invited as a speaker and panel member at learned society gatherings and on technical committees: e.g. NSF International Workshop on Seismic Performance of Reinforced Earth Structures, Columbia University, 2000; member of the ASCE Los Angeles Section Sub-committee for the development of a guidance document for specification of segmental retaining walls in the greater LA area; panellist at a seismic session at the ASCE GeoFrontiers 2005 conference; and member of the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code Committee since 2006. He won the International Geosynthetics Society Gold Medal Award in 2010 for his work on the development of reinforced soil wall design (the first person to receive this award three times).


Other Awards


Dr. Bathurst’s technical contributions have been recognized by the Geosynthetics Division Award of the Canadian Geotechnical Society in 2002, election to Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada in 2001 and Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2004. He has won four other best paper awards. In 1991 he was co-recipient of the Semionov Award for contributions to “The Mechanical Behaviour of Disordered Granular Bodies", awarded by the Institute of Chemical Physics, USSR Academy of Sciences. He was the Mercer Lecturer (a joint award of the ISSMGE, IGS and the Tensar Corporation) for 2002-2004, and the CGS Cross Country Lecturer in 2003. In 2002, Dr. Bathurst received the RMC Excellence in Research Award.


Training of Graduate and Post-doctoral Students/Fellows


Dr. Bathurst has sole-supervised 19 research Master’s and six PhD students at RMC and Queen’s, and 21 post-doctoral fellows at RMC. Three foreign PhD students on visiting scholarships have completed a portion of their PhD research work at RMC. Since 1993, his graduate students have received major awards, including three best graduate student presentation awards (M. McLay, D. Saunders and D. Walters) and two runners-up (M. El-Emam and B. Huang) from the Canadian Geotechnical Society, two graduate student awards from the International Geosynthetics Society (D. Walters and D. Saunders), one Young IGS Member Award (Zarnani), and one from the North American Geosynthetics Society (D. Saunders). Seven students have won best graduate student paper awards from the Ottawa Geotechnical Group (M. El-Emam, D. Saunders, P. Burgess, M. Elbanna, S. Zarnani, F. Ezzein and B. Huang). All of Dr. Bathurst’s students have gone on to successful careers with DND, consulting firms or academia. Sixteen post-docs hold academic positions and the remainder are employed with geotechnical consulting companies. The post-docs have come originally from 11 different countries. Twelve have returned to 5 different countries other than Canada after spending time at RMC.


Editor and Editorial Board Member


In 1995, Dr. Bathurst was appointed Co-editor of the international peer-reviewed technical journal Geosynthetics International, published by Thomas Telford. He was promoted to Editor in 2003. For the year 2003, Geosynthetics International received the highest impact factor rating of all journals in the “geo” field. Dr. Bathurst has also served on the Editorial Board of Computers and Geotechnics, Ground Improvement, Geotextiles and Geomembranes, Soils and Rocks (a recently launched joint Portuguese and Brazilian journal), Geotechnical Fabrics Report, International Journal of GeoEngineering Case Histories, and the ASCE International Journal of Geomechanics. He was a recent guest Editor of a special collection of papers for the journal Geotextiles and Geomembranes.


Invited Speaker


Dr. Bathurst has been an invited keynote or plenary speaker at major conferences on 19 separate occasions. Venues not already noted include: The First African Regional Conference on Geosynthetics 2009; International Conference on Physical Modelling in Geotechnics, 2002 & 2006; International Conference on Soil Reinforcement, 2001; ASCE GeoDenver 2000; GeoAsia 2000; 2003 NAGS Conference; EuroGeo3, Germany, 2004; GeoAsia2004, Korea; 10 & 11th International Conference of the International Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics, 2001 & 2005; 12th Indian Geotechnical Conference 2006; MERCEA'08 - 2008 Seismic Engineering International Conference commemorating the 1908 Messina and Reggio Calabria Earthquake, Reggio Calabria, Italy, 2008; XIII PanAmerican ISSMGE Conference, Venezuela, 2007. General Reporter 16th Geotechnical Conference of the ISSMGE in Yokohama, Japan. He has been an invited speaker at numerous other local chapter and society events, university workshops and seminars in Canada, the USA, Brazil, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Dr. Bathurst was a panellist and moderator for the Academics and Practitioners Forum held at the 8th International Geosynthetics Conference, September 2006.




Dr. Bathurst is the author or co-author of 115 papers published in peer-reviewed technical journals (including co-author of a paper published in the journal Nature), three books, 16 book chapters, more than 70 publications in peer-reviewed conference proceedings, more than 30 invited papers (some noted earlier), more than 60 publications in other conference proceedings, and five major research reports.


Service to the Profession


Dr. Bathurst was elected Vice-President of the International Geosynthetics Society for the term 1994-1998; elected President of the North American Geosynthetics Society for 1997-1998; and President of the International Geosynthetics Society for 1998-2002. He completed his term on the executive of the IGS as Immediate Past-President in 2006. From 1990 to 1994 he was Editor of the IGS Newsletter. He has served as Member/Chair of the Awards Committee of the IGS. Dr. Bathurst received the IGS Plaque in 2006, which is the highest award of the IGS for leadership contributions to the society. He has been Member and Chair of the Geosynthetics Division of the CGS, Vice-President Technical of the CGS and member of the CGS Geotechnical Research Board. He was the recipient of the A.G. Stermac Service Award of the Canadian Geotechnical Society in 1993, 2000 and 2003 for his contributions to the Society. He is the lead author and editor of the geosynthetics chapter in the 2006 4th edition of the CGS Canadian Foundation Manual. He has served as a member of: the Geotextiles Subcommittee of the Canadian General Standards Board; the Board of Directors of the International Technology Transfer Center for Ground Improvement GeoSystems (ITTC-CIGS); TC-17 and TC-9 of the ISSMGE, and; three committees of the Transportation Research Board in the USA. He was Chair of the Organizing Committee of Geosynthetics'95, held in Nashville, TN. (the largest conference on geosynthetics ever held in the world, with more than 1600 registrants), and Chair of the Technical Committee, Geosynthetics'93, in Vancouver. He was Co-Chair of the Technical Committee of the First Pan American Geosynthetics Conference held in Cancun, Mexico in 2008. He was the lead instructor for the NSF Professors Training Course on Geosynthetics held at Auburn University, 1996-98 (a one-week program attended by university professors to provide course materials and instruction to develop university level courses on geosynthetics). He has been lecturer and organizer of geosynthetics short courses held at the annual conferences of the CGS and at venues in Korea, China, Hong Kong and Japan. He has served as a member of the 06 Committee (Civil Engineering) of NSERC, has acted as a Discovery Grant appeals consultant for NSERC, and has twice served on the NSERC Doctoral Prize Committee. He has also served on numerous other conference and learned society committees; for example, the Keefer Award Committee of the CSCE, the Honours and Awards Committee of the EIC, the executive of the EIC (Treasurer), and on numerous paper selection/advisory committees of learned society conferences.




Dr. Bathurst is President of Bathurst, Jarrett and Associates (Canada), specializing in the development of design software for the geosynthetics industry, geotechnical design manuals, the provision of expert witness testimony, and forensic engineering. Dr. Bathurst has been a paid consultant and expert witness for cases involving major wall failures in Canada, the USA and El Salvador. In 2004 he visited the Peoples Republic of China as an invited expert to provide advice on the use of modern retaining wall solutions for shoreline instabilities associated with the Three Gorges Dam reservoir. He is also President of Bathurst, Clarabut Geotechnical Testing Inc., which provides specialized geosynthetics testing services to clients worldwide. BCGT is the only laboratory in the world that is equipped to carry out connection tests on large modular block systems (e.g. blocks measured in cubic metres) and creep connection testing. BCGT has one of the largest direct shear boxes in the world (1 cubic metre). Finally, Dr. Bathurst has worked as an in-house consultant for DND on projects related to clean-up of DEW Line sites in the Canadian Arctic and the design of the most northerly lined landfill in the world located at CFB Alert.