Meet the Scientist #10 – Katrijn Dirix

Katrijn Dirix is a geological researcher at the Flemish Institute for Technology (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek – VITO). Before joining VITO in 2014, she did a PhD in geology at the KULeuven with a focus on finding ancient human pollution at archaeological sites by chemically analysing soil samples. For the project, she worked at Sagalassos, an archaeological site in SW-Turkey, in close collaboration with fellow geologists, archaeologists and geographers. Gaining a lot of new insights by working with people of other disciplines, she has been very motivated to bring interdisciplinarity into her work ever since.

At VITO, Katrijn has worked on a number of different projects, many of which are commissioned by the Flemish Planning Bureau for the Environment and spatial Development of Flanders (VPO). Examples of these projects are:

  • Constructing a 3D geological voxel model of the Quaternary sand and gravel resources in Belgium
  • Developing a 3D geological and hydrogeological layer model of Flanders, including > 100 geological formations and members and covering the entire area of Flanders.
  • Evaluating potentially interesting locations for subsurface constructions in Flanders by integrating the ‘Ruimtemodel Vlaanderen’ and the resource potential of the subsurface.

You can find her on LinkedIn.

Geology as the best of all worlds

Katrijn was interested in sciences in general when in high school student, but found it hard to pick a favourite branch. Also passionate about being outdoors, hiking in the woods and in the mountains, geology seemed like the choice that brought together the best of all worlds. Katrijn: “When I saw in a university brochure that in geology all the sciences are covered and you got to spend time outside during excursions, my choice was made.”. Katrijn also extends her love for rocks to her leisure time, doing rock climbing both indoors and outdoors.

Data enthusiast

Katrijn is involved in a number of different projects at VITO, but her main area of expertise is to support the large geological modelling projects in terms of bringing structure in both the modelling processes and in the geological datasets used. Katrijn: “As we are working with very diverse datasets of that contain vast amounts of data but are often poorly organised, we are developing relational database systems to keep track of how the data are used in different projects. And we use scripts to control the modelling process, automate parts of it and make the models more reproducible.”.

Making geological information understandable

Katrijn considers the biggest challenge of GeoConnect³d to work together to link the geology across national borders in such a way that it becomes a meaningful tool for the stakeholders. She likes the concept of a structural framework as a tool to disclose the complex geological world to non-geologists, but also for geologists to better understand ‘the larger picture’. Katrijn: “I like the fact that we are trying to bring structure and clarity in the complex geological world, that we go outside our comfort zone of fellow geologists, and really try to put geology in service of something bigger.”.