My Research

Summary of Research Interests

I am interested in all aspects of volcanological research, but particularly those that are able to convey useful information to emergency planners and other scientists preparing  populations and infrastructure for volcanic activity.

A good example of this is how magmatic gas (CO2, H2O, Cl, S, F) concentrations can be used to estimate magma ascent rates and magma rheology (e.g. how ‘runny’ the magma is). These characteristics, if constrained, can potentially inform how we monitor volcanoes and give estimations of eruption warning times, which can be factored into evacuation plans and perhaps even save lives and critical assets. This is what motivates me as a scientist. This motivation also drives my keen interest in communicating my science to the public, media, and decision-makers such as emergency planners and lifelines representatives.

PhD Research

My PhD is entitled ‘Countdown to Eruption: Timescales of Magmatic Processes in the Crust.’ I have two main aims: 1. estimate magma ascent rates for each of the three geochemical ‘types’ of magma known to have erupted in the Auckland Volcanic Field, and 2. estimate crustal contamination rates of magmas erupted at Ngauruhoe in 1974-75.

For both aims, I’ll measure the concentrations of various elements throughout an erupted sample of glassy material.

For the AVF, I’m measuring volatiles (gasses) trapped in melt embayments. These little pockets of magma were partially trapped in olivine crystals, and cooled into glass upon eruption.

At Ngauruhoe,  I’m measuring concentrations of elements in xenoliths (pieces of the Earth’s crust), erupted lava, and the glassy melted rim in between.


Piece of the crust (in white) encased in a lava block from Ngauruhoe’s 1975 eruption. I’m looking at how fast these crustal pieces melted when in contact with the lava to estimate magma ascent rates.

Concentrations of various elements throughout the sample can tell us information about how long various processes took before the magma erupted and cooled. These methods can allow us to get better handles on magma ascent and crustal contamination rates of magmas. It is my hope that this information can be used to improve our understanding of volcanic hazards in these areas. I expect to finish my PhD in 2020.

Past and Ongoing Research Topics (Non-PhD)

  • Obtaining ages of AVF volcanoes (through the DEVORA Programme; ongoing)
  • Obtaining geochemistry information for all AVF volcanoes (DEVORA; ongoing)
  • Estimating baseline soil gas CO2 fluxes, concentrations, and d13C values in urban environments such as the AVF & investigate ways to improve monitoring strategies (DEVORA; ongoing)
  • Measuring base surge runout distances and tephra extents in the AVF using ground penetrating radar (GPR) (DEVORA; hiatus)
  • Analysis of olivine populations and Cr-spinel inclusions in Pupuke Volcano lavas, AVF (DEVORA; Past)
  • Monitoring changes in surface features in geothermal fields in and near Taupo, New Zealand (Past)
  • Monitoring changes in subsurface structures on Whakaari (White Island) Volcano, New Zealand, using GPR, visible and infrared aerial photography, mapping, and soil gas CO2 fluxes (Past)

2011.11.22 WI

Aerial image of a steaming Whaakari (White Island) Volcano taken during a research flyover in 2011. Photo by Elaine Smid.

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