Tuesday, 29 September 2009 15:56 The Volcanista
Written by Ava

We have another volcano connoisseur in our midst--and this time, it's a Volcanista! The creator of this magmalicious blog was at one time part of a university research group that studied volcanoes and volcanic hazards.  She's got one heck of a rock on her shoulders---and she loves it of course, hence the Volcanista terminalogy--a woman who is all things volcanology (she loves, researches, and visits volcanoes.)

Rock on!

Volcanista's blog of the same name is about all the things that interest her most in the field: geochemistry, academia, social justice, and of course, some fluff for good measure.

We got a chance to learn more about her fabulous volcano hobby.

What turned you on to studying volcanoes? Is it a hobby or something more? 

I actually have a masters and a PhD in volcanology and high-temperature geochemistry, and I teach geology at a small college, so no, it's not just a hobby. I'm interested in what the chemistry of volcanic materials tells us about the chemical evolution of the Earth, so volcanoes are my field sites. Their behavior is also interesting from a hazards mitigation standpoint, and that interests me from a social perspective.

What does studying volcanoes, especially in a marine environment, involve? 

Studying volcanoes can be done in a number of ways. Studying volcanic rocks means that you need to go to the volcano and take some samples, either by visiting them on foot, or, in the case of submarine volcanoes, by ship. Sampling rocks from the ocean floor has traditionally been done by dredging from a ship, but these days a lot of samples are also collected by submarine and by robots tethered to and controlled aboard ships.

Does your geological work with volcanoes focus on marine environments, the ocean, etc? 

Much of my research has focused on submarine volcanoes from the mid-ocean ridges, so yes, a lot of my work has involved the ocean.

Have you visited marine locations to study their volcanoes? What have been some of the best experiences in the various marine locations where you have visited?

Although a lot of large dredge collections exist, so I have not had to do field work everywhere I've worked, I have been to sea to map mid-ocean ridges and collect some samples. It's a great experience to be at sea with a group of scientists, although it's less fun when there are rough seas.

What have your visits to various marine locations and experiences with research of volcanoes in marine environments taught you about what is happening to marine life, the ocean, bodies of water?

This really isn't  my area of study at all -- I don't work on the ocean itself, or on marine life. But I do know that volcanism represents a major chemical input into the oceans, whose overall composition is the result of the mass balance between inputs from volcanoes, the atmosphere, and sedimentation off land, and outputs as materials are deposited on the ocean floor.

What kind of issues are we facing in marine environments? 

I'm guessing by this you're referring to hazards? For the most part submarine volcanoes do not pose much of a danger to us, because they are generally quite deep in the ocean. Occasionally volcanism on a shallow seamount that is building up into an island can be explosive, however, as with the spectacular eruption at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai last year.

Tell me about your blog, Volcanista

My blog is mainly a place where I can bring up issues that interest me, both related and unrelated to my work. It's not strictly an academic blog (I share my opinions on politics, social justice issues like being a woman in a STEM field, etc.), but I do report on exciting geologic or volcanologic news when I hear about it.

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