Earthwatch lecture underscores the value of volcano research
Earthwatch Scientist and renowned volcanologist, Prof Hazel Rymer delivered a first class lecture to an audience of around 400 Earthwatch volunteers, students, donors, supporters and corporate partners in May.
Speaking at the Royal Geographical Society, London, in the latest of Earthwatch’s series of lectures for 2011, From the ashes – Volcano research in Central America, Prof Rymer delivered a warm, engaging and inspiring talk about her crucial research, and brought the science of volcanoes to life.
Attracting a strong turnout of Earthwatchers, including the Charge d’Affairs of the Nicaraguan Embassy, the audience were intrigued to hear about the work that, with the help of Earthwatch, Prof Rymer is undertaking in that country and other parts of Central America.
“We’ve been working in Central America at two volcanoes – Poas & Masaya”, says Prof Rymer. “One is in Costa Rica, and one is in Nicaragua.”
“We’ve been working there for a long time, making gravity measurements; GPS; all sorts of geophysical measurements which tell us what’s going on underneath the volcano.”
“Volcanoes erupt on all sorts of different scales and of course we all know about the major impact there was with the Icelandic eruption last year. That was actually not such a very big eruption but it had huge environmental and economic impacts.”
Prof Rymer, also the Open University’s Dean of Science, spoke with passion about her work, why we should all take more interest in volcanoes, and the short and long term impacts that eruptions typically have on people, economies, livelihoods and the environment.
“The measurements we’ve been making are showing that as the amount of gas coming out of a volcano changes, so the impact on plants changes through time. When there are very much larger explosive eruptions the environmental and economic impact is going to be even larger”.
She then went on to speak specifically about her research in Nicaragua, and about her work with Earthwatch volunteers, who assist her team in gathering data on Masaya so that we might further understand the geology of volcanoes, assess the impacts of eruptions on the environment, help predict eruptions, and ultimately save lives.
Working alongside Prof Rymer and her research teams, she admits that without the help of Earthwatch volunteers, the work she does simply wouldn’t be possible. “It’s been revolutionary”, she says. Their desire to learn more about the environment “brings new perspectives and new ideas.”
Speaking of the genuine difference volunteers make, Prof Rymer adds, “You have huge gaps in your data if you don’t have some sort of long, consistent monitoring programme, which is the sort of thing that Earthwatch allows us to have.”
Many of those who had volunteered for an Earthwatch expedition to join Prof Rymer’s research team in Nicaragua were in the audience. “Some of the volunteers are Open University students and they’re actually using (their experience) towards their studies, so that’s a very immediate benefit.”
“Volunteers are finding that their eyes are being opened to a particular area of science or a particular geographic area. Many of them come back.”
Why not come along to the next Earthwatch event.
Or learn more about opportunities to work with Prof Hazel Rymer researching Volcanology and Ecology in Nicaragua and Volcanology in Iceland.
Biography: Prof Hazel Rymer
Prof Hazel Rymer is a Professor of Environmental Volcanology and current Dean of Science at The Open University.
The Open University
The Open University and Earthwatch have been in partnership since June 2010. The partnership encourages students to enhance their learning by volunteering for environmental science field work and also enables volunteers to turn their experience into study credits which then count towards an OU science degree, the new BSc Natural Sciences.
Related: Research suggests an active Icelandic volcano is likely to erupt