How does citizen science support your research?
Citizen science is an invaluable part of my research. First, it makes it possible for intensive/demanding types of volcanology fieldwork -in which several operators are required- to be carried out effortlessly, thanks to the workforce provided by volunteers. And it can also lead to innovative, creative, and completely unexpected forms of research. I can’t think of a better example for this than my surprising experience with Cliff Gill, an aerial survey pilot from Alaska whom I had never met before last year’s trip. To everyone’s surprise, Cliff brought with him the perfect equipment and had plenty of experience doing photogrammetry, so instead of my simple pre-conceived project measuring the dimensions of lava tunnels in Masaya with tape, he helped me build incredibly detailed 3D models of all of them, a feat never accomplished like that on active volcanoes before (for more details, see Earthwatch’s blog).
What do you enjoy most/what is most interesting about working with volcanoes?
Volcanoes are absolutely fascinating to me, with the glowing lava, the chance to travel to exotic locations…but the thing I enjoy the most is the feeling of helping people reduce the risks volcanoes pose to their lives. During Masaya’s volcanic crisis in March 2016, we had the opportunity to be heavily involved with the local administration in monitoring and advisory roles, and that has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
What is one of your favorite moments in the field?
I consider myself lucky because I have witnessed my favorite moment in the field over and over again working with Earthwatch. That is when an inexperienced team of volunteers, with different backgrounds and nationalities and who have never met before, rapidly comes together and starts working as a single unit. At this point everyone seems to magically take on a role that suits them, sometimes producing the best quality data I have worked with. I try to favor this dynamic by creating an enthusiastic and easy-going environment, but to this day I must admit the way it happens is still a mystery to me.