From the Ashes: Volcano Research in Central America

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    May 12, 2011


    From the Ashes: Volcano Research in Central America

    At this Earthwatch lecture, Earthwatch scientist Hazel Rymer gives an inspiring talk about her crucial research, bringing the science of volcanoes to life.

    Dr. Rymer delivered a warm, engaging, and inspiring talk about her crucial research and brought the science of volcanoes to life.

    The talk attracted a strong turnout of Earthwatchers, including the chargé d’affaires of the Nicaraguan Embassy. The audience was intrigued to hear about the work that, with the help of Earthwatch, Dr. Rymer is undertaking in that country and other parts of Central America.

    Hazel Rymer talks about volcanoes research in Central America

    “We’ve been working in Central America at two volcanoes, Poas and Masaya,” said Dr. Rymer. “One is in Costa Rica and one is in Nicaragua.”

    “We’ve been working there for a long time, making gravity measurements, GPS, and 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.”

    Dr. Rymer, who is 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 may further understand the geology of volcanoes, assess the impact of eruptions on the environment, help predict eruptions, and ultimately save lives.

    Dr. Rymer admits that without the help of Earthwatch volunteers working alongside her and her research teams, her work 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, Dr. Rymer adds, “You have huge gaps in your data if you don’t have some sort of long, consistent monitoring program, which is the sort of thing that Earthwatch allows us to have.”

    The audience included many previous volunteers on Dr. Rymer’s Earthwatch project in Nicaragua. “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.”

    News Category: Prior Events


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