Project Overview

Bubbles, foam, and magma mixing: What causes dangerous volcanic eruptions?

Faculty Sponsor

Alison Koleszar (




Augustine Volcano in Alaska is one of the most frequently active volcanoes in the US and is considered a very high threat by the U.S. Geological Survey. The hazards posed by a volcano depend on the size and style of an eruption, but what controls these eruption characteristics? This project is a case study of Augustine Volcano to investigate the links between how quickly magma ascends and how explosively a volcano erupts. 

Students working on this summer project will be analyzing microscope images of pumice that erupted from two major eruptions at Augustine Volcano in Alaska. These images allow identification of the numbers and sizes of bubbles and crystals. We can’t directly measure how quickly magma ascends from a magma chamber and erupts out of a volcano, but we can estimate this by looking at the number and sizes of bubbles and crystals that are trapped in lavas when they erupt and cool. 

Additionally, we will have regular remote meetings with scientists at Alaska Volcano Observatory who monitor volcanic hazards at Augustine Volcano and with researchers from Central Washington University who are investigating the chemical composition of lava from Augustine. Results from this project will help us understand magma ascent and volcano explosivity, both of which have important implications for volcanic hazards at Augustine and at other volcanoes around the world. ???????

Student Qualifications

Students need to be curious and enthusiastic to learn more about how the Earth works, and need to be comfortable learning to use different techniques and computer software. Preferably, students will have taken GEOL 101, GEOL 190, or GEOL 201 but students with an interest in this project are encouraged to apply even if they have not taken these courses.

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

6-8 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2021 and close on 03/22/2021

<< Back to List

If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (