Project Overview

Explosive volcanic eruptions and the magmas that drive them

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 studying pumice that erupted from two major eruptions at Augustine Volcano in Alaska, with a focus on quantifying the populations of bubbles and crystals present within the pumice. 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. We can combine these observations with data that we collect on pumice density and vesicularity to reconstruct how magma ascended. 

This project includes possible fieldwork on Augustine Volcano, Alaska for ~2 weeks in early summer. Fieldwork would include detailed mapping of eruption deposits to determine within-eruption heterogeneity, and detailed sampling of pumice clasts erupted from Augustine.

Additionally, we will have regular communication with scientists at Alaska Volcano Observatory who monitor volcanic hazards at Augustine Volcano and with researchers from Western 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 including Matlab and Photoshop. Preferably, students will have taken GEOL 190 and/or GEOL 201 but students with an interest in this project are encouraged to apply even if they have not taken these courses. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination may be required, due to this project's off-campus components.

Number of Student Researchers

4 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2022 and close on 02/04/2022

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (