Donate to Santiaguito

The Santiaguito Volcano Observatory needs our help. Unlike the geological organizations in the U.S. and Europe, INSIVUMEH doesn’t have a lot of money to throw around. The scientists and observers at Santiaguito (and at other volcanoes in Guatemala) don’t have the equipment they need to easily and accurately monitor active volcanoes. It’s not a matter of needing big pieces of high-tech instrumentation; the folks at the Observatory don’t even have the basics that we all take for granted – such as digital cameras, radios, and GPSs. What’s more, even though they have a seismic station collecting data about the Santiagutio domes, there’s no way to receive or process the information at the Observatory, because they don’t have the computers to do it.

In light of the large eruptions at Santiaguito and Pacaya in 2010, this is dismaying. The people who live and work around Santiaguito depend on the Observatory to help keep them safe, and INSIVUMEH’s scientists don’t have the basic tools they need to do their work. The key to living safely with an active volcano is to have diligent, well-equipped scientists monitoring volcanic activity. The INSIVUMEH volcanologists and observers are incredibly dedicated to their work, but there’s a point when equipment needs simply hamper their ability to be effective. Because the average person in Guatemala lives on US$2 or less a day, there’s no way they can afford to spend their own money to supplement their equipment. But we can, and that’s why I’m making this announcement – and asking for your help.

Donate to Santiaguito Donate to the International Volcano Monitoring Fund!

The International Volcano Monitoring Fund (IVMF), which was created by Dr. Jeff Witter, has been set up specifically to help volcano observatories in developing countries. Dr. Witter has agreed to extend their current endeavors to purchasing equipment for the Santiaguito Observatory, and has just launched a new webpage where you can find out how to help: He and I have been working with Gustavo Chigna, the director of INSIVUMEH’s volcanology programs, and Rudiger Escobar, a Guatemalan PhD student in volcanology at Michigan Technological University, to develop a list of what the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory needs.

The equipment they’ve requested runs all the way from smaller items like tape measures and rock hammers to more expensive things like desktop computers (to receive and process seismic signals) and laser rangefinders. Each item comes with a dollar amount needed to purchase it and a description of how it will be used. You don’t even have to purchase the whole item – like the DonorsChoose campaign that the geobloggers participate in every year, every little bit helps. The IVM Fund is a non-profit organization, so you can be assured that as much of your donation as possible will be going toward funding Guatemalan volcanologists.

Please, help my colleagues in Guatemala do their work! I’m incredibly lucky that I don’t have to worry about being able to afford my equipment, and I want to make it possible for the volcanologists at INSIVUMEH to do their work without the same problems. They’ve been very supportive of me in my research at Santiaguito, and I want to show them how much I appreciate their help by helping them out in return.

Have questions about donating or want to get more information? Please contact me (Jessica Ball, University at Buffalo, magmacumlaude AT; I can also relay questions or information to Gustavo Chigna, my contact at INSIVUMEH, who will be happy to let you know more about the Observatory’s needs, and to Dr. Jeff Witter at the IVM-Fund, who has been incredibly generous in helping me set up this fundraising effort.