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23 May 2016
Making the fieldwork count
I’m in the midst of preparing for field work, and it got me to thinking about the public perception of how geologists do research. A lot of us probably extol our chosen profession because of the opportunity for working outside of an office – I know it’s one of the reasons I often bring up when I’m asked why I love volcanology. But I also find that when people follow …
25 November 2015
Altered states (of lava domes)
Time for some shameless self-promotion – but also some research blogging. Last week I (finally) had a paper come out about my graduate modeling work on the hydrothermal systems and alteration in lava domes. (I’m sorry it’s not open access – I couldn’t afford it this time! But feel free to contact me if you want a copy.) Basically, the rundown is this: Lava domes, like volcanoes in general, are big …
7 April 2015
Why I study soggy volcanoes
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to talk more about my research, and I thought it would be good to start with my basic elevator speech: I study how water and heat interact in stratovolcanoes, and how that can make them unstable even if they’re not erupting.
25 May 2012
Stages of numerical modeling
I’m currently working on some modeling for my thesis. For unrelated reasons, I happened to read a description of the Kübler-Ross model for stages of grief, and I realized that the cycle actually describes pretty accurately what the past couple of weeks have been like for me. Not only that, but it’s gotten to the point where even if I get my model to run, I’m immediately suspicious of the results. However, I guess since the model is running, I’ve made progress. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have issues.
28 March 2012
If you were to wander into my office this afternoon…
…this is the scene you’d see playing out.
17 August 2011
“Mount Boom” a bit of a bust: NatGeo’s “How to Build a Volcano”
Last week I happened to be watching the National Geographic Channel and caught their new program, “How to Build a Volcano”. Being somewhat interested in volcano-building processes myself, I sat down with a pad of paper and got ready to take notes for a review.
The show started off with an exciting idea: bring together a special effects team and a group of volcanologists and try to replicate volcanic processes on a large (but controllable scale). Thus, building a volcano. The four volcanologists (Mike Manga and Ben Andrews of UC Berkely, Josef Dufek of Georgia Tech, and Ed Llewellyn of Durham University) worked with special effects expert Max MacDonald to create a 10-meter-high volcano in a Canadian quarry (and we all know from Mythbusters that anything involving an abandoned quarry is also going to involve explosions).
31 March 2011
Buffalo gets some (experimental) volcanic action
Volcanic eruptions are both relatively unpredictable and very dangerous, and it’s difficult to collect direct observations of volcanic phenomena. Because of this, volcanologists are always looking for safer and more practical ways of collecting data from volcanic processes. When they can’t derive it from eruptive deposits, they turn to experimentation – usually in a laboratory setting. While this is definitely a useful approach, there are problems inherent in “benchtop” experimentation. Scaling down a volcanic process and using artificial materials (or already-erupted volcanic ones) can have varying effects on the usefulness of the resulting experimental data, something that volcanologists must take into account when drawing conclusions from experiments. Accordingly, a big part of geological experimentation is finding ways to reduce the complexity of natural processes in a way that still produces useful data.
One way to mitigate this problem is to do as little down-scaling as possible. This is the goal of a new experimental facility that the University at Buffalo is developing, and it was the subject of a recent EOS article of which Dr. Greg Valentine, one of the volcanology professors here, is a co-author. The article is “Large-Scale Experiments on Volcanic Processes”, and it ties in with a recent conference our Center for Geohazards Studies coordinated last September.
2 March 2011
The discussion that came up in my fluid dynamics course today was about the different kinds of models we use in geology, and how we make sure they’re useful. The main categories that we discussed were conceptual models, mathematical models, experimental models, and geologic maps. (I’ll hit the maps part of it later on; rest assured that there is a good reason for calling a map a model.) The goal of a model is to distill the basic principles of geologic phenomena into a simplified version of what you’re trying to explain. For example, no one can tell exactly where every single particle of ash in a volcanic plume will go, but with models of plume behavior, we can get an idea of how the plume as a whole will behave, and where the majority of those particles will end up.
26 March 2010
Accretionary Wedge # 23: What are you working on?
The latest installment of the Accretionary Wedge is being hosted by Ed at Geology Happens, and here’s the question of interest: This AW is to share your latest discovery with all of us. Please let us in on your thoughts about your current work. What you are finding, what you are looking for. Any problems? Anything working out well? My current work is a bit varied for a volcanologist, I’ll …