As an igneous petrologist, my research focuses on the shallow magmatic processes that drive explosive volcanic eruptions. Explosive volcanism effectively transfers mass from a planet’s interior to its surface. We have observed this process during the 1985 eruption of Nevada del Ruiz, Colombia, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, USA, and the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, and witnessed how explosive volcanism can generate devastating hazards to both proximal and distal populations, infrastructure, and aviation. My research links the magmatic processes that drive volcanic eruptions with eruption behavior and intensity. To conduct this research, I rely on various tools:
This photo to the left was taken at the Cerro Galan Caldera Complex located in NW Argentina. Roughly 2 million years ago this volcano produced a supereruption that formed an immense depression in the Earth, known as a caldera.
2) In-situ analytical techniques such as electron microprobe, SEM, FTIR, SIMS, LA-ICPMS, XANES, and 3D X-Ray Computed Tomography (XRCT) to examine both natural samples collected in the field and experimental samples formed in the lab
The photo to the right is a 3D reconstruction of a biotite mineral that was heated in the lab and broke down to form various other minerals, including Fe-Ti oxides (yellow), pyroxene (red), and vapor bubbles (grey). We used XRCT to image this rock.
3) Quantitative models and experimental petrology to integrate the observations into potential processes.
To the left is a photo of the cold-seal lab at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Mineral Sciences. We use these furnaces to conduct experiments that simulate the pressure and temperature conditions of magmas residing in the shallow continental crust. These experiments allow us to constrain the pre-eruptive conditions and decompression rates of these magmas.