Recent Newsletters

Newsletters from 2020 onwards will be posted in the blog feed below.

VMSG Website Newsletter #46

No. 46 July 2020
Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great (Niccolo Machiavelli, 1469-1527)


Resilience. Something often talked about in communities impacted by volcanic activity. An elusive diamond to be found that enables one to make like Chumbawamba and ‘get up again’ when there are challenges in life. As we are all learning with COVID19, the same challenge is experienced differently according to the prevailing circumstances into which that challenge is set. For example, lockdown is not the same for those of us in a solitary warm booklined study with a high speed internet connection as it is to those with an angry school-deprived child crawling onto knees and demanding attention. In the same way, the launch and execution of a research career is not always the same despite the apparent presentation of the same opportunities. These are silently shaped by prevailing attitudes and the circumstances of that individual. To be successful, some have to be just that little bit more resilient than others. We need to change that and work more explicitly towards not only providing opportunity but towards removing barriers to inclusion and diversity in our community.

In that spirit we bring a Newsletter focussed on Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) and how we are using this closed down world to take positive steps to forming a community that does better with EDI. There is ample evidence to suggest that a more equal, diverse and inclusive community is more creative, and better at solving problems.

Finally for those enjoying skipping into the fields of freedom in Scotland, we have another field excursion to savour, and for those currently more basaltically-challenged in England our Newsletter includes an introduction to the wonderful faux-volcanic world of slag.

Equality and Diversity Survey

Contributed by Sam Engwell, Sally Gibson & Janine Kavanagh

In the last VMSG Newsletter, we presented equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) information gathered from the recent annual winter meeting in Plymouth (January 2020). This data forms part of a larger study that looks at EDI within the VMSG community and at recent VMSG annual meetings. Here, we provide a short overview of the EDI findings together with some of the resultant recommendations for future VMSG meetings. We will publish the results of the full EDI Report and VMSG Survey soon.

The 2020 VMSG Annual Survey was the first time we have asked our members to tell us about themselves, their careers, their experiences and their thoughts on a wide range of VMSG activities. The 110 respondents were asked how much they thought the VMSG were doing in terms of promoting equality and diversity in the community. There were 95 responses to this question, and 74% thought the promotion was “About right”, 14% thought “Too little” was being done and 5% selected both “Too little” and “About right” (Figure 1).  

Figure 1. Percentages of response to the question “How much do you think VMSG is doing in terms of promoting equality & diversity in the community?” (95 responses)

We were able to do additional analyses to look at the responses according to other factors such as the career stage of the respondent (Figure 2). From these responses, proportionally more early career stage individuals (<10 years since PhD), undergraduates, Masters students, PhD students and Postdoctoral researchers thought that “Too little” was being done to promote diversity and equality. More of the advanced and mid academic career individuals responded with “Don’t know/No idea/Not sure”, and only permanent academic staff and early academic career individuals thought “Too much” was being done. This additional analysis demonstrates the importance of considering the responses not only as a bulk dataset but also to separately look at the views of minority sub-groups, whose thoughts may otherwise become obscured by those of the majority.

Figure 2. Percentages of response per ‘Career Stage’ to the question “How much do you think VMSG is doing in terms of promoting equality & diversity in the community?” (95 responses)

To assess EDI at VMSG annual winter meetings, the committee gathered and analysed available attendance data for the past six years of meetings (Figure 3). This represents the time frame for which we have data and allowed us to assess trends in attendance, oral presentations and keynote speakers over this time. The information was not specifically acquired for EDI analysis and, due to data availability, we have only been able to focus on gender. The analysis shows that the proportion of female oral presenters has varied over the 6-year period with an average of 37%. This is in comparison to the proportion of female attendees which has averaged at 47%. There is, however, only very limited data to show how these values relate to proportions of requested oral presentations but we note that in 2018 and 2019 there were fewer requests from female attendees for oral presenters. These trends can be seen to directly impact the distribution of presentations, particularly in 2019. Gathering such information is important because it allows both the committee and community to identify areas where diversity is lacking, but more information is required to fully capture and understand factors that affect trends through time.

Figure 3. Percentages of attendees and oral presenters at VMSG annual meetings since 2015. Data for the number of requests for male/female attendees is only available for VMSG 2018 and 2019.

Our analysis of data for the EDI report highlights the large gaps in the available data, for example, on the representation of BAME and LGBTQ+ communities. In the future, we endeavour, through working with local conference organising committees, to collate more diverse information and so gain a greater understanding of the VMSG community. We hope that through the collection of such data, and the recommendations provided in the report, the VMSG committee and community as a whole can work together to make meetings increasingly diverse, equal and inclusive.

Making real changes in equality, diversity and inclusivity requires more than data collection and analysis. In order to effect change, we have used the EDI analysis to update our ‘Guidelines for VMSG meetings’. As many VMSG members will be aware, we have also recently introduced a Code of Conduct policy for our meetings and field trips.

And last but not least, a new initiative by the VMSG Committee has been to appoint Prof Jenni Barclay as our dedicated Public Engagement and Outreach Officer. As demonstrated by recent well-attended public lectures in Dundee (Sir Prof Steve Sparks & Prof Rosaly Lopes) and Plymouth (Prof Iain Stewart) the study of volcanoes and magmas on Earth and other planets offers lots of potential to engage with under-represented groups. Jenni will actively work alongside the VMSG community to develop new inclusive outreach events, and we really welcome your ideas and participation in these activities.

VMSG Response to Black Lives Matter

At the end of this Newsletter, you will see the ‘Call for a Robust Anti-Racist Action Plan from all Professional Geoscience Societies and Organisations’ that has now been signed by over 24,000 individuals. This was originated in the USA but is well worth a read. There is a link here too, to sign the associated petition.

Drawing on this Action Plan (and noting our own lamentable diversity) we have been determined to take action.

As our contribution to #BlackLivesMatters we will convene a series of web-based discussion panels. These will acknowledge:

(i) The historical construction of inequalities in our research field globally (Origins)

(ii) Learn about the barriers to inclusion (The problem today)

(iii) Co-create a manifesto for tangible actions for VMSG moving forwards (The Future).

With these discussion panels we need to ‘do work’ to understand how we are part of the problem, and consider how VMSG can be part of the solution. Where we ask for contributions from community members from ethnic minorities in the UK or colleagues from overseas, we will acknowledge and amplify that effort. These three discussion panels will each last around 90 minutes.

The first of these will be on Monday the 20th of July.  Entry is via registration but its easy to do and you can sign up here.

  • Discussion Panel 1: 20th July 2020 2pm

Origins: understanding the impacts of historical inequalities in research undertaken by the Volcanic & Magmatic Studies Group community.

Our five invited panellists (*) will explore the historical construction of inequalities in accessing research, the benefits gained from resources overseas (volcanological, mineralogical, petrological and geochemical) and how we might avoid ‘parachute’(**) science in the wake of these privileges. After introductory plenaries from our panel (~1 hour) we will use the virtual format to gather discussion topics and questions from all participants and together consider how future practice in research might improve benefits for vulnerable communities and scientists in the countries where we work.

(*)Panellists: Jazmin Scarlett, University of Newcastle; Elisa Sevilla, Universidad San Francisco de Quito; Kathryn Goodenough, British Geological Survey; Matthieu Kervyn, Vrije Universitiet, Brussels; Richie Robertson, University of the West Indies.

(**) parachute science: where we do research or fieldwork without involvement or acknowledgement of local scientific or non-scientific expertise. See: for an example in Conservation.

The remaining two panels will convene later in August and September.

Challenges and Solutions for Autism in Academic Geosciences

Contributed by Nicola Taylor

Like many geosciences PhD students, it was the fantastic experiences that I had as an undergraduate, particularly those that involved fieldwork, that provided inspiration for me to pursue a career in research. However, gaining these experiences required the negotiation of some of the barriers that academia can present to the inclusion and success of individuals with disabilities, including those who, like me, are autistic.

At the moment, disabled individuals are underrepresented within academia. But diverse research is better research, diverse research teams produce more, and more highly cited, research papers, and we should strive for an inclusive research culture where thinking differently is promoted, and where the enjoyment that research brings can be shared with as many people as possible. So here are three challenges that academia can present to the success of autistic individuals, and simple solutions to help make the future more inclusive.

A comparison of disclosure of disability between the working-age population and different academic stages between 2003 and 2017. Data are from HESA (

1. A core feature of autism is difficulty with social interactions. It can seem like everyone is talking a different language, which takes time to “tune in to” and understand, and it might also be difficult to communicate verbally with others. Being clear, precise and literal, and allowing time to respond can make a huge difference. Group discussions can be made far easier when a chairperson gives everyone the opportunity to contribute (even if they need more time to do so, or to communicate in a different way) and periodically summarises discussions to ensure a collective understanding.

2. Integrating with peers. As a researcher, relationships with colleagues are important for both social and academic purposes – and can be difficult for autistic individuals who are likely to be excluded by their peers. This rejection often stems from a lack of awareness, necessitating disability awareness training. Peer integration can also be promoted by allocating groups, so no one gets (unintentionally) excluded, and by having some structure to social (or other) events, making them easier to join in with.

3. Busy environments. Around 95% of autistic individuals have sensory differences; this can make every sound and every voice amplified, and background noise impossible to ignore. Light, smell, touch and taste can also all be distracting, if not overwhelming. These sensitivities can make conference environments, travel hubs and busy teaching laboratories overwhelming, and impossible to concentrate in. COVID-19, has, at least temporarily, had a revolutionary effect on conferences, and the alternative online events are more accessible to many people who struggle within busy environments. For in-person events, access to additional rooms (allow for discussion outside the busiest areas, and an area to unwind), good signage (helps with navigating unfamiliar locations) and extending the length of poster sessions (reducing crowding) can be particularly helpful.

As part of the Equality and Diversity special issue of Advances in Geosciences, my supervisor (Dr Jess Johnson) and I contributed an article about autism within academia that expands on the ideas here – available at for those who want to read more!

For the love of slag!

Contributed by Clive Boulter

It is a little-known fact that we have a National Slag Collection!  Much better than visiting an archive is getting out in the field to study slag.  If you are fortunate enough to have iron slag tips nearby you may well have a wonderful volcanological educational resource to hand and maybe for research as well?  Around twenty million tons of extracted Cumbrian iron ore has littered the coast with fantastic volcanological experiences from just into Lancashire to beyond Workington.  Ropy pahoehoe flow fields, lava stalactites, spinifex textures, magma fragmentation, vesiculation patterns, and much more, can be studied in these locations.  Though Hawaii might seem more exotic, and have a magnetic attraction, field trips still use the Lake District but how many will have included a visit to a slag tip?  This contribution shows what they have missed.

Lava stalactites on the roof of a cavity in a tipped pudding, Workington.

Specially constructed railway wagons conveyed the slag from iron and steel works to tips.  The tipped contents of the wagons are variously referred to as skulls or puddings and many remained intact after dumping.  Because of primitive design, in the early days, it paid to deliver the slag to the dump either totally solid or with very little liquid but there are later examples where the tipped material was totally fluid such as at Askam.  The seaward end of Askam Pier is covered in thin (~10 cm) ropy pahoehoe flows with not much sign of solidification before tipping.  Early tipping at many locations left essentially intact puddings with variable volumes of cavities.  Liquid from the residual cavities produced dribbles of magma and some have lava stalactites on their roofs.  A range of cooling contraction granulation patterns can be seen in a spectrum of stages of disintegration leading to clear examples of reverse-grading grain-flow sorting in the tips just like scoria cones.

Twisted ropy pahoehoe as part of a pahoehoe flow field, Askam Pier.

Thin lava flows at Workington. The white upper part of each flow has pahoehoe structure [scale 10.5×16.5 cm]

Slag tips in Cumbria provide a good opportunity for geologists to examine spinifex texture without the need to travel to distant places like South Africa and Western Australia.  Also the mineralogy in the slag is fresh unlike the Archaean examples.  Bladed/oriented olivine crystals (max. 20 cm long seen in Cumbria) and randomly oriented spinifex are commonly found on the tips.  Being an Archaean geologist it was finding spinifex textured slag on the beach at Hest Bank that got me into searching out its source.  It is similar to the Raventhorpe slag in Western Australia that played a key role in our understanding of the nature of komatiite lava flows back in the late 1960s.

Radial fractures in a pudding at Workington mimicking a cracked open Teide’s Egg.

A block of spinifex textured slag with bladed and randomly oriented olivine together with vesiculated slag (Workington).

An excursion guide to the Workington localities is in the first issue of the Cumberland Geologist, 2020, pp. 59-62.  An account of the slag at Workington, Carnforth, is in the 2018 Proceedings of the Westmorland Geological Society pp. 45-49.

Carboniferous volcano exposed at Elie, Fife, Scotland

Contributed by Richard Batchelor

Around 330 million years ago, Scotland lay near the Equator. River sands, estuarine muds and marine lime were deposited in large deltaic areas forming sandstone, shale and limestone. Coal formed from the decay of tropical forests. Later violent volcanic activity ca. 295 million years ago punched through these rocks which had also been folded by crustal compression. Erosion has since revealed the underground volcanic “plumbing”.

On the wave cut platform by Elie harbour, concentrically-dipping layers of tuff form a dark coloured “lunar” landscape. Here we are inside a volcanic neck which was collapsing inwards on itself. Each layer of ash represents a volcanic eruption, showing that there were multiple eruptions. The tuff contains many blocks of basalt from previous eruptions, as well as calcite veins formed from fluids intruding the tuff while it was cooling.

Author walking across the tuff wave-cut platform. A gentle curvature to the left in the tuffs can be picked out by the basalt blocks.

A Call for a Robust Anti-Racist Action Plan from All Professional Geoscience Societies and Organizations

Below we reproduce in its entirety the Action Plan created by a group of geoscientists led by the Cultural Task Force of the Geological Society of America.

The petition can be found here.

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” – Angela Y. Davis

What does it mean for a professional society or organization to be anti-racist and equitable to all members? For a start, they will continually ask AND answer difficult but important questions: Who benefits from the institution’s status quo? Who is left out? Who continues to hold power? Who feels safe, who does not feel safe, and why? Who do we want to attract and retain in our societies and organizations? For those that want to strive toward anti-racism and equity, we demand the enactment of the following action plan, including the development of workgroups and timelines for implementation:

  1.  Post anti-racism statements publicly and accessibly, and incorporate anti-racism into codes of ethics. As an example, all organizations and societies should post anti-racism statements on public-facing websites.
  2. All members and all levels of leadership, in particular, should actively work to understand the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other minoritized groups including how racism and discrimination have impacted their ability to succeed and feel belonged in the geosciences and other science disciplines. Societies should invest in hiring Black, Indigenous, and Latinx experts on issues related to minoritized groups (e.g. Black anti-racism experts, sexual harassment and anti-bias experts, bystander intervention trainers) to offer ongoing training to educate leaders and members on the identification and removal of structural and implicit biases within the geosciences.
  3. Identify ways each society and organization has previously failed Black, Indigenous, and Latinx People and other minoritized groups both structurally and individually. Consider the ways they have failed in protecting, supporting, mentoring, and retaining members of these groups to correctly identify how to make progress with specific actions. In addition to the national organizations, this is especially salient in local and regional chapters of societies, where organizations can leverage and learn from the diverse experiences of members in their local chapters. Through listening to these local communities, local and regional chapters may serve Black, Indigenous, and Latinx People and other minoritized groups in ways that are relevant to their needs.
  4. Interrogate written policies and procedures to identify bias, then revise and redesign policies and evaluation criteria to be anti-discriminatory. For example, procedures for becoming a GSA or AGU Fellow are biased against anyone who does not know an existing Fellow. Lengthy nomination procedures also put an undue burden on minoritized people who generally have fewer connections within the larger primarily white community.
  5. Question unspoken rules. Racism and other forms of discrimination can manifest in unspoken “rules” as well. These rules often dictate how members are expected to behave, what is considered professional attire and hair, and what passes for appropriate language and diction. Societies should reflect on how these rules negatively impact Black, Indigenous, and Latinx People and other minoritized groups.
  6. Acknowledge and address the impacts of historical and ongoing exploitation in the geosciences. The colonialist project of exploration and exploitation has negatively impacted – including death and loss of land – Indigenous people in North America and all over the world. Geologic exploration has also been used to take natural resources (e.g., rare rock, mineral, and fossil samples) to populate US museums and private collections, instead of respecting the autonomous rights of indigenous communities and nations to their natural resources. Furthermore, modern-day geology is pervaded by a research model, which extracts geological knowledge from remote locations with little to no respect for, engagement with, or participation by Indigenous communities. This research model is racist and exploitative and limits the scope of science done to a narrow band of questions solely dictated by the white majority. We must affirm that achieving a robust representation of Indigenous communities in our research community will improve our science and must take action to ensure this.
  7. Acknowledge environmental injustice in geoscience, including the disproportionate lack of funding for environment-focused work compared to hydrocarbon (petroleum, gas, and coal) and mineral mining. Geoscience is intimately tied to fossil fuels, mining, environmental contamination, atmospheric pollution, water quality, natural hazards, parks and tourism, and climate change. Black, Indigenous, and Latinx People and other minoritized groups are disproportionately impacted by limited access to these resources, and the negative impacts of each of these. In addition, although these sectors have helped to attract Black, Indigenous, and Latinx People and other minoritized groups into geosciences, societies should recognize, acknowledge and work to resolve the fact that Black, Indigenous, and Latinx People and other minoritized groups are often the first to leave these industries during downturns. This means minoritized communities do not always have people within industries to advocate for and sponsor them.
  8. Acknowledge the inequities inherent to fieldwork while affirming that cutting-edge geoscience happens in many different spaces. Black, Indigenous, and Latinx People and other minoritized groups are not safe in the field – because of traditions and systemic discrimination and racism in place in our discipline, country, and world. A glaring example is that Black geoscientists are not safe to engage in fieldwork everywhere that white and other privileged geoscientists are able to. Whereas a white geologist with a rock hammer will be seen as “safe”, a Black geologist may be seen as a threat. Holding “suspicious” objects have been used as a defense to call the police on Black People in recent history and it has led to the death of unarmed Black individuals, purely because of racial profiling, discrimination, and unjustified fear of Black People. Fieldwork requirements for degree attainment also inherently block many disabled people, poor people, and women from engaging in geoscience work due to limited accessibility, harassment, and expense. Societies can lead by disseminating best practices to make all field programs safe for and accessible to everyone. They should also encourage the reevaluation of training requirements for rising geoscientists. Indeed, cutting-edge geoscience happens not only in the field but in laboratories, on computers, and in classrooms.
  9. Address issues of workplace culture that are active threats to safety, wellbeing, and careers, and acknowledge, address, and promote the safety and success of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other minoritized geoscientists and students who have been historically marginalized in education and the workplace. Professional organizations can bring their power to bear on universities, colleges, and other academic spaces to enact change. By creating no-tolerance policies, societies and organizations are holding academics accountable for their actions and inactions.
  10. Geoscience societies and organizations must actively advocate and create accountability for income parity for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other minoritized geoscientists, especially women, trans, genderqueer, and disabled geoscientists of color.
  11. Actively diversify nominations and awards committees who in turn work to nominate diverse Board members, Leadership candidates, Committee chairs, and awards recipients. Purposefully populate Boards and Chair ships with Black, Indigenous, and Latinx, and other minoritized geoscientists and students to be better representative of the membership and ensure all voices are heard.
  12. Actively recruit and pay Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other minoritized geoscientists as journal editors and reviewers, session conveners, and mentorship event participants. This pay is partially in recognition of the reparations due to all Black and Indigenous People.
  13. Directly sponsor networking events for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other minoritized geoscientists at all meetings and other large gatherings. Financial hardship is a reality for many Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other minoritized students and professionals. Societies and organizations should be doing the utmost to remove financial barriers to events which often result in career-advancing conversations and connections.
  14. Publish annual, data-rich reports of the self-reported, intersectional demographics of members, including demographic data about who is getting awards and who is engaged in leadership in the organization. These reports should be made publicly available and accessible through an annual evaluation. As scientists, we know the value of data and must measure progress on properly serving and retaining Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other minoritized geoscientists using data-driven methods.
  15. Finally, organizations should no longer relegate “Diversity” to non-technical sessions or fireside chats, but should actively elevate discussions on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access, and Justice to well-attended spaces. Keynote Symposia, Presidential Addresses, and Awards Ceremonies should acknowledge and feature a truly diverse array of speakers representative of the technical community. When these sessions are relegated to secondary time slots or buildings or are scheduled simultaneously with other sessions of interest, attendees are more likely to be members of minoritized groups and allies. Non-minoritized members need to know that they are expected to show up.


VMSG Website Newsletter #45

No. 45 March 2020
All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’ (Julian of Norwich, 1342-c.1426)


Welcome to our first digital newsletter! In our new era of physical distancing, it seems appropriate that VMSG joins the 21st Century  for fast electronic communication. Hopefully, as we all bed in to this new regime, our re-vitalised communication tools will help us all stay socially-connected. We hope you have been enjoying the new website too. You can also find us on Twitter (@vmsg_uk), Facebook and Instagram.

This edition brings a look back to the heady crazy times of of the Annual VMSG meeting where we were all able to meet in a room together and share science and socialise. It was a great meeting! By coincidence this edition’s volunteered contributions had a strong flavour around volcano outreach, so I solicited more ‘outreach’ themed contributions and this is what we have!  Issue no. 45: the ‘Outreach’ Special.

Hopefully some inspiration here for connected times ahead, but also some sources of digital materials to share with those currently experiencing the joys of home-schooling. Watch out soon for some more virtual VMSG Community activities!

Stay safe!


VMSG Annual Meeting Plymouth

Some 140 delegates gathered in Plymouth from the 7th-9th of January for our Annual Meeting. We had a wide range of topics that broadly reflected our communities interests and that of the Plymouth VMSG group, from hazards, risk and communication to timescales and rates of magmatic processes. There was also the inception of the ‘Early Careers Research’ Forum to go along with the forum for students and research students. Speaking of which we managed our usual good balance of research students, as illustrated by Sam Engwell’s graphic. Sam is the ‘Equality and Diversity’ Officer for the VMSG Committee and will be reporting on some more analysis she has done in the near future.

Balance of student and other presenters and delegates at VMSG 2020. Graphic: Sam Engwell

Of course, the student talks and posters as well as being numerous were fantastic examples of how to present well! Engaging, clear and, in the case of the talks,  on time! So, judging the best posters and talks was very tough but here they are!

In addition to this we also had some exciting keynote presentations as well as the VMSG Prize Talk from David Pyle (Oxford University). Congratulations again to him!


Photo from @RebeccaPaisley9

A few other photos and snippets from Twitter during the meeting. Big thanks to Paul Cole, Michelle Harris and Irene Manzella for all your organising skills – it was a fantastic meeting! Thank you also to Iain Stewart who gave a very successful public lecture.

Finally, next year’s VMSG (which could be VERY EXCITING INDEED IF WE ARE ALL OUT AND ABOUT) will be hosted by the team at Manchester University.

VMSG Student Bursary Report

Javiera Villalobos Orchard (Manchester University) Attending Goldschmidt2019 Conference in Barcelona, 18-23 August 2019

As a first-timer at Goldschmidt, I arrived at the conference filled with anticipation, excitement, and most of all: nerves! But even from the Icebreaker evening I could spot many familiar faces, people I have met over my years as an Undergraduate back in Chile, and later from collaborations and friendly chats at conferences such as VMSG and GGRiP during my time as a PhD student here in the UK, that made me feel part of it already. The last Goldschmidt introduced a new modality of presentation for people that, like me, asked for oral presentations but were not able to be allocated one at highly solicited sessions: a flash-talk, that allowed in 4 minutes to briefly present the highlights of their research and advertise their poster.

Goldschmidt 2019 Flash Talks. Photo: Rebeca Lopez-Adams

I presented some of the work of my PhD with the title ‘Tracing subduction zone fluids in the Izu arc using molybdenum isotopes’ in the session: Subduction zones and associated fluid and mass-transfer processes. With my flash talk on Wednesday morning and my poster session on Wednesday evening, I was fortunate to have enough time during the first days of the conference to get familiar with the setting, practise my presentation and make use of every small break to catch up with colleagues and invite them to my presentation. As a result, my flash-talk had a great turnout, I received very good comments and many people that had not seen my work before came to my poster later. After my talk, I even had the chance to talk about possible job offers, which as a final-year PhD student is exactly what I was looking for! At the poster session I had some interesting chats and discussed my work from new perspectives, got very positive feedback about my data and my models, made some new contacts and strengthened connections I previously had.

Goldschmidt 2019 Poster Presentation: Photo: Rebeca Lopez-Adams

Aside from my own presentation, I really enjoyed hearing the talks in the so many different sessions at the conference – from isotope geochemistry to astrobiology, subduction zones to core formation, economic geology to carbon sequestration. I was amazed by the amount, variety and quality of the science presented at Goldschmidt, and it was often hard to decide which session to attend as there were many interesting ones happening at the same time. It was an enlightening and inspiring experience for sure, and very successful in terms of networking, receiving feedback and broadcasting my work, which I am happy to have been able to take part in and I am sure will have a positive impact in my career.

Meetings (contributed by Kevin Murphy)

New Topics in Mineral Sciences

(1)    Diffusion in Minerals, Rocks and Melts: Potential and Pitfalls

October 23rd 2020

Burlington House, London

This meeting, intended to be the first of a new series, will review recent work in diffusion modelling and its application to a range of geological problems. How good (or not) can models be? What are the limits of what can be stated from our models? What are the pitfalls? It is intended to appeal to those interested in applying diffusion modelling to problems of rates, timing and thermal history in a wide range of mineralogical contexts.

The meeting will be led by a series of invited speakers who will address the fundamentals of diffusion theory and its application to modelling geological processes, and provide examples of state-of-the-art research on diffusions in various contexts. These will be followed by a Poster session, primarily for Student Poster presentations, with 90 second nano-introductions to each poster. The proceedings will conclude with a panel discussion.

We will hold one-day short course on diffusion modelling on October 22nd, and details will be made available as soon as possible.

For up-to-date information check the Mineralogical Society web site at

The meeting is supported by: The Applied Mineralogy Group & The Metamorphic Studies Group as well as VMSG!

BEGINS OUTREACH SPECIAL – web pages, events and various volcano and magma-y fun!

Your Science Out There

(contributed by Tamsin Mather)

Funded by the Royal Society, Your Science Out There is a collaboration between myself, the Oxford Sparks outreach portal and 3 amazing Earth Sciences PhD students to develop a series of videos and teaching resources. Our aim is to share our excitement about pushing the frontiers of science to understand planetary-scale processes and to show students that the concepts that they are learning at school (or beyond!) are used daily by researchers at the knowledge frontier. The classroom resources have been developed in collaboration with education specialists and link these Earth Science topics into key areas of the Chemistry and Physics schools curriculum. We hope that this will arm teachers with exciting material opening new horizons in student perception of where science can take you and the possibilities of studying Earth and Environmental Sciences. We particularly hope that they VMSG community will enjoy Anna Brookfield’s video showcasing her volcano science. If you like the site then please spread the word!

The Cosmic Cast: an Earth and planetary science podcast from the University of Manchester

Contributed by Marissa Lo

Along with John Pernet-Fisher, Tom Harvey, Ricci Bahia, and Elliot Carter, I’ve been working on a podcast for the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry research group, here at the University of Manchester. On The Cosmic Cast, we talk to researchers, from PhD to professor level, about their research and their career path. So far, we’ve spoken to a few members of the VMSG community, such as: igneous petrologists, David Neave and Emma Waters; atmospheric volcanologist, Cat Hayer; and remote sensing researchers, Matthew Varnam and Ben Esse. The podcast is pitched at undergraduate level, but is aimed at anyone who is keen to learn more about Earth and planetary science. Through the podcast, we’re hoping to help people understand the diverse range of topics that exist in Earth sciences and to make science seem more accessible! Please give us a listen and if you’d like to be a guest on a future episode, please get in touch with me at

You can find all of the podcast episodes on our YouTube channel or on Spotify.

Geoscience for the Future

Contributed by Natasha Dowey

VMSG member Natasha Dowey has recently launched a new website called “Geoscience for the Future” ( It aims to reframe how we talk about geoscience and improve public perceptions of the topic, by showcasing research and careers that contribute to a more sustainable future. The site will host blogs from contributors working across the spectrum of geoscience- upcoming articles include industrial waste for carbon capture, engineering for landslide hazard mitigation, and mixing science with storytelling. We will also be hosting blogs about diversity issues in geoscience. We’d love to have some engaging stories from volcanologists- if any VMSG members would like to contribute to the site, please see the blog guidelines here and feel free to get in touch with Natasha on

Volcano Outreach at UEA

contributed by Jenni Barclay

In these locked down times you might find some ideas and inspiration for home experiments with simple household objects from the UEA Volcano Outreach resources page. More material will be added throughout this period from our considerable backlog of happenings!

You may also have spotted a well-known volcano-influencer Janine Krippner (Smithsonian GVP)  has been hosting some Volcano Moments on Youtube, also featuring some well known VMSG members!

Volcanoes in the (Festival) field: Outreach on the Stage

Contributed by Emma Waters

In July 2019 the Manchester Volcanology group attended Bluedot Festival along with the Earth and Solar System Outreach team. Bluedot is a music festival based at Jodrell Bank Observatory which runs every year. Along with the music the festival runs science events during the day including talks, shows, workshops and stalls. The event attracts all kinds of music and science fans and is family-friendly so all ages of visitors attend. Every year the E&SS group run a stall at the festival promoting planetary science through interaction with meteorite hand samples and a ‘meteorite hunt game’. Over the past few years we have run pop-up volcano shows alongside the stall which have involved some sticky golden syrup lava experiments and the ever favourite Coke and Mentos eruption. This year we were set a challenge by the organisers to turn this into a 30 minute science show on one of the stages!

Getting to work we translated our pop-up show to a stage show. Using a presentation and interactive experiments we explained convection in the mantle, where volcanoes are found and why, different viscosities of lavas (golden syrup on its own and mixed with sprinkles/marshmallows) and effusive (bicarbonate soda and vinegar) vs. explosive eruptions (Coke & Mentos).


The finale was our trashcano, something we decided to bring in for the show specially. This involved a lot of work testing outside the department to get the technique down and thankfully on the day it went off with a good bang. Things learned from trashcano: 1. To gather an Earth Science department email to say there will be a trashcano testing at a specific time and not to be alarmed by a bang. 2. Get a strong bin. 3. If using rubber ducks as projectiles they will be stolen by exited 5 year olds.

Reflecting on the change to a bigger, advertised show we certainly attracted much higher numbers than in previous years. We estimate the audience size that watched the entire show was around 100 people. Others who came in late or passed by at the end asked if we would be on again so they could come back and watch. Having the use of a screen and more time meant we could explain more of the theory and importantly explain what volcanologists do and why it is important. With the large age range captured this was an excellent opportunity to bring the field into the public eye. At the end we provided information on where people could find out more about volcanoes and careers within geology and volcanology. Following the show we had many visitors come with follow-up questions, either from what we had said or general volcano questions. ‘Volcanoes: What makes them go bang?’ was very well received and we have been invited back again this year with potential for multiple shows over the weekend. As a group we hope to continue running this new outreach activity for as long as there are people to support it, having seen how it enthuses the public about a subject which is sadly being less frequently taught in UK schools.

Walking through an extinct volcano

Contributed by Richard A. Batchelor, Chairman, geoHeritage Fife, Honorary Research Fellow, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of St. Andrews

In Scotland’s East Neuk of Fife, numerous volcanic necks of late-Carboniferous age have punched through Lower Carboniferous sedimentary sequences. The volcanism is of alkali mafic to undersaturated mafic compositions. Locally they form spectacular coastal scenery such as at the Rock and Spindle near St. Andrews.

While this locality is used by specialist groups and students to study the dynamics of late-Carboniferous volcanism, it is important that access is relatively easy in order to bring the volcanic necks to the attention of the general public. One such location is the exposed neck at Elie Harbour.


This site has been selected by geoHeritage Fife, a local geodiversity charity, to form the basis of a geological trail leaflet. Work on it has been undertaken by Richard Batchelor, (Chair), Rosalind Garton  (Secretary) and University of St. Andrews geology undergraduate, Rebecca Bateman. “Proof-walking” by geoHeritage Fife members makes sure that the leaflets are easy to understand for the non-geologist.


Concentrically dipping beds of basaltic tuff show where the cauldron collapsed inwards. In the tuff are blocks of basalt from previous eruptions, some plucked by hot ash and gases on their way up while others may have fallen back into the vent.


A large block of sandstone is welded to the tuff below. As the volcanic cauldron collapsed, substantial fragments of the surrounding Carboniferous sediments rock fell in and became part of the neck.


Storytelling Workshop at VMSG2020

Contributed by Jenni Barclay

After the final day of VMSG 2020, some 30 or so hardy souls set off on a ‘hero’s journey'(*)  to learn some more about the art and science of storytelling with Iain Stewart and Jenni Barclay. The group were able to discuss how this technique can not only helps scientists connect with their intended audience, but that they can also be mined for information about some of the interactions and impacts of risky situations. Finally, the process or act of coming together to share stories can improve how we understand and share information.

As if to prove the value of shared stories the group used the final exercise (to put into practice some of the elements talked about in the presentations) to come up with a triumphant idea. They wanted to battle common misconceptions about volcanic activity and its vagaries through a proposed series of children’s books designed to explore several iconic eruptions using the important elements of a good story. Publishers form an orderly queue here please(**)! The resultant stories ranged from a cat-rescuing, precursory earthquake recognising Minoan girl, to a lava-tube and time travelling visitor to the 122 B.C. Plinian eruption of Etna. On the way home we used the travel time to come up with lyrics that conveyed the uncertainty of volcanic eruptions via the #volcanohero

There once was a young girl called Margot, Who lived happily on a volcano, One day she felt quakes, The town started to shake, So she roused the villagers and said “let’s go!” @drnatashadowey

There once was a volcano, who got all grumpy, his caldera was all short and stumpy, Some gases were farted, But eruption never started And his caldera just got even more lumpy @volcanojenni

There was once an active caldera, Whose emissions made scientists fear a Sudden fiery outburst, They awaited the worst, While others wished signs would be clearer @ailsanaismith

Sulphur dioxide beginning to gout led one keen observer to shout “Magma has got quite shallow, This volcano’s not fallow! Now might be a good time to get out!” @OrbitalPete

An edifice ready to blow, Tilted at letting us know, Tremor harmonic (Percussion chthonic) And animals fleeing not slow. @VolColMac

There was a volcano named Etna Who said “Am I active? You betcha! If my summit starts blowing And lava starts flowing Look out cos I’m coming to get ya! @elle_emm_cee

(*) if you don’t know about the hero’s journey you should have come

(**) not kidding(***)

(***) yes, I know asterisks are not a top story-telling tool!

Read all About it!

Aaaaaaaand…..finally here is someone who has made his publishing dreams a reality, if you need to relax with a bit of apocalypse.

Bill McGuire (last Chair of VSG; first chair of VMSG) has a novel coming out in September this year. SKYSEED is an environmental thriller about geoengineering gone wrong. It also features a key role for Bolivia’s Uturuncu volcano. Pre-order on Amazon UK from the end of June.


First 2020 Newsletter Coming Soon…

The first newsletter for 2020 will be coming soon, featuring a round up of the VMSG meeting in Plymouth and other exciting updates from the VMSG community.