Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's all for you, girl! A message to girls everywhere from the women in volcanology


- Janine Krippner

It saddened me to see a new study published a couple of weeks ago that tells us girls from the age of six are prone to thinking that they are not as smart as boys. What is even more sad is that this wasn't really a surprise. You only have to look at how the media portrays women to get an idea why.

When I was a little girl my Mum told me that I could be anything I want to be. I believed her and I am passing this message on to you. I know some of you have it much harder than others, harder than I could have imagined as a little girl. Don't give up and follow your dreams.

I have asked women volcanologists from around the world to tell you what they do, why they love their work, how their work makes a difference in the world, and to give advice for girls everywhere. Of course this advice is not limited to girls, boys are also subject to messages that they are not good enough, and this can be much worse depending on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and all of the wonderful things that make us unique.

This is a message from women volcanologists from around the world to all of those girls and to everyone who has ever been told they couldn't do something they dreamed of. You are strong. You are amazing. You are powerful. Believe in yourself and don't let anyone make you think that you are not good enough. We have your back and we welcome you in the geosciences!


Janine Krippner, University of Pittsburgh, USA
From: Te Awamutu, New Zealand
I am currently in my final year of my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh studying pyroclastic density current deposits on Shiveluch and Mount St. Helens volcanoes. I use a range of satellite data and data collected in the field to link deposits from dangerous eruptions to the kind of eruption that formed them. I love my work! I travel the world visiting volcanoes and meeting other scientists at conferences, where we get together to learn about the work being done around the world. Nothing quite beats doing field work on a volcano, I have been to some absolutely beautiful places. I love doing outreach where I write about volcanoes, keep people up to date with volcanic activity around the world, and talk to schools about volcanoes and being a scientist.

I come from Te Awamutu, New Zealand. I was the first in my family to go to University, and I did not know any scientists. I did not have the best grades in school, and I had no idea what a career in science would be like - no idea how amazing it would be. When I was a young girl all I knew was that in my heart I was a volcanologist and I would do what ever it took to be one. Many years later I am studying exactly what wanted to all those years ago (pyroclastic flows), on the volcano I dreamed of working on (Mount St. Helens), and I cannot believe how far I have come. Along the way I was told things like it would be a waste of a career (by a professor!) and I am very happy that I did not let it get to me. Hold a vision of yourself in the life you want and never, ever give up on it. Never let anyone tell you to do something more 'acceptable', something that will pay the bills, or something that someone else thinks is best for you. Prove them all wrong!


Alison Graettinger, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri Kansas City, USA
From: Reno, Nevada, USA
When I was twelve I got to meet some paleontologists. They got to dig up dinosaurs and got paid for it. I asked them how they got such a cool job and they told me to study geology. I took their advice to heart and found that geology was the perfect place for me. Later my supervisor told me that studying volcanoes was a real job too! Since then I have been following every opportunity to learn more about and visit volcanoes. My job now involves designing experiments that help us study volcanic eruptions using things like dynamite and molten lava but also teaching and sharing what I love about the earth with students of all ages.

I was lucky when I was young to be encouraged by my family and teachers. Not everyone has someone so close to encourage them. But we want more people to study geology with us, from all backgrounds and all parts of the world. So if you need people to encourage you to keep studying and trying for dreams as big as a volcano, we offer this blog and will keep spending time on twitter and doing outreach to make sure that all dreamers are reminded that science is for everyone. It takes hard work, it isn't something you are just born to do (or not do). We need new ideas and new spirit to help us tackle the challenges of living on a dynamic planet, come join us!

Jazmin Scarlett, University of Hull, UK 
From: Luton, UK
See Jazmin's blog here.
I am a historical and social volcanology PhD student. I study past volcanic eruptions and their impacts on people. My current work is focusing on the Caribbean island of St Vincent in the early 1800s and early to late 1900s.

Why I love doing it: I love the travel, experiencing the cities where the archives are held and of course, seeing volcanoes up close! I also love stories, so reading all the personal accounts of the volcanic eruptions and traveling to St Vincent and hearing people’s experiences captivates and inspires me.

How my work helps society: It is important that the work you do benefits your study location in some way. Not only will my work help others in the volcanology community, it will help the people of St Vincent. My work will help inform future volcanic hazard assessments, the dynamics of how people interact with their volcano but also bring to light parts of the island’s history that many perhaps are not aware of.

Being a black geoscientist: In all honesty, I see myself as a geoscientist first, woman second and white and black Caribbean third. Although I am aware that throughout my academic journey I was taught by predominately white people, but I understand that it is just the nature of things in the UK. On the other hand, growing up in a family which are proud of their Caribbean heritage, I understand how important it is to have positive black role models (women and men). Having STEM black role models has been important for me, but before my PhD, I had to look to history to find them. In most cases, I had to look beyond STEM to find them. But I have role models of varying ethnicities and, I have now met some black geoscientists face-to-face, and it feels great. Being a woman and not white, is strength that you can draw from. Be proud of it. There is strength in diversity.

What I believe smart means: Being curious and inquisitive to make you don’t know, known. Questioning everything.

Heather Wright, Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, USA
From: Clinton, Washington, USA
I’m a volcanologist with the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP), a cooperative agreement between the USGS and USAID. I feel extremely fortunate to have found this career, which combines my loves for science and problem-solving, the outdoors, travel, and teaching. My job includes field research, laboratory analysis, data processing, and written and oral communication of scientific results. I get to work in diverse teams, where critical thought and clarity of communication are essential and consensus is the goal.

My research focuses on understanding the controls on volcanic eruption style. Why does a volcano erupt in a particular way? Can we forecast the style of eruption that a volcano experiencing unrest will have? How might that eruption change through time – will it get bigger or smaller and how long might it last?

I didn’t even take my first geology course until I was a sophomore in college. But the combination of physics, chemistry, math, and spatial problem solving were an instant fit for me. So, I dove right in. What’s my advice for young scientists? Find something you’re willing to spend a lot of time doing, something you like doing a whole lot. Work really hard to become undeniably good at what you do. Keep your eyes open to opportunity and look for your lucky shot. And finally, be a great human; be fair and kind and open-minded. And good luck – you can do it!

Einat Lev, Columbia University, USA
From: Israel
My research deals with the fundamental fluid mechanics processes inside volcanoes and after the lava erupts, so my field work has taken me to a variety of places, such as Hawai’i, Italy, Chile, Costa Rica and Japan. I use a range of numerical and laboratory techniques, e.g., I simulate how lava flows using computer techniques, and I employ materials such as wax and syrup to study how volcanic eruptions happen and evolve. I love how I get to pick what I want to work on, and follow my own interests. I greatly enjoy how I get to use different methods and learn new skills every day, even after doing this job for quite some time now. I feel like it keeps my brain fresh. I particularly enjoy hosting students of all ages in my lab and showing them my “toys,” so if you are in the area, come visit!

I actually grew up in Israel, which doesn’t have much in the sense of volcanoes or volcano research. So, after getting a combined bachelor degree in geophysics and computer science (a super useful combo!) I left Israel to go to graduate school in Boston. After that, I landed a job at Columbia University in New York. No volcanoes here either, but my research takes me all over the world!
It is not hard to explain how my research impacts society — volcanoes are a big threat (and a tourist attraction!) to many people, and it is important that we understand how they behave before and during an eruption. In addition, lava flows are often the only remaining record of past eruptions, and they can tell us what the environment was like when they formed. So, understanding lava can help find clues about the past, both on Earth and on other planets.

I’ll end with a confession of sorts: When I was in middle school, my classmates made fun of me for loving science and being a “geek”. It was really, really painful. But I’m so glad I stuck with it, because, hey, middle school ended, and now I have the coolest job!

Alexa Van Eaton, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, USA
You might say that volcanoes found me, rather than the other way around. I went to college to become a journalist, but that all changed when I took my first geology field trip. Like many people, I used to think of the earth as a stagnant ball of dirt, with all the interesting things happening at the surface. It wasn’t until I discovered that our planet is incredibly alive and responsive, evolving on timescales of milliseconds to eons, that I became interested in volcanoes. I moved from Florida to New Zealand to get my PhD and become a volcanologist. Now I work with a fantastic team of women and men at the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor and study volcanoes in the Western USA, Alaska, and internationally.

I’m drawn to volcanoes for a number of reasons. Of course their destructive potential is a strong motivation to learn how they work, so we can figure out ways to make our communities safer. But there is also the element of discovery—the thrill of finding a new outcrop of volcanic layers where you can read the history of a violent past like stories in a book. Field volcanology is very hands-on. You get dirty, hiking and climbing around in search of outcrops that reveal a volcano’s unique personality. Then when an eruption does happen – my goodness! There are so many ways to study them. We need as many smart, innovative young people as we can get.

To young women, you are the future of science. Don't worry about getting it right all the time, or knowing how it’s going to end up. Give yourself the freedom to put yourself out there and inquire boldly.

And feel free to email me if you have any questions. I’d be happy to hear from you.

Laura Walkup, Physical Science Technician, USGS, USA
From: Buckeye, West Virginia, USA
I am Laura Walkup, a volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey. I study volcanic ash using a technique called tephrochronology. Tephrochronology uses the chemistry of volcanic ash to match deposits created by an explosive volcanic eruption with deposits in different locations from that same eruption. This can be used to identify the ages of fossils, figure out past eruption sizes, help answer questions about what the climate was like in the past, and much more. My work sometimes helps to keep people safe from natural hazards by helping to predict what might happen in the future by understanding what happened in the past. One of my favorite projects was with the National Park Service. It involved measuring how fast glaciers on Mount Rainier were flowing and using that data to figure out whether they might have dangerous glacial outburst floods in the future. I love being a geologist because I often get to be outdoors in beautiful places while figuring out how the earth works. Often my job involves hiking long distances while carrying equipment and I find it rewarding to use both my brain and my body. I also love the fact that I can work on a variety of projects around the world.

When I was young, I did not think that I would be able to be a scientist because I was not great at math, and I had to work harder at it than some people. However, I have found that being smart often means being willing to work really hard at something you are bad at until you get good at it. Science is hard work, but it is also awesome and fun!

Jenni Barclay, Volcanologist, University of East Anglia, UK
AM Principle Investigator (Chief Researcher if you like!) of the STREVA Project
From: Lanark, Scotland, UK
I love the natural environment and have always had an interest in the processes that shaped it and drive its changes – especially volcanoes. Always, the volcanoes… so, I have the perfect job now! I really enjoy making connections between volcanic processes, the environment and working with and for the communities that live among volcanoes. I also love teaching and engaging with people.

I like to think my works help society from just brightening people’s day by reminding them about how amazing volcanoes are to trying really hard to make a difference in how we respond to and get the most from living near volcanoes, without ending up in harm’s way when they erupt.

Smart girls rock! To be a smart girl you just need to stay curious! Doesn’t matter what you’re curious about - just stay curious and keep asking questions!

Kyoko S. Kataoka, Associate Professor, Niigata University, Japan 
From: Osaka, Japan
I am a geologist working at the Research Institute for Natural Hazards and Disaster Recovery, Niigata University and I study Volcanology, Sedimentology and Natural hazards. My research is about volcanic eruptions and volcanic mudflows occurring in present and past; how they were, when it occurred, and when the next one will happen. To survey volcanic deposits, river water, and sometimes snowpack, I travel to mountain, rivers, lakes, and ocean everywhere. Teaching students and local communities about volcanic eruption/mudflows and natural hazards is also part of my job.

Science is the exploring of unknown things. Geology including volcanology and sedimentology is a powerful tool to understand and discover history of earth and nature. I am happy that so far I have had many opportunities to travel and explore especially where people do not reach usually, not only in my country but also outside of my country. Touching different cultures though my job is also fun.

Japan is hazards-prone country as many earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods, and heavy snow often threaten people's life, community, and society. So, studying natural hazards science is primal needs of the society to prevent and mitigate hazards.

Please do not hide and give up your great talents for science in the early stage of your life. Science is for everyone and does not choose any genders, ages and nationalities. Believing yourself is very important; you should not be obedient for a gender bias.

Victoria C. Honour University of Cambridge, UK
From: near Oxford, UK
I am an igneous petrologist, which means I look at igneous rocks and work out how they formed. I study how large pools of molten rock trapped beneath the Earth’s surface alter as they cool and crystallise over thousands of years. How the molten rock changes as it cools has important implications for the development of ore deposits (like gold and platinum). Most of what we use in our daily lives has some sort of precious metal in it, so we need to know how and where such precious metals accumulate. I love doing research in Geology, we get to use science to understand the planet we live on. I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world with my research, exploring new places and spending a lot of time outdoors in the mountains, visiting unique places very few people get to go.

Volcanology (and science!) is awesome: the outdoors, experiments, high-tech lab equipment, what more do you want! If you find something intriguing or want to ask questions about the planet we call home… then go for it, and become a geologist. After all, science (the pursuit of the truth) doesn’t care if you’re female or male.
Jacqueline Dohaney, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
From: Bridgewater, Nova, Scotia, Canada
My name is Jacqueline Dohaney and I am Postdoctoral Fellow at Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand. I research volcano education, which means that I am interested in how we learn and teach about volcanoes and the amazing way that volcanoes impact our society.
I love what I do because I get to see students faces light-up when they learn about how lava flows, how the earth is covered with all sorts of volcanic landscapes, and how we use science to protect communities from big eruptions. I love learning. I have always loved learning and I want to help students discover volcanoes as part of their academic journey.

My research helps us to be the best earth science teachers that we can be, and also lets us develop fun and creative ways that people from all around the world can learn about volcanoes.

Message for girls:
Successful scientists come from all sorts of backgrounds and interests. I started out in engineering, researched geology, and ended up in volcano education. When people ask you what you want to do when you grow up, you don’t have to say one thing. In the real world, scientists explore all sorts of wonderful interactions. We all learn from each other. Go out and study the things that you love, and you will find yourself, years later, in a job that you love.

Claire Harnett, University of Leed, UK
I’m a second year PhD student at the University of Leeds (UK) and I work on looking at volcanic domes and their stability. Currently I’m working on combining fieldwork and laboratory work to look at the properties of rocks. Hopefully I’ll be able to combine this with a historical assessment of collapse behaviour to develop a predictive model which could have a great societal impact if it helps observatories to think about forecasting collapse events. As with most earth science careers, I love the fieldwork element of my job and it’s already taken me to parts of the world I’m sure I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. Particularly I love being part of a community, where we all go to conferences to share our research with people who love what we love too.

As for a message of encouragement – I think it’s common that people expect you to go to into a “traditional” job and doing something other than that is often outside of people’s comfort zones in what they expect from you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for it with everything you have! I couldn’t imagine a career better suited to me – and often that has meant challenging peers or teachers in their ideals. If you love something and want to be successful in it, I strongly believe it requires commitment and hard work and that you absolutely can, and should, pursue it.

Jenny Woods, Cambridge Volcano Seismology Group, UK
From: Cambridge, UK
I work in the Cambridge volcano seismology group investigating micro-earthquakes produced by movement of molten rock in volcanic systems, specifically before and during a fissure eruption in 2014 from the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland. I am mostly based at the Earth Science department at the University of Cambridge but I spend lots of time doing fieldwork in Iceland.
You can see our work at Explosive Earth, on Twitter, and on Youtube.

Doing a PhD in volcano seismology gives me the opportunity to travel to (and work in) exciting, volcanic places. It's corny, but I love nature, and so studying it was always going to be enjoyable... In my first year I watched a volcano erupt under the northern lights, the following year I climbed the still-hot craters and swam in the lava-heated glacial stream... Volcano research is the best. I'm trying to understand why earthquakes accompany the movement of molten rock underground which will ultimately help with eruption/volcano forecasting.

You can do anything you want to...just try it and you'll find out!

Sally Potter, GNS Science, New Zealand
From: Taupo, New Zealand
I’m a social scientist at GNS Science in New Zealand. My research is on how best to tell people that there is a natural hazard coming. For example, I’ve looked at how to warn when there might be a volcanic eruption, a big storm, or aftershocks from an earthquake. This helps people to get ready for the hazard before it comes. I love my job because I get to help people, I work with wonderful people, and I go on awesome adventures overseas and talk to lots

 of people about the work I do. You can see a video of me talking about Taupo supervolcano here. I encourage everyone reading this, no matter who you are, to make goals and follow your dreams.


Kae Tsunematsu, Mount Fuji Research Institute
I am a researcher at Mount Fuji Research Institute, Yamanashi Prefectural Government in Japan. This institute is located at the northern foot of Mount Fuji and I work for the disaster mitigation research of volcanic eruptions. I study the mechanism of volcanic eruptions, create the numerical model of the eruption phenomena, and simulate them. Also I work for public outreach to mitigate volcanic disasters. For example, I give lectures to the public and show some experiments to the public.

Numerical models are useful to prepare next eruption or to assess the disaster of the eruption. For example, hazard maps of volcanic eruption is produced simulating eruptions by numerical model. We show the possible affected area when the volcanic eruption occur which is estimated by the numerical simulation. Another important role of volcanologists in the local community is to give advice to them for the preparation of next eruption. We educate them or talk with them from time to time.

Honestly speaking, I was not “smart” at all and I am not really smart right now either. However, I could become a volcanologist as I dreamed since I was a teenager, because I desired strongly and pursue my favorite thing. When I was a high-school student, I read some books about the geology and volcanology. My scores of mathematics and English in highschool days were terrible while I worked a lot after I entered the university. Maybe because I understood the necessity of these subjects when I learned geology and see how these subjects works in geological discussion. And so, I would like to say “Never give up” and “Pursue your favorite thing”. “If there is a desire, there is a way”, a scientist said in the lecture of the numerical modeling. I agree with him.

Tamsin Mather, Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, UK
From: Bristol, UK
As a volcanologist, no two working days are ever the same. I can be in the lab one day, in front of my computer the next and then up a volcano the next. The core of my work is scientific research but I also sometimes have the privilege of working with local agencies managing volcanic hazards in countries such as Guatemala and Chile. When I was at school I had no idea of the wide range of exciting jobs that studying science opened up but I have always enjoyed discovering new things about how the world around us works.

I think that to be a good volcanologist you need to be work hard at your science and be dedicated, enthusiastic and good at working with other people in a team.


Rosaly Lopes, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), USA
From: Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photo: Rosaly Lopes at the edge of the lava lake on Ambrym island, Vanuatu
Amazing adventures on Earth and Beyond
I came into volcanology via a strange route. I was studying Astronomy at University College London and became fascinated by a class in planetary geology. I enjoyed that class so much that I asked the professor if I could do a Ph.D. in that field. That started my journey to volcanoes, one that took me from Mt Etna and Kilauea during my graduate student days to other active volcanoes in every continent, culminating with Mt Erebus, which I summited on Christmas Day 2016. That was incredibly exciting, but volcanoes on other planets have been my research focus, from the giant but no longer active volcanoes of Mars to the extremely active volcanoes on Io and the frigid cryovolcanoes on Titan and Enceladus. Exploration is what drives me, to go to new places and see new vistas, in person or through the eyes of spacecraft. I’ve worked with data from cameras to infrared spectrometers to radar. I’ve changed wavelengths and spacecraft but always used them to study volcanoes.

Along the way I found a passion for encouraging others, including students and members of the public. After being asked often “how can I visit an active volcano” I wrote “The Volcano Adventure Guide” aimed at members of the public but useful to new field volcanologists. I’ve written six other books ranging in level from popular to professional. I love to communicate and give public talks and participate in documentaries in English and my first language, Portuguese. I’m often asked if I have a favorite volcano. I think the most impressive I’ve seen so far was Erta Ale in Ethiopia. I got right to the edge of the lava lake, backing up a few steps now and then due to the intense heat. Lava lakes are rare on Earth and I’m happy to have been to most of them, as they are common on Jupiter’s moon Io and measurements here helps us understand how the Ionian lava lakes work. When I stood on the edge of Erta Ale in Ethiopia, watching the heaving lake, I imagined I was on Io, looking down the 200-km wide Loki caldera. Maybe one day a rover will send us that view or, who knows, future volcanologist astronauts will stand there. Meanwhile, we are finding more volcanoes on planetary bodies, even in unexpected places like Pluto and Ceres. Planetary exploration always brings surprises.

Elaine Smid, The University of Auckland, New Zealand
From: Virginia, USA
See Elaine's blog here.
I study the volcanoes of Middle Earth (New Zealand!), including Mt Doom (Ngauruhoe Volcano, seen in the photo to the left, taken by Dr Abraham Padilla). For my PhD, I am trying to figure out how fast certain volcanic processes happen so we can better predict eruptions. I also have a job managing a big research project (called DEVORA) that aims to prepare New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, for future volcanic eruptions.

Why I love what I do: So many reasons! My PhD and job allow me to be curious about how nature works, learn constantly, and find answers to my questions, in hopes that those answers can save some lives. I get to talk to people about my favorite topics (magma! volcanoes! rocks!), and teach them what they can do to be prepared for and safe during natural disasters. And, last but not least, I get paid to hike, have outdoor adventures, and sometimes even to fly in helicopters and planes over volcanoes (my absolute favorite thing in the world).

Message: I do a lot of public science outreach events and have talked to many young girls like you. I am always very impressed with the questions I get. Y’all rock! So I encourage you to keep dreaming up and asking questions. That is all being smart is—being curious, questioning, and learning as much as you can!

Madison Myers, University of Oregon, USA
From: Lansing, Michigan, USA
My name is Madison Myers and I am a 5th year Ph.D. candidate studying supervolcanoes at the University of Oregon (check out my webpage!). I use the chemistry of rocks and minerals to interpret what triggers large-volume explosive volcanic eruptions. I then use diffusion modeling to integrate the story learned from the chemistry with timescale information. During my degree I have been able to travel to over 8 countries, attend numerous workshops and conferences, and learn how to become not only a confident researcher, but also an adviser for the next generation. In my free time I run a mentorship program whose aim is to help maintain women in STEM fields, as it can be challenging to represent a field that is normally dominated by men. I am very fortunate to have had several amazing mentors in my life that supported my pursuit and passion for geology, learning, teaching, exploring, and the out-of-doors. If you are passionate about a subject, topic, or idea, than nothing can get in your way. Just some times you have to be craftier… please feel free to email me if you want to learn more about my path, about volcanoes, or just need a friendly ear!
  
Dr Susanna Ebmeier, University of Leeds, UK
From: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
I use satellite imagery to investigate volcanoes – how they change the Earth's surface, affect the atmosphere and how they relate to changes in molten rock stored deep beneath the ground. My research uses images taken from space, so I can look at large numbers of volcanoes together and examine their similarities and differences. My work has given me the chance to travel to Central & South America to see volcanoes in person, and to collaborate with scientists responsible for monitoring them and forecasting their activity. One of the most rewarding aspects of working in volcanology is the large range of interests that my collaborators have – volcanology includes not only geology, but physics, chemistry, sociology and the study of hazard and risk. There are always new and exciting things to learn. A damaging stereotype about scientists is that they have to be narrowly focused on a particular topic to the exclusion of all else in life – but this is not true. The scientists I know are excited about their research, but also take pleasure in culture, travel, sports, exploring, socialising and their family life.

Jessica Ball, USGS Menlo Park, USA
From: Alexandria, Virginia, USA
See Jessica's blog here.
I'm Dr. Jessica Ball, and I work with the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California. I use computer models to study how water in volcanoes can cause them to collapse (or not), which can help us protect people from volcanic landslides. I also help the USGS make reports and fact sheets to teach people about volcanic hazards and how to protect themselves in the event of an eruption.

I love what I do because it's science that will help keep people and their homes and businesses safer around volcanoes. I get to run complicated computer models to answer tricky questions, but I also get to work with lots of different people - scientists and not - to answer questions and make plans about volcanic hazards. The next time a volcano erupts in the United States, my work with be useful to the USGS and to people near the volcano.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have people around me who taught me to be proud that I was smart. No one is automatically smarter than someone else because of their gender or any other reason. You just have to learn to surround yourself with people who recognize how awesome you are just for being you, and don't try to make you change or put you down. Everyone is smart in different ways, and maybe people won't recognize why it's important to be smart in YOUR way, but you should never be embarrassed or try to hide that you are!

Anja Schmidt, University of Leeds, UK
From: Leipzig, Germany, moved to England 10 years ago
I am working as an academic researcher at the University of Leeds. I use computer models in synergy with volcanological datasets (such as the amount of gas emitted by an eruption) in order to understand how volcanic eruptions affect temperatures, the environment and us humans. The best part of my job is to be able to every now and then join my colleagues doing fieldwork at active volcanoes. When we come back I feed my computer model with the data we collected and often the results are unexpected, which I find really stimulating (albeit also a bit challenging, but hey that’s the nature of being a scientist). I also love teaching school children and doing outreach — these audiences ask the best and most unexpected questions in the world!

Whether you are a girl or a boy, follow your heart, be curious and don’t hesitate to take a chance!

Ailsa Naismith, University of Bristol, UK
From: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Read Ailsa's blog here.
My name is Ailsa Naismith, and I work as a volcanologist at the University of Bristol. I am using information from ultraviolet and infrared cameras to understand the activity of Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala, an active volcano near the historic city of Antigua. Volcan de Fuego erupted violently in 1974, causing a great deal of damage. Since 1999, episodic volcanic activity has made some people afraid that an eruption like 1974 could happen again. Because of this, my project also includes social aspects. I want to answer questions such as: How can we reduce risk caused by Fuego for people living around the volcano?

I started this job because I loved travel and working outdoors; I still do, and now I also love my work because of the impact I can make. I can share my knowledge, and meet people who have entirely different viewpoints and life experiences, who can teach me about their unique situation of living beside an active volcano. I have found that in science, the more effort I put in, the more I learn, and the better an experience I have. Also, acting as if I can do something before I feel I am 100% ready is scary, but rewarding. Don't limit yourself to what you aren't afraid of doing.

Rebecca Paisley, McGill University, Canada
From: UK (Near London)
I’m Becky, a PhD student at McGill University in Canada studying rare volcanoes in Chile and how they erupted. I take classes, teach students, and go on cool trips, all alongside the research I do every day. At the end of my studies I’ll hand in my thesis (the summary of all of my research) and will be Dr Paisley. I hope my research will help people better understand how the types of eruptions I study change with time so they can inform locals of the associated hazards. I really enjoy what I do because of the travel I get to do, the people I get to meet and the things I get to learn. Geology is a great because you study why the Earth is the way it is. Why are there mountains, volcanoes and oceans? How did plants and animals evolve? Why are we here?! The people I get to meet inspire me every day, from professors researching unknown planetary processes to government officials informing communities about local hazards. They all work together to make vulnerable people (and animals) safer in a rapidly changing world. Geology and volcanology has also allowed me to see so many interesting places including the volcanic islands of Greece, the mountains in the Western USA and the plains of Patagonia in Chile. My PhD work has seen me climb and camp on the top of volcanoes, sleeping under the stars. It is moments like these that make me realise how lucky I am, but I also know that I worked really hard to get where I am today.

My message to all the girls (and boys!) who think their dreams are out of reach because they are not smart enough is this - if you work hard at school, find your passion and chase it, anything is possible. My best friend told me recently that when we were 14 I told her that one day I’d like a job studying volcanoes. Now I’m 25 and I get paid to study volcanoes! I hope you never stop challenging yourself and chasing your ambitions because I never will!

Melanie J. Froude, University of East Anglia, UK
I am a geomorphologist who is interested in how earth surface processes shape mountain environments: from the movement of individual grains to the formation of volcanic complexes. I am currently involved in several projects investigating landslide hazard and risk with Professor Dave Petley, at Sheffield University UK. Recently I have worked in the mountains surrounding Santiago, Chile to understand where landslides may be triggered if an earthquake were to occur on the San Ramon fault, located at the edge of Santiago city. I am interested in slope instability both locally and globally. We keep a global landslide fatality database to identify where there are lots of landslides which harm people. Governments and NGOs use this information to invest in landslide reduction measures such as barriers and early warning systems. Scientists are interested in whether landslide occurrence will change in response to changing climate and the projected increases in global population. I find research challenging but incredibly stimulating. I love solving problems, working with new innovative technology and not being chained to a desk. My research has taken me around the world, from the slopes of the active Soufriere Hills volcano on Montserrat, to the Andes! I have enjoyed using highly-technical equipment such as laser scanners to make 3D maps of rock faces, and been given creative freedom to design a low-cost remote camera to monitor volcanic flash-floods. I am a woman working in science.

How did I get here? I started out as a curious, driven school girl who liked hiking and climbing in the mountains. When I started studying how landscapes form, I realised that many natural processes are incredibly dangerous and people frequently get in the way. I am motivated to reduce the impact of geohazards on people, and am particularly interested in the benefit of low-cost early warning systems for developing economies. Creative solutions in science take years to develop and many generations of brilliant minds! You guys reading this still at school… you are those brilliant minds! Being “smart” is about having imagination, curiosity, passion and not being afraid of a challenge, it has nothing to do with whether you are a boy or a girl!!

Gloria Patricia Cortés Jiménez, Colombian Geological Service and Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Manizales, Colombia
From: Manizales, Caldas, Colombia
I am Gloria Patricia Cortés Jiménez. I am a geologist – volcanologist from Colombia, coordinator of the Manizales Volcanological and Seismological Observatory belong to the Colombian Geological Service (SGC). Since 26 years ago I am working on Colombian active volcanoes mapping volcanic deposits, preparing volcanic hazard maps, studying recent eruptions and recently focus in volcanic risk management. I lead interinstitutional and community strategies of social appropriation of geoscientific knowledge in the areas of influence of the active volcanoes of the segment North of Colombia (Nevado del Ruiz Volcano and other 10 volcanoes in the region).

I love and enjoy so much my work, volcanoes are beautiful and enigmatic. To know the history of activity of a volcano the geologists must work around it analyzing everything as detectives to reconstruct the sequence and type of eruptions and to determine the character or eruptive style of the volcano. The work in active volcanoes allows us to enjoy fascinating landscapes but at the same time is a work of high risk by the climatic conditions, the relief and the volcanic activity itself. But the most important thing about being a volcanologist is to work for the community with the community. Our mission is focused on helping communities to know their territory and make the best decisions to protect and save their lives in case of a future volcanic crisis or eruption. Participation of communities is the key in a successful volcanic risk management process.

Dear young girls, we want you to be motivated to know the landscapes and secrets of our volcanoes. You are very intelligent and could become scientists as geologists or volcanologists. We want many more women to work in the community to make our planet safer and do not die more people for not knowing what volcanoes can do in the region in which they live. I want to invite you to investigate and know more about the volcano closest to your city? Surely find many positive things about it, we want reflections if there are risks or negative aspects in case of a future eruption. I want you to know that you as girls and young women are not only the future, you are also the present and can already participate in activities to save lives

Welcome to wonderful volcanology world!!

Hannah Moss-Davies, Coventry University, UK
I’m Hannah, and I'm a volcanologist doing my PhD at Coventry University, UK. My work uses artificial intelligence to find volcanoes that are reawakening or could potentially cause large eruptions by looking for temperatures changes using infrared satellite data. I hope to be able to identify patterns of temperature changes before eruptions which could help warn people in areas that might be affected, as well as help with local planning of hazards caused by volcanoes. Not only do I love my work because I get to help people across the world, but I also get find out previously undiscovered facts about how volcanoes work.

My message to girls and women: Never let anyone tell you that you are not smart because of your gender, and if they do, question them, because smart people question everything.


Michelle Muth, University of Oregon, USA
From: Oreland, Pennsylvania, USA
I study the chemistry of magmas at the University of Oregon. I feel very lucky to have this job. I get to go to amazing places, work on challenging problems, and do what I love every day. Discovering the way our world works is an amazing process, and its an honor to be a part of it.

When I was little, I never used to think of myself as a 'scientist type'. I loved nail polish and art class just as much as I loved nature and science. But I'm so glad that I didn't let that stop me from getting involved in research. You don't have to match what other people think 'smart' looks like. Just follow your own passion and curiosity!



Sarah Milicich, GNS Science, New Zealand
I work as a geothermal geologist in New Zealand. I study the rocks that host hot water in geothermal systems. In New Zealand, these are mostly rocks exploded from ancient volcanoes, which are now buried under many other layers of rocks. When you have hot water flowing through these rocks, primary minerals (there from when the rock formed) are replaced by secondary minerals (from the hot fluid). These secondary minerals provide information on fluid temperature and chemistry, and how permeable the rock is. From this information, I am able to give advice on how to use these hot fluids for producing electricity. As geothermal energy is renewable, it plays an important role in helping offset climate change. My work is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The information from geothermal drillholes is like a straw viewer into the subsurface which can be used to essentially look back through time, which I find fascinating! I love that I have been part of an area of work that used to have very few females and now make a large part of the workforce, from the geoscience side right through all aspects of the geothermal industry.


Kyriaki (Sandy) Drymoni, Royal Holloway University of London, UK
From: Santorini Island, Greece
My name is Kyriaki (Sandy) Drymoni and I am a PhD student in Volcanotectonics at Royal Holloway University of London. In my research, I study the amazing volcano of Santorini in Greece and I try to understand how magma makes its way from underground to form a volcanic eruption. Volcanotectonics is a fascinating subject which allows me to be adventurous, travel to new places and meet new and interesting people. I hope that my research will be useful in helping to forecast when a volcano will erupt and thereby help people living near volcanoes.

My message: Successful and bright women in any male-dominated profession are like roses in a beautiful and colourful bouquet of flowers. Once they bloom, it smells like heaven!'


Karen Holmberg, New York University, USA
From: Mathews County, Virginia, USA
Karen's website
When I was a little girl I read a chapter in an old book I found called The Book of Marvels about Pompeii and that was it! I fell in love with archaeology and volcanoes and wanted nothing more than to work with the two of them together. For my PhD at Columbia University I combined data and laboratory methods from both archaeology and volcanology to try and understand how human beings perceive their environments, particularly when they change rapidly. I've been able to work in a lot of places, which is one of my favorite parts of the work! To date I've done fieldwork in Amazonia, Antarctica, Belize, El Salvador, Greece, Hawaii, Panama, and Papua New Guinea. I've gotten to travel to a lot of other places to examine volcanoes or attend scientific conferences in places like Japan, Indonesia, Chile, and Iceland. I'm at the very beginning stages of a new project in Patagonia that I'm excited about because it entails prehistoric rock art in caves surrounded by volcanoes that have erupted regularly over at least the past 18,000 years. I want to figure out whether human beings saw those eruptions and if they did how they were affected by them. I love trying to better understand the very deep time span and linkage between human culture and the natural environment. I think that's a very important thing to understand in our current era of environmental degradation and change to better understand how to frame both our present and future relationships with nature!

I live in New York City now but I grew up in a small, rural county in Virginia where most people in my class did not go to college. There certainly weren't any volcanoes nearby. If you've got a dream or something you love, whether it is in the sciences or anything else, follow it! Life is short and powerful and you need to forge your own path. If you would like to see more stories about women in archaeology, geology, and paleontology there is a great blog called Trowel Blazers that you can check out! There is also a pretty cool Fossil Hunter Lottie Doll, if you like dolls. She's not an archaeologist but I think paleontologists are pretty cool too.

Dr Katie Preece, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, and the University of East Anglia, UK
From: Stoke-on-Trent, UK
I’m a volcanologist based at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) and a visiting researcher at the University of East Anglia, UK. I study the rocks erupted by volcanoes to find out when they erupted in the past, how big the eruptions were and what happened inside the volcanic plumbing system to cause an eruption. If we can work out what a volcano did in the past, it can help inform us of what a volcano might do in the future and allow communities living near volcanoes to better prepare for an eruption. I love travelling to volcanoes all over the world to study and collect their rocks and to bring them back to the lab to analyse. One of the most stimulating and exciting parts of my job is interpreting my data and finding out brand new information about how volcanoes work. I also really value the opportunities I get to work with many different male and female scientists from all over the world.

Growing up on a council estate in England, I didn’t know anybody who was a scientist, but I was always interested in nature and my parents always encouraged me. To all the girls out there… believe in your abilities and keep working hard. Some things will be difficult, but keep practicing, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t give up. As my Mum always said to me, you can be anything you want to be and achieve anything you put your mind to. Girls are just as capable, clever and strong as boys, so never be put off!

Keri McNamara, Bristol University, UK
I'm a volcanologist researching volcanoes in Ethiopia. I'm doing a PhD at Bristol University in the UK. I love working abroad- particularly in Ethiopia. It's such an amazing experience to go somewhere where the volcanoes haven't really been studied before and try and learn about them. Ethiopia is very densely populated with lots of people living on the volcanoes so it's really important we try to understand them to help predict what they might do in the future. It's also really cool talking to the locals and getting to know another culture. It's a great to know you have a job that might actually be making a difference in the world, however small it may be! It's also great fun back in Bristol working in the lab- I get to do lots of experiments which makes for an entertaining day-to-day routine!

Smart isn't about getting top marks in every exam and beating all your classmates (I definitely didn't). It's about finding something you love and working hard enough at it until you succeed. Don't get bogged down by setbacks- just keep on trying :)

Also my office is full of girls (who are all amazing at what they do). It's definitely not just a profession for boys.

Nicky Young, University of Bristol, UK
From: UK, USA, Ireland
Photo courtesy of the USGS, taken during her duties as a volunteer for the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

I work at the University of Bristol and I use geophysics to study how volcanoes move and what it means when they do.

Volcanoes are powerful, extreme, fascinating objects which form an important part of our natural world. One of the best parts of my job is being able to visit active volcanoes, but I also love the challenge of trying to understand what is happening beneath our feet, where it is impossible to physically go.

If we can understand volcanoes better - we can improve our plans for what to do when a volcano erupts, and improve our forecast of when and how it might happen.

In my job I am surrounded by smart, talented women and smart, talented men, both making
incredible advances in volcanology. Little girls and little boys both have wonderful potential to do anything they puts their minds to. Little girls and little boys both can grow up to be scientists, politicians, chefs, nurses, teachers... the list is endless! There are so many kinds of intelligence needed for so many different jobs. Little girls have the intelligence for all of them - never let anybody tell you anything else.


Jan Lindsay, University of Auckland, New Zealand
From: Rotorua, New Zealand
My name is Jan and I am a volcanologist at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand. I am also a mum, with two boys ages 13 and 11. I am very lucky to work at a university because I get to do lots of different things. I teach undergraduate students about Earth Science, especially volcanoes and other natural hazards, and I supervise Masters and PhD students working on some amazing projects, from looking at how fast magma rises beneath volcanoes in Auckland to how scientists can help emergency managers make decisions in a crisis. Like almost all Earth Scientists I regularly get to go "in the field", which in my case involves wandering around volcanoes, both in NZ and in other amazing countries around the world. That is one of the best parts of my job. I also love building bridges between scientists and non-scientists; after all it is often at intersections of disciplines where great things happen! Over my career I have noticed that I work differently to many of my colleagues. I don't work ridiculously long hours, because it is important to me to see my kids off to school in the morning, and to be home in time to have dinner with my family. Sometimes I even work from home so I can be there when they get home from school. It has taken me many years to come to the realisation that this a really SMART way to work!! I absolutely love my job, and that makes me productive and happy. If you want to read more visit my webpage or follow me on Twitter!

Philippa Demonte, University of Salford, UK
What do I do and where do I work? This is not such an easy question for me to answer, because I have just started a new job doing research on 3-dimensional sound for tv and radio programmes, and although it is very cool, it is not so easy to explain in just one paragraph. So I shall instead tell you instead about what I was doing before.

I was (still am?) a volcanologist. Every volcanologist has different interests. Mine was monitoring geyser and volcano eruptions from the sounds they made. We have special sensors called seismometers, which can detect the little earthquakes that are generated as magma pushes through the surrounding rock towards the surface, and we also have infrasound sensors, a type of microphone which can detect the very deep and low sounds that are made by eruption plumes pushing through the air. I am also interested in how people have adapted to living around volcanoes, how they react to eruptions, how they cope if they have to be evacuated from their homes, and what then happens after an eruption.

Why I love what I do? There are several reasons why I love doing scientific research, especially in geoscience. Firstly, my work and studies have allowed me to travel and work in some really exotic locations, including Hawaii, where Kilauea volcano has been erupting constantly for over 30 years, Montserrat (in the Eastern Carribean), where Soufriere Hills Volcano's eruptions have destroyed everything in the southern half of the island, Chile, Japan, Kamchatka, Yellowstone National Park in the U.S., Iceland....beautiful parts of the world! Secondly, from visiting all these places I have met some amazing people and made some great friends. Thirdly, working in volcanology, and science in general, is really satisfying. Volcanology is like trying to solve a puzzle. Often what we see is the evidence at the surface of an eruption, such as the patterns recorded by a seismometer, or frozen lava flows or thick deposits of volcanic ash that were erupted tens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of years ago. From these clues we have to work out how and when the volcanoes erupted so that we can try and forecast how, when, and where they might erupt again, particularly if there are now people living around these volcanoes. Part of our work is to educate local communities so that they will be prepared if the volcano they live around erupts in the future, and if necessary, know how to evacuate safely.

As for the research that I have just started on 3-dimensional sound for broadcast, which uses my scientific skills and knowledge from working with volcano and geyser eruption sounds, this is going to have a big impact on society in the future. In particular, for older people and others with hearing difficulties, instead of turning up the volume of their tv or radio or computer, which distorts sounds, they will be able to select the particular sounds, such as speech, and where to place them in a virtual 3-dimensional space around themselves in order to better hear a programme.

My definition of a smart person is not the straight A-grade student. It's someone who has a real passion in life for something, who has an inquisitive mind, who keeps asking questions about how or why something works, or doesn't work. It's about being creative and thinking of alternative solutions to problems. It's the person who believes in themselves, who doesn't necessarily follow the rest of the pack, who gets back up again whenever they get knocked down, and who perseveres through tough times.

Work hard, and be good to other people.
 
Annie Worden, PhD student, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
I was initiated into volcanology early on, through the stories my uncle used to tell of his time as a volcanologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. It always seemed like a grand adventure from the story books, but when I got to college, I realized I could actually do it. I studied geology at the University of North Dakota and earned my Bachelor’s degree. As I finished up that degree I was alerted to the Volunteer Program at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. I applied immediately and was accepted. I spent 3 months running around an active volcano, learning new things, gathering new data, and witnessing the start of the summit crater eruption. I was lucky enough to work with scientists who have lived on the volcano their entire lives as well as work with the surrounding communities to improve knowledge of the amazing place that they lived.

After Hawaii I traveled far north to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to begin a Master’s degree in geology. During this time I worked closely with researchers at the Alaska Volcano Observatory and found my place in volcano remote sensing. I have since earned a Master’s of Science in Geology and am currently a PhD student at UAF working towards a Doctorate in Geophysics. I use satellite data to create new monitoring methods at remote volcanoes. The work that I do has the potential to help save lives, protect infrastructure, and influence policy.

I have been lucky enough to travel to Hawaii, Italy, and Russia to study volcanic activity. Each day in the field is an opportunity to learn something new and to see something that no one else has ever seen. I have watched lava flows, explosive eruptions, ocean entries, vigorous fumaroles, sub-snow volcanism, and ash falls.

The life that I thought came out of a fairytale is the life that I am lucky enough to live. Don’t ever forget that if you want something, it is within your reach. Go out and do great things, make discoveries, and have fun doing it!


Manuela Tost, Research Fellow, University of Auckland, New Zealand
The first time I stepped on an active volcano, I was so amazed by it’s destruction that I just wanted to know how they work. That’s what got me into studying Geology. It wasn’t an easy ride though. I grew up in a pretty conservative village where woman are not supposed to pursue adventures or careers. I was also told that there’s no way I can become a volcanologist living and studying in Germany, and I had lecturers ignoring me for being a woman… but here I am living in New Zealand, and being a field volcanologist. What I love the most about my job is the variety of projects I’m working on, and the places I get to see: I study highly explosive volcanoes in New Zealand and in Tonga, but have also been to Vanuatu recently. I love the idea that what I do might make a difference to someone out there - and that’s what keeps me motivated. I’m incredibly grateful to have met so many beautiful people along my way, in science as well as outside of it, thanks to my job. I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and sunshine now. There’ll probably always be those kind of people that are trying to convince you that you’re “not enough”. I guess we all, no matter how old or how successful, have to learn that it’s not a reflection of who you are, but who they are. So don’t let the negativity of others define you, let it make you strive for better - not only in your (future) career, but also in life.


Engielle Mae Paguican, Postdoc, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
Photo: Me and a colleague with some rescuers from the Philippine and US army after an aerial survey of the debris avalanche area in Leyte, Philippines.

I was born and grew up at the foot of Mt Apo, the highest volcano in the Philippines. Every morning I would see the volcano and I have always wondered how it grew very big and beautiful, and how the surroundings would look like if I was there standing at the top.

When I took up my masters, I got to be involved in disaster work. I was one of the young scientists who were sent to search for an elementary school in Leyte when a very big landslide (also called debris avalanche) covered the entire village and moved it half a kilometer away from its original position. It was exciting, yet at the same time I felt I carried a burden to actually be involved in a rescue operation searching for people buried under so much debris—you have the urge to use not only your logic but also courage to try things that might help you save other people. I got to fly on helicopters; C130 army planes and Chinooks to take photos that helped us pinpoint the buried village.

I think being a volcanologist and a scientist is both challenging and fun at the same time. You get to think of new ideas to help solve a problem. You get to use your imagination and logic to think of solutions. You get a chance to do crazy but innovative things and learn something new every time. It pushes you to work hard and have perseverance at every little thing you do. It is fun learning things this way. Currently, I play with sand in the laboratory— who would have known that at this age, I can earn a living building sand volcanoes? This is what I do to understand how climate, tectonic movement and volcanoes interact.

A few months later, a major volcanic mudflow (called a lahar) rushed down the slopes of Mayon volcano, known for its almost perfect cone shape. We were there to find out why a lot of villages were wiped out and covered by the flow deposits. It is exciting to do science—it opens your eyes to both the beauty and wrath of nature, and helps us understand natural phenomenon that will hopefully keep our fellow people out of harm’s way in the future.

I am Super Engielle in the lab ready to mix my silica sand with a concrete mixer and hand drill to make sand volcanoes. Behind me is a pressure machine that I use for simulating rain over my volcanoes.

Science has brought me from a small city in southern Philippines to so many places in Asia, North America, and Europe while making friends with many different personalities and backgrounds along the way. I have learned to listen to other people’s idea and respect their opinion as well as formulate my own. I am evidence that science is for everyone—no matter where you come from or how little you have so long as you have your eyes wide open and ears ready to listen to observe what our dynamic earth wants to show, bright imagination and innovation, combined with hard work and perseverance. Being smart knows no gender or nationality— but it does require an urge to know the unknown and deeper understanding of what we already know in order to understand the world in which we live in.


Trish Gregg, Assistant Professor of Geophysics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA (Chief Scientist of the OASIS Expedition)
From: Rolla, Missouri, USA (tiny town of 14,000 people in the Missouri Ozarks)
Photo: The image is from my first dive in Alvin, taken by my co-Chief Mike Perfit (U-FL)
My students may say that I am somewhat obsessed with volcanoes. I am fascinated by how they form, how they evolve through time, and what triggers their eruption. My primary tools for understanding volcanoes come from geophysical observations and large numerical simulations, but nothing stirs my imagination like getting out in the field and exploring volcanoes. I think you could say I am an equal opportunist when it comes to volcanoes, I study strato volcanoes impacting populations in Indonesia, “supervolcanoes” such as Yellowstone that may impact us all, volcanoes on the Moon, and also submarine volcanoes that form over 2/3 of the Earth’s crust.

This past fall I led a sea-going expedition to the eastern equatorial Pacific as Chief Scientist. We used the submarine Alvin to explore a chain of volcanoes that has never before been explored by humans. During this expedition, I had my first opportunity to dive to the bottom of the ocean and see first-hand seafloor volcanism, which I had been studying for over 15 years! My 4 dives in Alvin have changed my perspective in ways I never could have never imagined. Seeing the life that is sustained by these volcanoes, as well as their spectacular lava flows was truly awe inspiring.

A message for girls: You can do it! Seriously, there is no exact formula for becoming a scientist, but one thing that is common is a passion and interest in learning and discovery. I started out wanting to go to art school for painting and composition (much to my parents’ chagrin). It turned out that my love of outdoor landscapes was the perfect catalyst towards a degree in Geology and now a career exploring the world around me. I love travel, being outdoors, and working with others. Every day I know I will get to learn something new and continue to grow and develop as a scientist as I face new challenges. I am living my dream job and I feel so incredibly fortunate.

You can learn more about the OASIS Expedition here, and my experience diving to the bottom of the ocean in Alvin here.

Cassandra Smith, University of South Florida, USA 
From: Camden, New York, USA
Hi! My name is Cassandra Smith and I am a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. I am working on a doctorate studying volcanic lightning. I love my career because everyday invites new challenges and I get to experience science in the field and lab. One of my favorite experiences was when I was able to travel to Japan for field work where I saw a volcano erupt for the first time. It was an amazing cultural experience as well as scientifically awesome. I also love talking with local schools to get kids just like you excited about geology! I hope that my research into volcanic lightning will one day help communities better monitor and understand their local volcanoes. I fell in love with geology and science when I was in 8th grade, it hasn't always been the easiest road but it has always been worth it. If you love science you can be a scientist - don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. If you work for it you can achieve your dreams.

Sarah Lambart, Cardiff University, UK
When I was a kid, I was not the best student, but I've always been fascinated by volcanoes. When I turned 18, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to do in my life. My dream was to study the magma formation and transport! I was in Brittany in France, far from any active volcanoes, I didn't even know if this could be a real job... So I looked for information on the potential formations and careers and I decided to become a researcher. I studied, a lot, I work hard, but it was not difficult because I was studying something that I loved!

I am now a researcher and teacher at the University and I reproduce the magma formation processes in the lab using high-tech equipment, doing what I always wanted to do! I also get to be outdoor, in beautiful places with outstanding landscapes and I travel all over the words to meet other geoscientists and discuss next challenges! I love my job! Each day I'm learning something new! I also loved teaching. Being able to transmit my passion to someone is such a rewarding experience.
 My message for girls is: I'm a French woman who grew up in an "art & literature oriented" environment and far from any active volcanoes. This didn't stop me. If you have a dream, don't give up. Believe in yourself! And more importantly, have fun!


Sonja Melander, Science Education Coordinator, Mount St. Helens Institute, USA
From: Wilmington, North Carolina, USA
Growing up, I loved playing in dirt, reading books, solving puzzles, creating art, and learning about science. As I grew up, those things did not change. When I was in school, I studied volcanoes and worked side jobs as a tutor and a camp counselor. I loved my time in school as a researcher solving science puzzles but after a while I began to think “hey, what if I combine ALL of those things I love? Can I?” Yes I can, yes I did, and yes you can too!

After earning my degree in volcanology I combined all of these loves into a career as a science educator at volcanoes, which has taken me to some amazing places: the Caribbean island of Montserrat, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho (USA) and now, Mount St. Helens (USA)! My job is tons of fun and I get to do the things that make me happy: hiking around volcanoes, sharing my love of science with others, learning new things, and even creating art! I regularly create art for work as I work on projects like developing new educational activities. I love these things so much I do it on the side too; I self-published a rhyming book about a volcano that I wrote and illustrated and am (slowly) working on another! Science education and communication is an important part of science. For those that work, live or play near volcanoes like Mount St. Helens,
understanding what scientists have learned about volcanoes is an important part of staying safe.

Being smart is not about how good you are at memorizing facts or taking tests; it is about curiosity and critical thinking. Keep wondering about things and asking “why?”! Being smart is also about figuring out what gets you excited and makes you happy and then figuring out a way to use your strengths and all of what makes you unique to do what you love! It is important to remember that nobody is perfect and that you should never to be too hard on yourself or tell yourself you can’t follow your dreams. Don’t let the world tell you what you can or can’t do with your life; YOU tell the world!

Dr Anna Hicks, British Geological Survey and the University of East Anglia, UK 
From: Cardiff, South Wales, UK
Up until the age of 15, there was only one thing I was determined to be when I ‘grew up’….. a veterinary surgeon. Not a volcanologist. Back then I wasn’t even quite sure what one was (insert all Star Trek jokes here!) Then something happened in my life that made me think, “why don’t I pursue subjects I enjoy at school, rather than forcing myself to be great at subjects I would struggle with?” So, with the support of my family, and great teachers, I embraced Geology and Geography, and have never looked back!

I’m now working at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, Scotland, and am also a visiting researcher at the University of East Anglia where I spent eight years conducting research. I had zig-zagged a bit through life before that, wondering if my future was in science communication or making geoscience media, before pausing for a while in academia. Then I realised I don’t have to do just one thing, in fact all those skills and experience go together rather nicely!

Through my work on the ‘Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas’ project, and prior to that my PhD research on Tristan da Cunha (picture above taken from summit of Tristan’s volcano), I have developed a great passion for working with communities who are living alongside active volcanoes. Possibly the second most common question I get asked is, “Why do people live on volcanoes when they know they’re dangerous?” While the reasons behind the answer are often very complex, my simple response is, “Because it’s their home”. By working across physical and social sciences, and by communicating effectively, I try to understand some of those more complex reasons and help create a conversation between communities and those that often make decisions on their behalf. And of course, as conversations should be two-way, I also communicate new scientific knowledge to help empower people at-risk from eruptions to strengthen their resilience to them.

Beyond the joy that comes from traveling all over the world for my job, I am lucky to work with volcanologists, other scientists and researchers – women and men – all of whom bring a different set of skills to help work towards a common goal: to help save lives and livelihoods. I love being part of this great big team. I help in my small way with the skills I have. I’ll be honest, I can’t paint a picture that resembles anything, and I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to do simultaneous equations, but I’m good at the things I can do. So to all the girls: it’s difficult to hide passion, so don’t bother, be proud of your interests and skills, whatever they may be. That’s what makes you smart.

Annie Winson, Associate Lecturer, Aberystwyth University, UK
I am an associate lecturer at Aberystwyth University, where I teach courses about Geohazards and Volcanic Activity. When I’m not teaching, my research focuses on how we can improve our understanding of volcanic systems to be better able to forecast when they might erupt and how big those eruptions might be. I compile databases of pre-eruption information and use statistical analysis to predict the most likely outcomes of certain types of unrest. I also use numerical modelling of phenomena such as pyroclastic flows to assess, ahead of time, which areas close to the volcano are likely to be impacted. Over the course of my career, my research has taken me to: Guatemala, Greece, Hawaii, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

One of the other projects I am working on at the moment is to help develop best practices for designing and issuing volcano alert levels. This Volcano Alert Level working group is being run by me, Sally Potter (GNS), Carina Fearnley (UCL) and Amy Donovan (Kings College) – all of us women in volcanology! My favourite part of my job is when I get to travel to volcanoes around the world and work with the inspiring scientists who dedicate their lives to keeping their communities safe. It always makes me want to come home and work harder!

When I was about 9 my Dad was looking after me for the day, he’d been at work all night and so he decided we would watch the television. There was a program about volcanologists who were working in Hawaii; I decided that that looked like the best job in the world. I was so lucky that my parents and my teachers were always so supportive of this dream. I had to work hard; I was never the ‘cleverest’ person in my class and I had some problems that I needed to get round. I also did come across people who didn’t expect me to achieve my goals because I was a woman (thankfully not many). Here’s the thing though, if I can do it, you can do it. Find the thing that you are passionate about and don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not going to succeed. Get your head down, work hard and let all of the noise fade into the background!

Claire Horwell, Associate Professor (Reader), Durham University UK.
From: London, UK
Director of the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network
I climbed my first volcano (in Indonesia), aged 7 and made a deep connection with our Earth that I haven’t been able to unpick since! At school, I knew I loved Geography (especially the volcanoes bit), yet nobody told me that we could go to university to study volcanoes. In fact, despite getting As at GCSE in Maths, Chemistry and Physics, I was advised not to take these at A Level. Nevertheless, I somehow ended up studying Environmental Science which, it turned out, was pretty close to Geology, but spent the rest of my career catching up on the poor careers advice I’d been given at school.

During my degree, I finally found out that there was such a thing as Volcanology, so I followed my passion and went to New Zealand to do a Masters in Volcanology. I also had a passion for medicine but couldn’t stand the sight of blood … but there I found my niche: studying the impacts of volcanoes on public health. I did my PhD in Bristol where Steve Sparks was brave enough to step way outside his own expertise and supervise me on a project on characteristics of volcanic ash which may influence disease development. So, my career was born.

Right after my PhD I founded the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, was awarded a couple of Fellowships and finally got my permanent post at Durham. Now I have a wonderful, interdisciplinary career where I actually make a difference in the world, through advising governments, international agencies and communities on health hazards of volcanoes and community protection, as well as the more run-of-the-mill climbing volcanoes, working in the lab and, mostly, sitting at my desk!

I have two kids (aged 10 and 7) and I tell both my daughter and son that they can be anything they want to be if they work and try hard. My extra piece of advice is to follow your passion and ignore ridiculous advice given by out-of-touch careers advisors/teachers at school! If you think you can do it, you can!


Lis Gallant, University of South Florida, USA
From: Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
Photos: Talking to the media in Nicaragua, and fieldwork on Momotombo volcano.
My name is Lis Gallant and I am a PhD student in volcanology at the University of South Florida. In my short time as a scientist I have gotten to use a variety of techniques (ground penetrating radar, terrestrial radar interferometry, structure-from-motion, gravity, and magnetics) to study volcanic hazards in places like Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Hawai'i, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. My current work involves terrestrial radar mapping at Momotombo volcano in Nicaragua to explore lava flow and rockfall hazards. I also participate in a great deal of outreach as the speaker coordinator for the Tampa Taste of Science , which lets me share all of these wonderful experiences with the folks in my local community.

I love the work I do because no two visits to the same volcano are ever the same. Every different viewpoint and new technique brought in to help solve these dynamic problems makes for a much better solution. Smart people surround themselves with smarter people - it's no surprise that volcanology is such an exciting science to study because of the opportunity to work alongside other strong and brilliant women who empower one another!


Sophia Tsang, University of Auckland, New Zealand
My name is Sophia Tsang, and I am a PhD student at The University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand where I study lava flows in the built environment. Auckland was built in an active volcanic field, so I research how lava flows would affect elements of the city such as buildings and power lines in a future eruption. Not only am I investigating which elements of the city would be the most vulnerable during a future eruption, but I am also helping develop methods to protect those elements. Thus, a future eruption will hopefully be the least disruptive it could be to the community. I love learning and creating knowledge although being able to work with communities and help improve people's lives is even more exciting. Through my work, I not only get to work with amazing people, but I also get to travel the world. Although there have been a lot of people who have helped and encourage me reach where I am now, I also think it's really important to be your biggest advocate.

Just like there are many ways to help other people, there are many ways of being smart. Even if you aren't sure, internalize the voices of your supporters. Having confidence in your work shows when you present it to others. I'm looking forward to seeing what you choose to do with your time!


Arianna Soldati, University of Missouri - Columbia , USA
From: Milano, Italy
There are over 500 million people living in the shadow of an active volcano worldwide, and although lava flows do not usually endanger their lives, they often destroy their homes. In order to safeguard those communities, we need to improve our understanding of lava flow dynamics. I contribute to this endeavor by studying lava rheology through a combination of field and laboratory work.
I have been passionate about volcanoes for as long as I can remember, and after watching a volcanic eruption up close for the first time I was hooked for life. When I realized that being a Volcanologist was a real job, I had a career plan!

I love being a scientist, because I get to push forward the boundaries of knowledge daily. And I love being a volcanologist, because I get the chance to see geology happen before my eyes. As a bonus, it is a very unique, dynamic job. One week I may be out in some exotic field location, and the next I’ll be running laboratory experiments or sharing exciting discoveries with my community. Feel free to check out my website for more about my volcano adventures!

My advice to you girls is to find out what you are passionate about, and let that guide you through life. Be curious and persistent. Science is as much about asking questions as it is about answering them. And failing in the process is ok, so don’t ever let setbacks discourage you!

Sally Sennert, USGS and Smithsonian, USA
Hi! My name is Sally Sennert and I am a volcanologist with the USGS, stationed at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum to work with the Global Volcanism Program. For the last 10+ years I have primarily been writing the Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, which is a summary of world-wide volcanic activity posted every Wednesday. I love my job! I feel like I take Earth’s pulse each week, getting glimpses of what the planet’s diverse and interesting volcanoes are doing. And then I get to share that knowledge with you!

Until grad school I didn’t know one could BE a volcanologist (even though I experienced the 1992 Mt Spurr eruption in Alaska)- it just did not cross my mind. My pathway to get to where I am today was quite convoluted, and I learned some valuable lessons I want to share with anyone reading this who may feel a little lost about what career path to take. I needed a summer job when I was 18 but the thought of working in fast food or in the mall was uninspiring. So I decided that my only requirement for a job was that I would have to wear a lab coat (because cool people wear lab coats). I showed up at a local behavioral neuroscience lab one day, not knowing anything about what they did there, and asked if they needed any help. They did! I worked at that lab for the next eight years, while earning a degree in Anthropology and learning how to do science from my boss, who was a great mentor and role model (and also happened to be female)! After being at the lab for so long I wanted to change my path, and circle back to a childhood love, and in doing so I learned another valuable lesson…in persistence. I decided to apply to grad school for geology but was discouraged by a few of the professors because I lacked the “proper” background. They told me that I did not belong there. How disheartening! But I did not give up. Another professor brought me on to project studying sand dune migration, but on a field trip to the southern California/Nevada area to look at volcanic deposits (and for me to gain field experience) I was hooked, and switched right there to another of his projects, studying an active volcano with satellite data. After grad school I worked for a satellite imaging company and then found my dream job working for the USGS at the Smithsonian.

So, my advice? Dream big! No one does what you want to do? Be the first! Someone tells you no? Ignore them and persist. Lack the knowledge and background to do what you want? Study harder. Don’t ever be afraid to “fail”, for a roadblock can motivate you to work harder or push you in a new and unexpected direction. And talk to people- no one gets to where they are going by doing it alone.



Additional Links:

See more in-depth profiles of women working in the Geosciences at Girls into Geoscience.

A range of geoscientists have shared their career experiences at Rock-Head Sciences.

Top 5 Kid's Volcano Fiction

Top 5 female scientists in natural hazards movies

You don't have to be Wonderwoman to be an Academic; but standing a bit like her sometimes helps...

There are more in-depth stories of women in geoscience and what some of us do at Girls Into Geoscience. I also encourage you to look into GeoGirls, an opportunity to spend a week conducting hands-on-research with USGS and the MSH Institute, find more and apply information here.

Twenty middle-school girls from Washington and Oregon participated in the 2016 “GeoGirls” outdoor volcano science program at Mount St. Helens, jointly organized by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Mount St. Helens Institute.

The GeoGirls spent five days conducting hands-on research and interacting with scientists, educators, and older students, learning about volcanoes, natural hazards, and modern scientific monitoring technologies. They camped, hiked to field sites, worked on research projects with scientists, and learned how to document and share their scientific findings by building a public webpage. Highlights from the week are showcased in this video.

The goal of the program is for GeoGirls participants to emerge with a stronger understanding and connection to Earth systems and feel confident in choosing careers in science, technology, engineering, math or other STEM-related fields.

The program was led by female scientists from the USGS, the Mount St. Helens Institute, UNAVCO, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, University of Washington, Western Washington University and Oregon State University. This is the second summer of the GeoGirls program, which will continue in 2017.

To apply, visit the Mount St. Helens Institute webpage here. Registration for the 2017 will open soon.

NOTE: I will keep adding to this list as more women in volcanology send me their messages of what it is like to be a volcanologist, and encouragement for girls around the world. If you identify as a woman in volcanology and would like to be included please get in touch with me (Janine).

9 comments:

  1. Inspirational and informative! #FemalesFollowYourDreams #DiversityRocks

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  2. What a wonderful post for my 14yr old wannabe volcanologist daughter. I hope one of you can take her under your wing for work experience...

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  3. Thank you! This is an awesome and important read.

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  4. When I started studying geology at the University of Bochum, Germany, in 1985, the proportion of female study mates was around 15%. Over the following few years it steadily increased. Here at the University of Catania in Sicily, more than 30 years later, the proportion of female students in geosciences oscillates around 50% and it's similar all over Italy. That is a wonderful evolution. Just go girls, do it, do become volcanologists, it's the best job I could imagine. There are lots of magnificent female volcanologists around, which, as a male volcanologist, makes me all the more proud to be part of this community.

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  5. Wonderful and inspiring. Thank you. I forwarded it to all the students in our program at Cal State Long Beach.

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  6. This is the most inspirational thing I've ever read. As a current undergrad and someone who is interested in working with volcanoes one day, I want to thank all of you for doing what you do -- being awesome and empowering. My dream is to one day work in New Zealand, and seeing that so many of you are currently living out my dream has inspired to me to work all the harder to get where I want to be. So proud of us women!

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  7. Awesome project, really great idea this blog! I am privileged in knowing some of the bloggers. Trust in your ideas, hope you will have all is in your thoughts, aspirations and dreams :-)

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  8. You rock! March for Science 22 April 2017. :)

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