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Critical controls on eruptive behaviour of an intraplate volcano (BARCLAY_UENV17EE)

Project description

Scientific background/rationale and significance

One of the fundamental questions in dealing with volcanic hazard is: will this volcano erupt explosively or passively?  Petrographic studies have long-underpinned our understanding of igneous processes, and they remain one of the most powerful tools in unravelling the pre-eruptive changes that determine whether an evolved magma will erupt as a passive lava effusion or a violent explosion.  The purpose of this project is to use the petrographic analysis of a series of genetically-related volcanic rocks that have erupted in a variety of ways to understand what has controlled the magma’s behaviour and ultimately the impact of the eruptions.

Research methodology

An early field season will allow the collection of a carefully controlled suite of samples that represent a range of felsic activity on Ascension Island. A couple of successions will be sampled in detail, guided by a recently completed project that has developed a geological and geochemical context. Several techniques will be used in the analysis of the rocks to reconstruct the similarities and differences in processes during a variety of eruptive events, ranging from the petrographic analysis of thin-sections to 3D tomographic sampling (University of Durham). These will be used to reconstruct the conditions prior to and during eruption. Comparison between samples which have been stratigraphically well described in the field will provide an analysis of the changes in eruptive style.


The student will receive training in all relevant techniques (SEM, E-probe, CT Scanning) and in the analysis and modelling of the data produced. They will also gain training in the interpretation and characterization of volcanic rocks in the field. The supervisory team will consist of researchers from the University of Durham and the Natural History Museum as well as from UEA. This project will be part of a larger ongoing collaboration between UEA, Durham, SUERC and the BGS ( so the student will join a vibrant research team.

Person specification

The student should have a Bachelor degree in Earth Sciences or a related subject with interests that match the description of the project.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17 the stipend was £14,296.

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Dr Richard Herd (University of East Anglia)

Dr Richard Brown and Dr Kate Dobson (University of Durham)

Dr Chiara Petrone (Natural History Museum)

  • Start date October 2017
  • Programme PhD
  • Mode of Study full time
  • Studentship Length 3.5 years
Entry requirements
  • Acceptable First Degree Earth Sciences or a related subject with interests that match the description of the project
  • Minimum Entry Standard 2:1 Honours degree