Volcanoes, hazards and community engagement

I have recently(ish) returned from two weeks of fieldwork in Ecuador and Colombia. These two countries are threatened by a variety of different volcanic hazards (and seismic hazards, too, of course), and this was the motivation for our trip.

The visit was part of the STREVA project – an interdisciplinary research project combining volcanologists and social scientists. The overall aim of the project is to produce plans and protocols that reduce the vulnerability of people and their livelihoods during volcanic eruptions. This includes development of hazard maps, community engagement, risk assessments and improving monitoring strategies.

During this trip we spent a large amount of time meeting with local communities in areas affected by volcanic hazards. We particularly spoke to them about our work on ash and lahars, and collected their feedback both on how they have been affected, and more importantly, how they are managing these issues. By learning how one community has adapted to a certain hazard, we can disseminate these ideas to other affected areas on different volcanoes and in different countries.

Community workshop in Guayabal, Colombia.

Community workshop in Guayabal, Colombia.

Another way to build resilience against future volcanic eruptions is to learn from past experiences. This point has been captured perfectly (I think so, at least) by a series of short videos produced by the STREVA project. They honour the memory of the Armero disaster in 1985 in which over 20,000 people lost their lives to a lahar from the Nevado Del Ruiz volcano. The trilogy takes you through the heartfelt and sombre memories of some survivors, how they have since moved on and now live with the volcano, to the work of the Servicio Geologico Colombiano, who monitor the volcano for future activity. We had the pleasure of showing these videos to a number of communities in pop-up-open-air-cinema style, and they were very well received. Tears, laughs and applause all round.

One of the public viewings of the Nevado Del Ruiz STREVA films.

The videos are now available on YouTube through the STREVA channel, and you can also catch them showing this week at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly who have their very own ‘GeoCinema‘. You will not be disappointed.

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Science Snap (#33): Earth Science Week

(Originally posted on the Between a Rock blog)

Earth Science Week is an international initiative to promote the great work that goes on in the geoscience community. It encompasses a huge range of topics; from dinosaurs to glaciers, and volcanoes to meteorites. There’s something for everybody. For an overview of how geoscience can have a positive influence on local communities and save lives, check out this video from the AGU:

For Earth Science Week, events are taking place here in the UK, organised by the Geological Society, as well as across the Atlantic in the US, where the American Geosciences Institute are coordinating things. To get an idea of the sorts of activities that are happening and see where you can get involved, you can check out their websites here and here.

So far my favourite initiative has been the release of the 100 top ‘Geosites’ in the UK. This list, compiled by the Geological Society and voted on by members of the general public, represents the best the UK has to offer in various geological categories (e.g. landscapes, adventurous, educational, and so on). You can view the ‘Geosites’ in an interactive map, and there are some great pictures to flick through in a BBC News article.

Precariously balanced, these are the Brimham rocks in North Yorkshire, part of the top 100 'Geosites' in the UK. Image credit: BBC News.

Seemingly precariously balanced, these are the Brimham rocks in North Yorkshire, part of the top 100 ‘Geosites’ in the UK. Image credit: BBC News.