EAG Ambassador Laura Wainman attends “Cities on Volcanoes 12”

Laura presents at Cities on Volcanoes 12

Between 9th – 21st February 2024 I had the exciting opportunity to attend the Cities on Volcanoes 12 Conference in Antigua, Guatemala, partly supported by a travel grant from the European Association of Geochemistry. Cities on Volcanoes is one of my favourite conferences, with it being uniquely interdisciplinary and drawing together researchers from across the physical and social sciences. Themes range from physical volcanology to technical advances in sampling equipment, to hazard maps and even the perception of volcanoes in films and art! Under the unifying theme of ‘volcanoes’ and the risk they present to society, the conference undoubtedly fosters many exciting discussions and new collaborations. For example, I attended a pre-conference workshop on the use of drones in volcanology, which covered everything from videography, photogrammetry to gas sampling using UAS, as well as technical discussions on drone technology.

Moreover, throughout the conference many of the speakers themselves came from indigenous or volcanically-impacted communities. It was especially powerful to listen to the experiences of people who have lived through volcanic disasters, such as the 2018 eruption of Fuego, and will undoubtedly inform my future research and involvement in volcanic risk reduction and communication. The conference was also the first bi-lingual COV, which not only increased accessibility but also created the opportunity for much broader discussions around volcanic risk and perceptions. In particular, one of my favourite sessions was a round-table discussion on the role of faith and spirituality in volcanic risk perception. It was fascinating to hear how many perceptions and stories overlapped between indigenous communities in Guatemala, Mexico, and New Zealand.

During the conference I presented a 10-minute talk on “Lateral variation in the trace element emissions of degassing lava flows, with implications for trace metal exposure” as part of the health hazards session. This summarised the first chapter of my PhD work which focuses on how the trace element emissions from lava flows vary as the lava flow becomes older and more evolved, and explores how this may change the air quality hazard profile associated with these emissions. It was wonderful to be able to present this work to a room full of experts and I was very grateful to have so many helpful discussions afterwards. Talking to the other presenters in my session generated some new perspectives and potential research collaborations which I’m very excited to pursue further.

Laura with Fuego volcano in the background

After the conference I attended one of the official fieldtrips to climb Acatenango volcano. The hike was incredibly difficult – ascending 1600m in elevation up to 4000 masl – but the views of Fuego volcano erupting were phenomenal! We stayed at Acatenango basecamp overnight and were lucky enough to see several paroxysm events (from a safe distance!). This was an incredible end to the trip, and a fantastic bonding opportunity with the friends I had made throughout the conference too. Overall, attending the conference was an amazing experience – connecting with other researchers, exploring future collaborations, and of course seeing Fuego and Pacaya volcanoes! I would encourage anyone to attend the next Cities on Volcanoes. Thank you so much to the European Association for their support!

About the Author

Laura Wainman

Laura Wainman is a PhD student in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. Her work focuses on the emission of trace elements in volcanic environments and their associated impacts on air quality. She has carried out several field campaigns at recent fissure eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland, and is broadly interested in volcanic risk to society and disaster risk reduction approaches.