Research interests


Current work and student projects


Phreatomagmatic processes – Using field studies and experimental approaches to understand the energetics of explosions, and resulting deposits and landforms, caused by interaction of magma and water.  Recent work involved detonating buried explosives to study crater formation and subsequent excavation to study the subsurface structures (in nature referred to as diatremes) that are produced.  Current work includes large-scale experiments mixing magma and water, and lab-scale experiments on heat transfer between magma and water/air.  Current collaborators on this project include Pranabendu Moitra (postdoctoral researcher) and Ingo Sonder (both at UB), colleagues from New Zealand, Quebec, and Italy who specialize in phreatomagmatic volcanism, and several other experts in volcano monitoring and eruption dynamics.  Field studies are being conducted at maar volcanoes in Colorado and Chile. PhD student Matthew Sweeney is addressing phreatomagmatic processes through computational fluid dynamics and field studies.  The phreatomagmatic research is funded by Univ. at Buffalo and by the National Science Foundation.


Ignimbrites and caldera-forming eruptions – This work involves field studies, numerical modeling, and experiments in order to understand how the details of multiphase flow of dilute, collapsing mixtures (from collapsing eruption columns or fountains) determine the dynamics of the subsequent lateral flow (pyroclastic density currents), and how this might be recorded in ignimbrite deposits.  Fieldwork is being conducted at the Latera Caldera in Italy and at the Bandelier Tuff in New Mexico, where MS student Scott Borchardt is studying a thin deposit that records the transition from buoyant to collapsing eruption columns.  Matthew Sweeney has led numerical modeling into this process, and Ingo Sonder and Marcus Bursik are collaborating on experimental approaches to understanding these processes.  The work is funded by the National Science Foundation.


Hazard SEES: Persistent Volcanic Crises Resilience in the Face of Prolonged and Uncertain Risk – Three-year project involving University at Buffalo, University of Hawaii, UC Berkeley, Duke University, and Marquette University.  Goal of project is to integrate geophysics, volcanology, social science, and statistical modeling and analysis to better understand and improve the interplay between scientists and stakeholders at volcanic systems characterized by decades-scale unrest, while also improving our underpinning understanding of the volcanism.  Case studies are the Long Valley-Mono-Inyo system (California) and Kīlauea (Hawaii).  The project is supported by the National Science Foundation.


Volcano plumbing – Field, modeling, and experimental studies related to intrusion of magma in stratovolcano systems.  PhD student Andrew Harp is conducting detailed field studies of intrusions in eroded stratovolcanoes with both field mapping and geophysical techniques, and will use the data to develop synthetic deformation models to inform volcano monitoring.  PhD student Peter Johnson is using numerical modeling to constrain the processes that cause rapid, pre-eruptive water discharges from volcanoes, which can in turn cause significant hazards in the form of lahars.


Lunar Crater Volcanic Field – This project focuses on the physical volcanology and relationships between volcanism and structure in a medium sized intraplate volcanic field dominated by monogenetic activity.  The work is part of a broader effort to understand the plumbing of mafic systems, transitions in eruptive styles, and the relationship between monogenetic and polygenetic volcanism.  MS student Zachary Younger is currently characterizing the youngest lava flow in the volcanic field using high-resolution air-borne LiDAR data along with fieldwork. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation.


VHub – Cyberinfrastructure for Volcano Eruption and Hazards Modeling and Simulation – VHub (see vhub.org) is a major effort funded by the National Science Foundation with the overarching goal to provide a mechanism for globally collaborative research and development of computational models of volcanic processes and their integration with complex geospatial, observational, and experimental data.  VHub is promoting seamless accessibility of appropriate models and data to organizations around the world charged with assessing and reducing risk, reaching across resource levels and cultural boundaries.  VHub is an international effort and currently includes partners in Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Japan, and Mexico, and is linked with other large efforts such as the Global Volcano Model (http://www.globalvolcanomodel.org).  The Vhub collaboration team includes a number of people at UB, at Univ. South Florida, at Michigan Tech, and others around the world.