UCL Earth Sciences


Adam Cotterill

“Combining drone-based strategies with ground and satellite techniques to improve monitoring at inaccessible volcanoes.”

PhD project title:

A comprehensive assessment of volcanic hazard and mitigation strategies at remote volcanoes: Manam and Ulawun, Papua New Guinea.

Adam Cotterill
Project description:

The Papua New Guinea volcanic arc hosts several persistently active volcanoes that present a spectrum of volcanic hazards from pyroclastic flows to tephra deposition. The two case study volcanoes, Manam and Ulawun, have both exhibited multiple major eruptions in recent years, and have a history of complex evacuations of local communities in previous decades. Volcano monitoring efforts are severely hindered by social-economic factors that have thus far precluded the installation of monitoring equipment, and by the altitude/topography of summit vents, which make proximal measurements extremely challenging. In this project, we propose a systematic assessment of the volcanic hazard at these two volcanoes, with the aim to produce comprehensive hazard maps and protocols for different eruptive scenarios based on probabilistic approaches.

Crucially, a component of this project will focus on novel methods of data communication, such that these outputs will be developed into forms that are fully accessible to local communities and policymakers in Papua New Guinea. Field research will draw on aspects of both the social sciences (e.g., vulnerability assessment, cultural perceptions of hazard and risk) and physical sciences (e.g., volcanic gas measurements, satellite observations, aerial mapping, seismology, and ground deformation), to (a) establish baseline activity, (b) identify any precursory eruptive signals in monitoring parameters, and (c) synthesise, for the first time, the cascading hazards that are experienced during eruptions into a tangible resource. Aerial measurements of monitoring parameters using drone-based strategies will be central to this project, and will therefore contribute to advancing the technological frontier of current research capabilities at remote volcanoes, globally.