Science and Technology Studies


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Dr Carina Fearnley

Dr Carina Fearnley

Associate Professor

Dept of Science & Technology Studies

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2008

Research summary

I am an interdisciplinary researcher, drawing on relevant expertise in the social sciences to enable concepts of scientific uncertainty, risk, and complexity to be re-framed and communicated within the context of Disaster Risk Reduction and provide practical insights into how, early warning systems specifically, can be made more effective. I am also interested in the transdisciplinary potential of art and science collaborations around environmental hazards, and the role of geopolitics in the production of risk. I am a strong believer that interdisciplinary work can provide enormous benefit to problems that society faces today that traditional disciplines cannot address alone by bringing together the wealth of knowledge and techniques of different disciplines so that a better understanding of the problems can be developed, and consequently effective solutions found. 

I am the author of a number of articles across a wide range of disciplines (see publications) and edited the first publication dedicated to establishing better knowledge, practice, and scholarship on Volcanic Crisis Communication, titled ‘Observing the Volcano World: Volcanic Crisis Communication’ with Springer.

I am also a passionate communication and conduct frequent public engagement activities including BBC radio and TV, Art/Sci collaborations including 'The Other Volcano' with Nelly Ben Hayoun, and ‘Beside the Ocean of Time’ with Anne Bevan, co-organising and presenting a ‘Deep Time’ festival in Orkney. I am a frequent guest volcanologist at Nature Live events at the Natural History Museum in London, and having been involved in Science Showoff, Soapbox Science, Pint of Science, and Athena SWAN initiatives.

Teaching summary

Teaching, whether in a small group, a large lecture theatre, or in the field, has been, and remains, an enjoyable, interesting, and valuable experience for me. To inspire students to engage with cutting-edge research issues remains a key focus in my teaching, along with encouraging interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary understanding and approaches. I strongly believe that students need to understand the context of what they are learning and its relevance. Subsequently, my teaching ethos is to involve the students fully in the subject of natural hazards and disasters through practical-based teaching, adopting a problem-based learning approach. Additionally, I like to engage with new pioneering research and technologies and consequently many of my practical sessions and lectures are research-led. By adopting this approach, students tend to respond with enthusiasm and understand the relevance and importance of what is being taught.

I have taught of a wide range of courses: from Geohazards and Volcanology, to Environmental Management, Global Environmental Issues, Key Skills and Metholdologies (at all levels), Revealing Science, Engaging the Public with Science, and Science Policy in the Era of Risk Uncertainty. I frequently teach at Birkbeck University, Bournemouth University, alongside other departments at UCL. I have conducted numerous guest lectures globally and recently conducted an Erskine Visiting Teaching Fellowship to teach at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

I also have supervised numerous BSc and BA dissertations, MSc dissertations, and supervise several Ph.D. students.


I am an Associate Professor in Science and Technology Studies at University College London in the Department of Science and Technology Studies. I have a background in Geology and Mining, studied at Imperial College London (BSc and MSc) and completed an exploration geologist internship with the mining company Rio Tinto. Following my studies, I worked in the London financial sector for three years in investment banking and stock brokering before completing my Ph.D. studies at UCL at the UCL Hazard Research Centre. Inspired by the tragedy of the 2004 Boxing Day Indonesian Tsunami that killed over 230,000 people I was keen to understand how we can better communicate and integrate science and society to prevent such tragedies repeating.

Following my Ph.D. titled 'Standardising the USGS volcano alert level system: acting in the context of risk, uncertainty and complexity’ I went on to lecture at the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth for five years, whilst also completing a PGCTHE there. 

I am an active researcher in two key areas: first, natural hazard early warning systems (particularly volcanoes and tsunamis), focusing specifically on volcano alert level systems; and second, in Art/Science projects that address some of the complex issues surrounding our understanding of environmental hazards.

I am Secretary of the Cities and Volcanoes Commission of IAVCEI, and co-founded and lead the World Organisation of Volcanoes (WOVO) Volcano Alert Level Working Group. I am a regular consultant for the Bournemouth Disaster Management Centre based at Bournemouth University, conducting CPD courses in the Middle East, particularly focused on tsunami risk. In 2009 I co-organised an international conference on '‘Disaster Risk Reduction for Natural Hazards' that explored ways to put research into practice, and continue to collaborate with scholars and practitioners over the world, particularly in New Zealand, the USA, Iceland, and Italy via conferences, workshops, visiting scholarships, and research.