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E339: Kilauea Volcano’s high fountaining eruptions: the story from the crystals (Lead Supervisor: Marie Edmonds, Earth Sciences)

Supervisors: Marie Edmonds (Earth Sciences) and John Maclennan (Earth Sciences)

Importance of the area of research:

Kilauea Volcano is the largest and most frequently active volcano on Earth. It is covered with dense networks of instruments and is, in every sense, a laboratory volcano. In spite of this wealth of knowledge and observations, there remain many outstanding fundamental questions regarding the magmatic feeder system, the volatile budget and the controls on eruption style. Magma ascent and storage timescales, the nature of the heterogeneity of primary melts with respect to volatiles and the detail of lateral transport between the summit and rift zones are all poorly understood.

Project summary:

This project will involve the geochemical and petrological characterization of the tephra products of some high fountaining eruptions on the East Rift zone of Kilauea (e.g. 1969-1971 Mauna Ulu eruption, 1959 Kilauea Iki, 1960 Kapoho) in order to understand primary melt heterogeneity; fractionation and mixing of magmas during storage and transport; and timescales associated with degassing and both vertical and lateral magma transport. The data will be used in tandem with geophysical data to build a more refined understanding of magma transport through Kilauea’s plumbing system and the important controls on eruption style.

What the student will do:

The student will undertake a range of petrological and geochemical analysis of Kilauea tephra samples. Textures and crystal cargoes of tephra samples will be closely examined and  olivine-hosted melt inclusions will be characterised using a range of microanalytical techniques. Fieldwork will be undertaken in year 2 to supplement existing sample collections. Data obtained will be used to inform numerical and/or analytical models of the system.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Sides IR, Edmonds M, Maclennan J, Swanson DA, Houghton BF. Eruption style at Kilauea Volcano in Hawai/i linked to primary melt composition. Nature Geoscience. 2014 Jun 1;7(6):464-9.

Rae AS, Edmonds M, Maclennan J, Morgan D, Houghton B, Hartley ME, Sides I. Time scales of magma transport and mixing at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai’i. Geology. 2016 Jun 1;44(6):463-6.

Edmonds M, Sides I, Maclennan J. Insights Into Mixing, Fractionation, and Degassing of Primitive Melts at Kılauea Volcano, Hawai ‘i. Hawaiian Volcanoes: From Source to Surface. 2015 Feb 18;208:323.

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