Introduction to Volcanology

Erouscilla Joseph

Seismic Research Centre, University of the West Indies
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


The course will introduce students to Plate tectonics and volcanoes; including the processes that takes place at active volcanoes (eruptive mechanisms, effusive and explosive volcanism); methods and instrumentation used to study them; the hazards of different types of eruptions (hazards assessment, integrated hazard mapping, risk communication, and the complex challenges of scientist being involved in the response to a crisis or eruption). It will examine volcano geology (including petrology), and volcanism in the Eastern Caribbean (including economic aspects). Practical course work will include an autopsy of a volcanic crisis, and field exercises.

Course URL:
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an entirely new course with no similar programmes in existence at any of the campuses of the University. It was initially developed for students registering for the MPhil and PhD degrees in Volcanology and Seismology, offered by the Seismic Research Centre, who require additional background knowledge to facilitate their research. Pre-requisites include a Degree in any Natural/Earth Sciences (e.g. Geology, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Geophysics, Environmental Sciences).

Course Goals:

- Understand that both volcanoes and earthquakes are manifestations of the cooling of our planet's interior.
- Understand why the interior of the Earth is hot, and what mechanisms the planet uses to cool down.
- Become familiar with the theory of plate tectonics and realize that most, but not all, volcanic and earthquake activity occurs at the boundaries between the Earth's plates.
- Discover that there are multiple kinds of volcanic eruptions and different types of earthquake motions, and will be able to distinguish between those that are more or less hazardous.
- Be able to recognize a variety of volcanic landscapes and features, as well as some earthquake features, and be able to assess the relative hazards indicated by these features.
- Explore case studies involving human tragedies resulting from volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The course will be assessed through student participation in classroom and field activities as earlier described. In addition each student will be asked to complete a course evaluation form at the end of the course to obtain feedback to improve the course and its implementation.


Course Assessment
Examination (3-hour paper)........ 40%
Coursework....................... 60%
- In-course writing assignment.......... 20%
- Field work/write-up................... 20%
- Class participation .................. 20%


Introductory Volcanology (Microsoft Word 160kB May11 11) Syllabus