School of Geography, Geology and the Environment


Geology at Leicester, researches in many aspects of volcanology.  Over 12 of our research staff (listed below) have interests in a wide range of topics related to volcanic eruptions and magmatic processes in many different parts of the world, including the Antarctic peninsula, Korea, China, Mongolia, Siberia, Madagascar, East Greenland, Solomon Islands, Central Mexico, Hawaii, the English Lake District, the Faroes, Greece, Turkey, southern Italy, Canary islands, the Scotia Sea, and the Columbia River Basalts and Snake-River Plain regions of the western USA.

Topics include emplacement of flood basalts, large explosive eruptions, pyroclastic density currents, magma-water and magma-ice interactions, volcanic instability and collapse, volcanic hydrothermal systems and mineralisation, and magma flow in lavas, sills and dykes.

Our approaches range from analytical geochemistry (XRD, XRF, EMP, ICPMS and LA-ICPMS), isotope work (O, Hf, Ar-Ar, U-Pb), SEM and X-ray microtomography, fieldwork, petrogenesis, computer modelling, structural analysis, volcanic stratigraphy, seismic tomography of volcanoes, and laboratory experimentation.

We provide undergraduate and graduate training in several aspects of volcanology including laboratory work and annual residential field courses to Tenerife (Canary Islands), Mount Etna (Sicily) and the Scottish Tertiary Province (Skye, Arran), and post-graduate training in a variety of volcano locations. Our students also organise weekend field trips to study volcanic rocks of Snowdonia, the Lake District, and nearby Charnood Forest. 

Volcanology research themes

Explosive super-eruptions of the Snake River Plain – Yellowstone hotspot 

  • Professor Mike Branney
  • Dr Marc Reichow

(Collaborators: Professor Rob Coe, Professor Mike McCurry, Dr Bill Bonnichsen, Dr Ben Ellis, Dr Graham Andrews, Dr Michael Storey, David Finn)

Scale and impact of Siberian Traps flood basalts and Columbia River basalts, USA 

  • Emeritus Professor Andy Saunders
  • Dr Tiffany Barry
  • Dr Marc Reichow

(Collaborators: Professor Godfrey Fitton, Professor Steve Self, Professor Simon Kelley, Dr Steve Reidel, Dr Mark Allen, Dr Malcolm Pringle, Dr Alexander Al'Mukhamedov, Dr Robert Scott, Dr Alexander Medvedev, Dr Mikhail Buslov, Dr Inna Safonova, Dr Victor Puchkov, Dr Clare Davies, Dr Geliy Fedoseev)

Ignimbrite emplacement and the sedimentation of pyroclastic density currents

  • Professor Mike Branney

(Collaborators: Dr Richy Brown, Professor Peter Kokelaar, Dr Becky Williams, Professor Gerardo Carrasco-Nunez)

Volcano instability and collapse

  • Professor Mike Branney — caldera collapse structure, debris-avanche triggers and emplacement (Collaborators: Dr Pablo Davila-Harris, Prof Valerio Acocella, Dr Chris Willcox, Professor Gerardo Carrasco-Nuñez)
  • Dr Richard Walker –  field structural and mechanical analysis of volcanoes (e.g. Hawaii, Stromboli)

Volcanic hydrothermal systems and mineralisation

  • Dr Dan Smith
  • Professor Gawen Jenkin
  • Professor Dave Holwell

(Collaborators: Professor Mike G. Petterson, Professor Adrian J Boyce, Dr John Naden, Dr George Darling, Dr Helen Taylor, Dr Ian Millar, Thomas Toba)

Igneous petrogenesis

  • Emeritus Professor Andy Saunders
  • Dr Tiffany Barry
  • Dr Marc Reichow
  • Dr Phil Leat

(Collaborators: John Mahoney, Michael Storey, Godfrey Fitton, Julian Pearce, Ian Millar)

Volcano-ice and volcano-water interactions

  • Professor John Smellie — Subglacial volcanic processes and climate change
  • Professor Mike Branney — Phreatomagmatic eruptions, peperites, ash aggregates, structure of ice-melt pits

(Collaborators: Dr Richy Brown, Professor Peter Kokelaar)

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