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Eruptions, Emissions and Enigmas: from fuming volcanic vents to mass extinction events

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Volcanoes are spectacular natural phenomena. Earth has experienced volcanism since its beginnings and observing a volcanic eruption is a truly primeval experience. Volcanoes have shaped our planet and have been key in creating and maintaining its habitability. However, they can also be deadly natural hazards and are implicated in some of the greatest environment crises in Earth’s history, such as mass extinction events. Professor Tamsin Mather will explore some of the different types of volcanic activity that we see on present-day Earth and have seen over our planet’s geological history. She will discuss how lessons learnt sitting on the edge of an active volcano today can give us insights into some of the enigmas surrounding the most profound environmental changes in geological history including mass extinction events.

Tamsin is a volcanologist and Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, UK where she has been on the faculty since 2006. She has Masters degrees in Chemistry and History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. After a year working in Germany and then Brussels doing a placement for the European Commission, she returned to Cambridge completing a PhD on the atmospheric chemistry of volcanic plumes and their environmental effects in 2004. Since then her research has broadened to explore the diverse ways in which volcanoes interact with Earth’s environment, the processes driving volcanic unrest and eruptions, the hazards they pose and their resource potential. Before joining Oxford she was a Research Council Fellow at the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, and a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow. She won a UNESCO /L’Oréal UK & Ireland Women in Science award in 2008, the Philip Leverhulme prize in 2010, was UK Mineralogical Society Distinguished Lecturer in 2015/16 and the winner of the 2018 Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture from the Royal Society. She has spoken at numerous science festivals including New Scientist Live and the Cheltenham Science Festival and participated in several TV and radio programmes and documentaries including Radio 4’s Life Scientific with Jim Al-Khalili and The Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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