Projects

Our current projects cover multiple disciplines to understand volcanic processes, deposition, hazards and their societal impacts.

Our Currently Active Projects

Check out our projects below

project_Volcanoes-2

Currently Active Project

“Volcanoes | Āhea riri ai ngā maunga puia? When will our volcanoes become angry?” (Resilience to nature's Challenges national Science Challenge)

Volcanoes threaten Aotearoa New Zealand’s resilience with many complex hazards that can impact large areas with permanent landscape changes.

The most urgent threats are to the surrounding communities, those downwind of our volcanoes, and the transport, electricity, tourism and agricultural sectors. We aim to develop resilience and mitigation solutions for threatened areas by integrating our improved knowledge of the multiple and dynamic threats of volcanic activity into long-term planning and emergency management processes.

Contact: Jonathan Procter

project_He Tatai Whenua

Currently Active Project

“He Tatai Whenua: A Te Ao Maori landscape classification” (MBIE Endeavour Research Programme)

This project is working to synthesise a Te Ao Māori landscape classification that can be directly integrated into existing Geographical Information Systems, piloted on the Manawatū catchment.

 We are working towards this goal through a broad multidisciplinary science and Kaupapa Māori methodology with hapū/iwi research partnerships. This unique research proposes to bridge not only the science and social science traditions but also proposes to overlay Western science with indigenous knowledge.

Contact: Jonathan Procter

projectTurbulentKillers

Currently Active Project

“Turbulent killers – how volcanic eruptions become ferocious” (Marsden Fund)

The dilute pyroclastic density currents are one of the most destructive and lethal natural phenomena.

With the most ambitious large-scale laboratory and computational eruption experiments ever conceived, measuring into the conditions inside volcanic eruptions, this Marsden project will elucidate the fundamental processes behind the destructiveness of pyroclastic density currents.

Contact: Gert Lube

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projectECPLIPSE

Currently Active Project

“ECLIPSE – Eruption of Catastrophe, Learning to Implement Preparedness for Supervolcano Eruptions” (MBIE Endeavour Research Programme; hosted by Victoria University of Wellington)

New Zealand’s central North Island hosts a huge supervolcano system, the most active of its kind on Earth.

We study what makes this supervolcano system become restive or move into eruption, and consider the hazards and impacts of likely future eruptions in order to reduce the risk of an inappropriate response, by designing strategies to reduce uncertainties about future unrest or eruptions.

Contact: Gert Lube

Caught in action - volcano surveillance with hyperspectral remote sensing

Currently Active Project

“Caught in action - volcano surveillance with hyperspectral remote sensing” (Rutherford Discovery Fellowship – Royal Society Te Aparangi)

Understanding volcanic eruptions is challenging due to the complexity of the physical and chemical processes that precede them, most of which are hidden underground.

Key to understanding the eruption risk for a particular volcano is an understanding of the hydrothermal system at its core. This Fellowship examines volcanic hydrothermal systems using airborne geophysics and hyperspectral remote sensing combined with geochemical techniques. This programme enriches our theoretical understanding of volcanic-hydrothermal systems, but it also allows us to better anticipate and plan for future eruptions.

Contact: Gabor Kereszturi

project_Unlocking Mātauranga Māori

Currently Active Project

"Unlocking Mātauranga Māori in historical survey maps" (Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge)

Surveyors preparing early (1800’s) land survey maps in New Zealand relied on the assistance and mātauranga Māori of local expert guides, and often embedded significant information on cultural sites, place names and the environment within hand-drawn maps and notes.

The mātauranga Māori embedded within historic maps is largely under-utilised as the data are ‘locked’ in machine unreadable formats and unavailable for analysis. This project develops computer vision and geopsatial techniques to extract and geo-locate information in survey plans, unlocking and transforming this Māori knowledge into feature-rich, digital geospatial information.

Contact: Stuart Mead

Beneath the Waves

Currently Active Project

“Beneath the Waves: Preparedness and resilience to New Zealand’s nearshore volcano hazards” (MBIE Endeavour Research Programme; hosted at GNS Science)

The hazards from New Zealand’s near-shore volcanoes - Tuhua and Whakaari – is in the focus of this programme.

The programme will improve the understanding of island volcano hazards and their impact as well as improve forecasts of their occurrence, by undertaking detailed underwater geophysical exploration, conduct large scale experimental work and computer simulations to understand the potential for ashfall, flank collapse, hydrothermal alteration and tsunami. The programme integrates a range of stakeholders, including iwi and national agencies who will guide the research to deliver outcomes relevant for Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and East Cape communities.

Contact: Gert Lube

Transitioning Taranaki to a Volcanic Future

Currently Active Project

“Transitioning Taranaki to a Volcanic Future” (MBIE Endeavour Research Programme; hosted by University of Auckland)

Taranaki is the most likely New Zealand volcano to cause national-scale impacts over our lifetimes. Positioned upwind from our most populous regions of Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, all Taranaki eruptions will disrupt air and surface transport, tourism, farming, power and water supplies.

 Our research builds the geological, engineering and socio-economic knowledge essential for the New Zealand economy to transition through such an unprecedented level of on-going disruption. Using a novel integration of volcanic scientific knowledge, experimentation and advanced mathematical and economic simulation, we aim to radically cut down the uncertainty that hinders decisive hazard and mitigation planning for transitioning to a new state of ongoing hazard.

Contact: Jonathan Procter

International Eruption Simulation and Model Benchmarking Initiative

Currently Active Project

“International Eruption Simulation and Model Benchmarking Initiative” (PELE)

The transport and deposition within a pyroclastic density current is still poorly understood and quantified from a hazards perspective.

This long-term international research initiative under the umbrella of IAVCEI and centered around the eruption simulator facility PELE, aims to develop, benchmark and validate PDC flow and hazard models and is partially funded by the Royal Society Marsden Fund and the Ministry of Business, Industry and Education.

Contact: Gert Lube

projectAssessing New Zealand

Currently Active Project

“Assessing New Zealand’s environmental and mineral indicators” (MBIE Endeavour Smart Ideas)

Mineral exploration and environmental monitoring can greatly benefit from hyperspectral remote sensing to increase the efficiency of managing natural resources.

This project develops new applications for airborne hyperspectral remote sensing to spatially map the distribution of mineral resources and draw environmental baseline data. Hyperspectral imaging is based on visible to shortwave light reflectance properties of vegetation and exposed soil/rock. The key concept of the researched approach is to utilise lab- and airborne hyperspectral remote sensing for locating mesothermal gold mineralisation, using the concept of biogeochemistry. The trialled multivariate statistical approaches are equally applicable for mapping soil contamination and can improve our toolkit for monitoring natural resources in New Zealand.

Contact: Gabor Kereszturi

The influence of crustal recycling at the Hikurangi trench

Currently Active Project

“The influence of crustal recycling at the Hikurangi trench on the formation of highly explosive silicic arc magmas of the Taupo Volcanic Zone” (Royal Society of New Zealand - Catalyst Seeding fund)

Eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) are driven by volatile-rich magmas with high silica content that originate kilometres beneath the surface. Their formation requires remote probing with sophisticated geochemical tools.

For this work, we work with renowned Lamont Research Professor Susanne Straub over a period of three years to undertake detailed geochemical and isotopic investigations of rocks from the Hikurangi trench, the TVZ and the volcanoes west of TVZ, to better understand subduction processes, fluxes, and magma formation. We also collaborate with Prof Claudine Stirling and Dr Marco Brenna from Otago University.

Contact: Georg Zellmer

project_TracingMāori pumice

Currently Active Project

“Tracing Māori pumice artefacts to their volcanic source: Implications for spatiotemporal variations of pumice use in New Zealand archaeology” (Royal Society of New Zealand - Catalyst Seeding Fund)

Pumice is abundant in Aotearoa/New Zealand and has traditionally been used by Māori for a wide range of spiritual and practical purposes, however the provenance of pumice used for artefacts and its potential trade are poorly understood.

This pilot project brings together geologists/volcanologists and archaeologists from Norway, the UK and Aotearoa/New Zealand to develop a framework for investigating the geological origin of Māori pumice artefacts and its archaeological implications. Selected artefacts from Auckland Museum are geochemically fingerprinted to assess the spatial relationships between different types of artefacts and pumice provenance while a comparative case study on ocean-rafted archaeological and beach pumice in Northern Norway provides new insights into the geological processes that influence pumice resource distribution and availability.

Contact: Anke Zernack

project_HeWhenuaPungapunga

Currently Active Project

“He Whenua Pungapunga - Exploring the sustainable use of Te Arawa's natural pumice resources” (Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund)

Pumice is a versatile natural resource with applications around the globe, e.g., in construction, horticulture and as abrasive. While abundant in the North Island, pumice is still underutilised in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

In collaboration with Te Pūmautanga o Te Arawa Trust, Tauhara North No. 2 Trust and Zymbl Innovation we investigate the potential role of the pumice (pungapunga) resources in their rohe in developing innovative, more sustainable Māori business practices that can contribute to the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of their people. Combining indigenous knowledge with western science methods, we explore the abundance and properties of their natural pumice resources and test them as sustainable hydroponic substrate in horticulture while also closely working with hapū/whānau members on gathering Pungapunga Mātauranga-a-Te Arawa.

Contact: Anke Zernack

 

projectResilience to Nature’s Challenges

Currently Active Project

“Multihazard Risk Methodology” (Resilience to Nature’s Challenges)

Natural hazards often do not occur in isolation, but can be part of a cascade through time, or even simply overlap through coincidence. Cascading hazards can be directly triggered, made more likely, or even inhibited.

These possibilities mean that many important hazard combinations cannot be considered independently. Even with hazards that occur independently, the post-hazard operability is not independent if the same infrastructure or network is impacted. To improve New Zealand’s resilience to natural hazards, these interactions need to be modelled, their occurrence forecast, and operability under multiple and successive hazards quantified. This will facilitate and provide the basis for novel developments in risk and impact modelling that provide a deeper (through distributional analysis or dynamic value chain analysis) and broader (multiple capitals e.g. covering economic, financial, social, environmental) impact analysis across space, through time, for multiple stakeholders. This will significantly improve recovery management in the aftermath of a natural disaster. This new knowledge will be the key to deciding on adaptations and investment around resilience in the face of nature’s challenges.

Contact: Mark Bebbington

project_Water-in-spinel

Completed Project

“Water in spinel: a robust hygrometer for the Earth and Planetary Sciences” (Marsden Fund)

The amount and distribution of water trapped within minerals influence the dynamics of the Earth and other planetary bodies, including convective processes within their interiors.

 Water also controls the melting behaviour of rocks, and thus has a profound impact on the genesis of magmas. In turn, water dissolved in magmas determines their viscosity, crystallisation behaviour, and volume expansion during ascent at the onset of volcanic eruptions. Estimating the water content of minerals and magmas (hygrometry) is thus of critical importance in the Earth and Planetary Sciences. In this project, we quantify the water content in spinel-structured oxides to explore the use of these minerals as magmatic hygrometers.

Contact: Georg Zellmer

project_EQC Biennial Grant

Completed Project

EQC Biennial Grant (2018-2020): "A new model of volcanic surge for New Zealand"

The propagation of particle laden volcanic currents such as pyroclastic surges and base surges can cause extensive damage to exposed populations and structures.

Such currents occur frequently in the volcanic record and in New Zealand, but are relatively small and thus generally unpreserved in the geologic record. Being an extreme proximal hazard, the surge extent is crucial to estimate in order to determine exclusion/risk zones. In this project, we developed a new method to modelling surge propagation that can be adapted and extended to more complex physics than simple (e.g. energy line) methods to provide first order approximations to surge extent, but without including computationally expensive physical details. The method was demonstrated on three case studies: the 2012 Te Maari surges, the 2016 Whakaari/White Island surges and the Maungataketake surges in the Auckland volcanic field.

Contact: Stuart Mead

project_Mitigating volcanic hazards

Completed Project

MBIE (2016-2019): “Mitigating volcanic hazards through advanced technologies”

The key question asked of a volcano monitoring agency is: "When will the volcano erupt?"

 This question is very difficult to answer, because the interpretation of monitoring signals requires a good understanding of the magmatic processes that lead to an eruption. Here we take advantage of the record of these processes preserved in previously erupted materials in the form of crystals grown in the magma, within a variable (pressure, temperature, chemical etc.) environment. Using high resolution analysis, it is possible to forensically examine these variations, and combined with experimentally determined element diffusion rates, we are be able to quantitatively determine the rates and timing of events that led to the eruption.

This project employs advanced secondary ion mass spectrometry methods at the Isotope Imaging Laboratory at the University of Hokkaido to image and quantify the chemical variations within crystals and between crystals and surrounding volcanic glass, to decipher crystal growth and resorption histories. In doing so, we will be able to constrain the storage history and ascent rates of magma before the onset of explosive volcanic eruptions. The results from this work are directly applicable to the applied monitoring of New Zealand’s volcanoes and can be incorporated into the GeoNet project. Such high-resolution analysis of a wide range of major and trace elements in submicrometer detail, as well as providing quantitative measurements of isotopic composition for precise geochronological work, is unique worldwide. This is the first time that a team of New Zealand-based experts in geochemical methods to characterize volcanic hazards gains access to this powerful set of tools.

The project strengthens existing contacts between New Zealand-based scientists and colleagues in Japan, especially at the University of Hokkaido, and provides a foundation for many years of productive international collaboration in the interest of public safety.

Contact: Georg Zellmer

project_Too big to fail

Completed Project

NHRP contestable fund (2017-2019): Too big to fail? – A multidisciplinary approach to predict collapse and debris flow hazards from Mt. Ruapehu”

Volcanic slopes may weaken and collapse due to hydrothermal alteration.

While less frequent than eruptions or lahars, these low probability, high-risk phenomena can trigger dangerous debris avalanches – a potentially hazardous mass flow of volcanic and non-volcanic particles. Our approach is to use advanced hyperspectral imaging, photogrammetry and aeromagnetic surveys to map the extent of hydrothermal alteration on Mt Ruapehu. These new geophysical and remote sensing datasets have been complemented with field samples to develop a new geotechnical understanding of Mt Ruapehu’s rock, and to develop a flank instability and debris avalanche hazard map through numerical modelling.

Contact: Gabor Kereszturi

project_Enabling hyperspectral and thermal

Completed Project

Catalyst Seeding fund (2017-2019): “Enabling hyperspectral and thermal remote sensing to assess renewable geothermal sources”

New Zealand is a geologically active country, with abundant geothermal resources.

Remote sensing through aircraft-mounted sensors provides a wealth of spatial, spectral and temporal information, enabling mapping and management of geothermal activity and associated hazards. This research sought to initiate a collaboration with University of Twente, The Netherlands, to unlock the potential in airborne hyperspectral and thermal infrared remote sensing for improved management of geothermal resources.

Contact: Gabor Kereszturi

projectNatural Hazards Research Platform Contestable

Completed Project

Natural Hazards Research Platform Contestable (2015-2017): “First Steps to a National Volcano Model”

A national-level volcanic hazard model (NVHM) is an essential pre-requisite to comparing the present risk to (e.g.) those from earthquakes.

Unlike earthquakes, which occur in continuous space on a large, semi-infinite network of faults, a future volcanic eruption is almost certain to appear at an existing volcano, or in close proximity to one. Previous models for the likelihood of future eruptions at New Zealand volcanoes ranged from random Poisson model, compatible with standard methods of probabilistic hazard analysis, to those that are considerably more complex. The possible size of the eruption is an even more important variable. It is almost invariably assumed that this is independent of the time of the next eruption, which does not appear to be true for closed-conduit volcanoes. By means of expert elicitation and empirical Bayes modelling we developed hazard estimates for the `when’ and the `how large’ in a common framework for all New Zealand volcanoes.

Contact: Mark Bebbington

projectResilience to New Zealand’s Hazard Spectrum

Completed Project

Resilience to Nature’s Challenges (2016-2019): “Resilience to New Zealand’s Hazard Spectrum”

By co-creation we generated fit-for-purpose tools and solutions to meet the community and stakeholder demand for nationally consistent delivery of risk information and development of resilience solutions across all hazard types. New frameworks and methods were developed to express all parts of the low-magnitude/high-frequency to high-magnitude/low-frequency hazard impacts spectrum. We provided accurate and useable information by developing a better understanding of the ‘what’ and ‘when’ of natural hazards in a variety of contexts, including cumulative, cascading and unexpected hazards.

Contact: Mark Bebbington