An Eruption of Citizen Science in Nicaragua

Fascinating methods used

Earthwatch Unlocked

The story of a volunteer’s innovative contribution to volcano research.

By Keegan Dougherty

When citizens meet scientists, exciting things happen. Massive data sets are collected, critical funding is raised, and ideas are shared. On the expedition Exploring an Active Volcano in Nicaragua last March, I witnessed an unexpected synergy of a citizen and a scientist collaborating to solve a simple research problem.

What resulted was a pioneering use of a brand new software that may change the study of extinct lava tubes for volcanologists everywhere.


On our first day assisting the Earthwatch scientists on the slopes of Masaya, Dr. Guillermo Caravantes, one of the lead volcanologists on the expedition, asked if any of the volunteers were feeling particularly intrepid that day. Guillermo recently completed his PhD studying Masaya with Dr. Hazel Rymer at the Open University. Now a fully-employed geoscientist, Guillermo was taking time-off from work to tackle a completely different…

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