What It’s Like to Work As a Volcanologist

Caitlin Schneider

There’s science you do in a lab, and then there’s science that requires hands-on—and sometimes treacherous—work. For volcanologists, that’s all part of the appeal.

In "Volcanology: Life in the Field," filmmaker Zach Voss provides a short, behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to study these often unpredictable landforms. The Santa Maria and Santiaguito volcanoes near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala are the area of focus for the scientists in the film—the latter of which erupts every hour, making it a perfect "laboratory volcano."

The volcanologists discuss the danger and excitement of the job, and that constant push and pull to get close to the action for the sake of retrieving data, but far enough away to stay safe. The dynamic nature of their subject means it can often be difficult to get samples and measurements for further study, far away from the danger zone.

As volcanologist Bill Rose says: "These are not people who stay in their lab. These are people who really go out and look at things and see what’s going on, and there’s no substitute for that. And that's why this place is so extraordinary."

Voss’s short was picked up by National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase, which you can learn more about over at the NatGeo website.

Banner image: Wikimedia Commons

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.