School of Earth and Environment

Fiona Couperthwaite Fiona Couperthwaite

Postgraduate Researcher

Email address:
Room: 8.152 k

Affiliation: Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics


I am interested in implementing igneous petrology as a volcano monitoring tool to retrieve more information on pre- and syn-eruptive magmatic processes for improved hazard mitigation. I interrogate the chemical zoning of minerals such as olivine to gain information on crystal populations and their journeys and residence times within the magmatic plumbing system. I have also used X-ray Microtomography (XMT) and Crystal Size Distribution (CSD) methods to manipulate 3-dimensional crystal datasets.


  • PhD Candidate in Volcanology, October 2013 - Present
  • MSci Geology with Study in North America, University of Bristol, 2005-2009
    • MSci thesis: 'Unravelling magma storage conditions and their temporal evolution beneath Kilauea, Hawaii, using melt inclusions.'

Selected Conference Contributions:

  • Couperthwaite, F.K., et al. 2017, ‘Petrological Journey Through an Icelandic Magma Plumbing
    System in Simulated Real Eruption Time’, Oral Presentation, Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group, UK
  • Couperthwaite, F.K., et al. 2016, ‘From Rock to Magmatic Timescales in 25 Hours: Near-Real
    Time Petrological Volcanic Eruption Monitoring Tested with Basaltic Icelandic Tephras’,
    Poster Presentation, American Geophysical Union, USA
  • Couperthwaite, F.K., et al. 2015, ‘Diffusion modelling as a Useful Petrological Tool for Near-
    Real-Time Volcanic Eruption Monitoring’, Poster Presentation, American Geophysical Union, USA

Research Interests

My research interests are in igneous petrology, volcanology, hazard mitigation and risk management

Teaching Interests

I have used my experience to date to demonstrate in practials for various undergraduate courses such as geological mapping, mineralogy and petrology and geological materials and for masters modules such as seismic acquisition and processing from 2013 to present.


I have provided teaching and logistical support on the MSc structural geology with geophysics fieldtrip in the Spanish Pyrenees (2014-2016), and for undergraduate earth sciences fieldtrips to Connemara, Ireland, (2016), Pembrokeshire, Wales (2015), Ingleton, England (2013, 2014, 2016)

Project details

Project title

Tales of Intrusion and Eruption; Bringing magmatic timescales to eruption monitoring


Dr. Daniel Morgan, Prof. Thor Thordarson (external), Prof. Marjorie Wilson, Dr. Jason Harvey, Dr. James Day (external)



Project outline

During a volcano eruption crisis, information is at a premium. Knowing what is going on, and over what timescales, is key to successful mitigation. Petrological techniques have been used in recent years with great success in unpicking magmatic events some time after the eruption has ended; this project has taken those methods and accelerated them such that they can be deployed during an eruption cycle to better constrain what is known and when that information could have the greatest impact and aid mitigation.

Petrological techniques can obtain timescales from zoned crystals. The existence of zonation tells us about processes of magma mixing and ascent; by measuring how much that zoning has been equilibrated by diffusion, we can work out how long ago the zoning formed. Diffusion techniques are temperature-dependent; diffusion is only significant at high temperature, and so upon eruption and cooling, the timescale information is locked in and this information can be retrieved from the crystals after their eruption.

We have worked on a nominally simple crystal population, to evaluate how the effects of crystal sectioning, grain size, grain shape and grain orientation combine to create complexity in diffusion time scales. This has informed the development of a simple, rapid method (hours-days as opposed to weeks-months) for characterising crystal populations and magmatic processes beneath the volcano. We have tested these methods on a historical explosive Icelandic tephra eruption and various other complex crystal populations from a range of samples from Mauna Loa, Hawaii.