Laura Wainman

Laura Wainman


I am a first-year PhD Student in the Volcanology Group at the Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics. My research interests lie in the interactions between volcanic eruptions, climate, and the environment, with the overarching aim being to understand and mitigate hazards to human health and the environment. I am funded by the Panorama NERC DTP (2022 Cohort) researching “The Volcanic Emissions of Environmentally Reactive Trace Elements” in partnership with the UK and Icelandic Metrological Offices.

I completed by BA (Hons) in Natural Sciences and MSci in Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. My MSci dissertation focussed on “Constraining the Samalas 1257 Eruption using a Model Multi-Proxy Approach” and utilised UKESM ensembles in combination with a globally-resolved multi-proxy database to constrain the season of and regionally variable climate response to the Samalas 1257 Eruption. In this project I was supervised by Dr Anja Schmidt and Dr Lauren Marshall. 

As student Ambassador for Geology for Global Development (GfGD) and a member of the International Association for the Promotion of Geoethics I am also interested in the role of geosciences in sustainable development and an equitable global future. 

Research interests

Research Key Words: Volcanic gases, volcanic aerosols, environmentally reactive trace elements, health hazards, population exposure, Iceland eruptions.

Volcanic Emissions of Environmentally Reactive Trace Elements

Effusive eruptions and quiescent degassing centres can be long-lived sources of volcanic pollutants, including SO2 gas, fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM1) and environmentally-reactive trace elements (ERT). Chronic exposure to environmentally reactive and potentially toxic elements such as Pb, As, Mo, Hg, and Cd may be associated with severe effects on both human health and the environment. Exposure can occur through multiple pathways, such as through airborne, water, and/or soil ingestion, the importance of which can also vary depending on population demographic. It has been shown that different chemical components in volcanic emissions have variable dispersion patterns and lifetimes, thus causing population exposures to different constituents to vary with distance from the source to far-field locations (and with background conditions).

This project will focus on investigating the lifetimes and dispersion patterns of environmentally reactive elements in quiescent and effusive volcanic plumes, as well as the climatic controls on element transport and deposition (for example background relative humidity). Comparative fieldwork case studies will inform subsequent plume dispersion modelling of critical elements using the UK Met Office NAME dispersion model. Population exposures will also be assessed through fieldwork and QGIS analysis to create exposure maps. The project will also center establishing partnerships and collaborations with in-country scientists and impacted communities, with a focus on equitable and innovative data sharing and engagement.

I have recently completed my first phase of fieldwork in Iceland collecting ground and drone-based plume samples from the 2022 Fagradalsfjall Eruption.


  • MSci Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • BA (Hons) Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics