Bruce Houghton receives top international award for volcanology research

Bruce Houghton, the Gordon A. MacDonald Professor of Volcanology and Science Director of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at UHM was honored recently by  the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) with the Thorarinsson Medal.

The Thorarinsson Medal is awarded only once every four years by the IAVCEI for outstanding contributions to volcanology, and is the highest award in international volcanology.

“A giant of volcanology, Bruce has tackled ‘big’ problems in geology with innovative approaches and technologies, and is truly a scientist of outstanding distinction,” stated University of Tasmania’s Rebecca Carey in her nomination letter. “His research has not only generated a wealth of new scientific understanding, but also critically Thorarinsson-type pioneering advances in long-standing cornerstone volcanologic concepts.”

Further, Houghton has pioneered research across the interface of fundamental volcanological science and hazards, social and behavioral science, leading to a world-first detailed training course for scientists, first responders and emergency managers, titled the U.S. FEMA Volcanic Crisis Awareness course.

Houghton and his predecessor at UHM, George Walker, are among the only nine volcanologists to-date given the Thorarinsson award, an award named for the noted Icelandic geologist and volcanologist Sigurdur Thorarinsson.

Houghton reflected on becoming a Thorarinsson Medalist; “I was delighted and surprised by the award. All my research is collaborative and, since moving to UH 70% of my papers have been first-authored by my students or postdocs, and these are not the type of statistics that usually lead to such awards. I was particularly pleased because all three of my mentors in volcanology are in the list of eight prior winners of the medal; it is quite humbling to be joining them. For UH to have been awarded two of the nine Thorarinsson Medal to-date is, I think, a sign that volcanology is in excellent health here in Hawaii. The challenge now is to find ways to build on this reputation and capture for UH some of the wonderful crop of young volcanologists on the market.”