Spyro: The Questionable Volcanism Trilogy

Look. I love Spyro. Played the originals on the first Playstation and have been playing the Reignited Trilogy. But honestly…some of the volcano bits got me so confused.

Spyro’s trilogy consists of you taking control of a cute little purple dragon named Spyro, accompanied by also cute little companion Sparx the Dragonfly who is your health indicator. The first game your mission is to find and free adult (strangely all male) dragons trapped in statues. The second game is to collect tailsmens and orbs. The final game sees Spyro collecting dragon eggs stolen from the (strangely all male) dragons from the first game. Third game is more fun by letting you control additional characters: Shelia the Kangaroo, Sergent Bird the…Pengiun, Bentley the Yeti and Agent 9 the Monkey.


  • Xbox One and the console’s version of the Spyro trilogy.
  • Screenshot and video clips function of the console (and a video-to-GIF converter).
  • Cups of tea and snacks.

I also have a criteria out of 10, 1 being unrealistic and 10 being realistic:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Accessibility
  3. Viscosity
  4. Death
  5. Overall plausibility

It took about a couple of hours to collect the data. Big limitations were: 1) enemies wanted to hurt Spyro while I investigated the levels, so had to go through the whole level and get rid of them first, and 2) a lack of a dedicated photography mode (I will showcase how awesome these are for Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed at a later stage).

Results: Questionable in places.

Spyro the Dragon

The first game is a little lacking in volcanism, which is fine. Just means the dragon’s world is not that volcanically active?

First example that might be considered lava was found in the ‘Dark Hollow’ level:

Spyro1_Dark Hollow
It hurts Spyro like lava (see Spyro 2). But is reflective like water. But its physics make it seem viscous. Its confusing.

This area had two self-contained pools of this blue-purple stuff. You had to jump/glide over the platforms to reach some enemies, collect some gems and a chest key. So, can we link this weird pool of blueberry death to real world volcanism? Why yes, we can!

Some eruptions produce “cerulian blue eruptions”, like these photos of Kawah Iljen volcano in Indonesia. The “blue lava” occurs due to the combustion of sulphur as it comes into contact with oxygen. So it is technically the gas that is burning blue-purple in the above photo. Not the pool of death. So…this means that whatever it is, it is hot and has a lot of sulphur coming off it.

I have been told this is not “technically blue lava” but it is way more easier to say than cerulian blue eruption. This blue lava actually corresponds nicely to the next example of volcanism I came across in the ‘Peace Keepers’ home world:

Spyro1_Peace Keepers (1)

Spyro1_Peace Keepers (2)
Spyro and Sparx for scale. Tiny little vent!

It appears that for this particular area of the dragon world, there is a lot sulphur…maybe. I do not know. The bigger vent in the first photo does not appear to have a high viscosity, quite the opposite really, it is quite runny.

The last example in the first Spyro game comes from the mini-boss level ‘Jacques’.

What I can accept is the plausibility of lava falls and that they are quite runny and free flowing. We only need to look at Kilauea for a direct real life comparison:

What I do have an issue with is the infrastructure built up around the flows. Like…the risk assessment must have been horrendous. Even still, imagine the number of days without injuries at work count! If we are going on the basis that Kilauea’s lava is up to 1,140ºC when it enters the ocean, the amount of potential harmful volcanic gases emitted (absent in games) and splashing of lava (only in the form of wisps of glowing embers in the photos) it seems like unless the builders were constantly in protective suits and highly resilient to really hot temperatures…it does not seem plausible. Maybe fairies did it.

  1. Aesthetics: 8
    • It is a very pretty game, but for the lava flows some detail is missing to show flow complexity.
  2. Accessibility: 9
    • All examples you can go up to them, touch them, get hurt and lose a life. Just wish I could have gotten to the top of those lava falls.
  3. Viscosity: 8
    • Pretty good for the lava falls but I question the collective pool at the bottom. The flow of the blue lava vent seems good too, but lacks detail.
  4. Death: 6 (see Spyro 2)
  5. Overall plausibility: 8
    • The blueberry pool of death and the infrastructure around the lava falls brought the mark down.

We move onto the next game! Where all volcanology knowledge is just thrown out of the window for one level.

Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!

This was my favourite within the trilogy. So I was paying special attention. The first level I will talk about is ‘Skelos Badlands’:

Set in a prehistoric setting with cavemen, dinosaurs and dancing skeletons I like the range of volcanism in this level. Right from the start we have a lava fall and flow, which similarly to the ones in the previous game, lack the detail when there is a change in flow from a near perfect straight vertical to a near perfect straight horizontal direction.

But we have something new…lava bombs! Spyro can hold one in his mouth, and then spit at an an enemy to kill them. Who needs to breath fire anyway? What is questionable about them is how perfectly circular they are. Each new bomb gets (conveniently) erupted from the nearby lava flow, does a little bounce and then lays motionless waiting. In reality, lava bombs come in all different spaces and sizes. But the appearance of it, with some of it cooled and crusted over, and other parts still molten, is accurate.

Oh FYI, this is how lava hurts Spyro in the three games:


In reality, you would not be able to survive full direct contact four times…or at least not in the way that implies that Spyro’s butt gets burnt four times before being cremated. Being on top of the lava and then slowly sinking in it might be plausible though. But I would not go try that.

In any case, I like this level…check out where this complex lava flow takes you! Through a giant dinosaur’s skull and innards into a cave no less!


Next, I’ll briefly go over the lava bodies found in the level ‘Breeze Harbour’.

Spyro2_Breeze Harbour

Some sort of metal infrastructure appears either next to the lava pools or are standing objects within it. Not to mention that sentient spiky mines jump around within the pools that you need to use a cannon to destroy them for an orb.

As this standing lava pool is yellow and in some places white, the temperature of it is around about 1,000 – 1,200ºC, maybe higher. Metals and alloys have different melting points and according to the chart in the link, carbon steel and stainless steel would withstand the temperatures. I did not know that!

Another brief look at the level “Fracture Hills” that features Scottish Satyrs, fauns, dancing pigs, murderous vegetation and rock golems that can only be killed this way:

Spyro2_Fracture Hills to Gif.gif

We have a mixture of comedy as the golem comes to the realisation that it is about to die and the unrealistic exploding into a pieces. In reality, rock just gets swallowed up by lava. So the golem should have just slowly sunk to its doom.

Okay…now to the level in the game that really confused me. This is the introductory video to the level ‘Magma Cone’:

Spyro2_Magma Cone to Gif (1)

Multiple questions ran through my head when I watched it:

  • Why are they chilling right there?
  • A few precursory tremors and a little bit of Strombolian activity?
  • Wait…that’s a volcano?!
  • But the volcano is made out of brick?
  • Hey, that guy clearly knows something is up…why are you ignoring him?
  • Oh hell that’s a big lava bomb right?!
  • Oh sh…he’s dead right?
  • Wow…this is not the time to be all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and just continue chilling when a volcano just killed someone right next to you mate. Should probably warn people and get out of the way?

Alas, things do not get more logical in this level.

Spyro2_Magma Cone

These walls feature all around the level area and what intrigues me are the two glowing layers. Sure enough, you can still have a hot layer when another is added on top, but I do not know any examples where two thin layers just remain hot and glowing like the above photo and do not seep into the layers below them. Unless it is a complex lava tube system. Which in this case, is not.

Next video adds question marks for this level. An ice cave within a really obvious volcano cone.

Spyro2_Magma Cone to Gif (2)

I mean…sure maybe you could have climbable walls built into a volcano that you knew would not erupt again, like this mini one. But this ice cave with popping green (lava?) crystals from green glowing veins seems a bit sketchy. Although, caves made by lava flows is not uncommon: they are lava tubes/caves. The green crystals could even be perfect-every-time olivine. Lava tubes can even form under ice and glaciers:

2018-12-19 19.37.29
Taken in 2012 from an expedition to study lavas that traveled under ice during the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland. Many thanks to Ben Edwards (@lava_ice) for letting me use this photo.

But here is where this level lost me completely:

Spyro2_Magma Cone to Gif (3)

Yes. Spyro did stop the volcano erupting by just climbing up it and closing the lid of it. No. No you cannot put a lid over a volcano.

  1. Aesthetics: 8
    • Same as the first game.
  2. Accessibility: 9
    • Same as the first game, but this time I can go into a couple of volcanoes.
  3. Viscosity: 8
    • Same as the first game.
  4. Death: 6
    • Maybe because Spyro is a dragon, so he experiences it differently.
  5. Overall plausibility: 5
    • I am sorry but you cannot put a lid on a volcano.

Back to limited volcanism examples and less confusion.

Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon

This game I think is certainly the most challenging of the three. But what is not challenging is the volcano-related stuff. The first example that has volcanism right in the foreground and background is the level ‘Molten Crater’:

Spyro3_Molten Crater (1)Spyro3_Molten Crater (2)

Lava lakes would explain the background. But then I do wonder if the level you run around in is an island within a gigantic volcanic crater? From the level name that does sound like that is the case. Do not think that is possible though. Unless, the level is a giant, complex lava dome? But having areas where there is lava coming out of the dome as well as built infrastructure is a bit unrealistic.

La Soufriere St. Vincent’s lava dome. There are some fumaroles (white bit on the left of it) but no running lava. This is common even for more “active” volcanoes with lava domes.

So separately, the volcanism in this level is sound…just together its a bit questionable! Last evidence I found of volcanism in this game is the introductory level of Sgt. Bird…a flying penguin.

Spyro3_Sgt. Bird (2)Spyro3_Sgt. Bird (1)

Flying penguins aside, we have a tunnel of lava which can be translated to a lava tube that still has lava flowing through it. Some lava tube roofs can partially or completely collapse, creating “skylights” but, it looks like the roof’s integrity is pretty solid to stand up on its own. Last image to share were large crystals outcropping of the walls that surrounded an area with lava pools. Considering they are green, embedded in walls that does look similar to the ‘Magma Cone’ level and near lava, I’m going to say its oversized olivine.

  1. Aesthetics: 8
    • Same as the first two games.
  2. Accessibility: 9
    • Same as the first two games.
  3. Viscosity: 8
    • Same as the first two games.
  4. Death: 6
  5. Overall plausibility: 8
    • Island level in the middle of a lava lake brings the mark down.

Overall, the volcanism is plausible in some places and others not so much (looking at you Magma Cone lid) in Spyro’s universe. Regardless, it has been great to play the original trilogy in its scaled up glory!

Next post, I will be looking at The Shadow of the Tomb Raider! Until then, happy gaming 😀



Small update…

Hi all!

Very sorry for the lack of posts! Been busy with editing the PhD thesis and also my teaching! I’ve also been trying in between everything to get a podcast up and running called “What on Earth?!” which will be covering all things in the earths sciences with the key aim of increasing the representation of how diverse the research and the researchers are!

Give the twitter account a follow to keep up to date with progress! (which is lacking at the moment sorry!): @WhatonEarthPod


Space and time (for diversity)

This week’s blog post for my Black History Month mini-series is from Divya M. Persaud, a PhD student in Mars imaging. She is providing her American perspective in diversity in space science. Do remember to hop on over to her blog site and Twitter: @Divya_M_P


As a child first learning about science, it bothered me endlessly that there was an infinite void we could never touch. But something about planets, being so similar to Earth—in being material, in being colorful and spherical and relatively close—absolutely enchanted me as much as they were terrifying. For me, the discomfort with the scale of the Universe now often gives way to this sense that space belongs to absolutely no one—and thus knowledge of it belongs to all of us.

I started using the hashtag “#spaceWOC” in 2014 with colleague and friend Katy Wimberly (https://mkrodriguezwimberly.github.io/) as a way to celebrate being a woman of color in the space sciences. I find this celebration important; I have worked alongside a total of three women of color researchers in space science and exploration in the past eight years (not including a very small handful of interns), and have studied under no women of color geology professors. I am often the “diverse” face of an entire department or even institute, in both geology and space science, a reality that places certain responsibilities and burdens—unspoken (and unpaid) champion of diversity; silent and compliant witness of blatant racism, ableism, and misogyny, which is common in the physical sciences—on me, including when I was underage during my first two years in the field. The network of “spaceWOC” and women of color geologists I now have exists almost entirely via social media.

In both the earth and space sciences, we often talk about a “leaky pipeline” contributing to a lack of diversity in the field. But when our conferences, fieldwork, and classrooms are extremely inaccessible (physically, racially, financially), including due to directed harassment that we often feel that we cannot effectively report while maintaining safety, this isn’t a process of “leaking,” purely “unconscious bias,” or even a lack of diversity. The paucity of women of color (et al.) in any academic field lies in active exclusion of certain people from accessing knowledge about the world to which we belong. We actively eliminate the critical, creative perspectives of many—including Indigenous knowledges, analytical methods developed by disabled people, etc. However, importantly, beyond the framework of what labor minorities bring to the field, we also reify broader societal structures in places of learning, where we might expect (and certainly proudly claim) to think beyond discrimination. These claims in particular—even the most earnest—are often empty promises as those of us who remain slowly watch our friends leave our fields due to burn-out, heartbreak, and self-preservation. The question often becomes: is this worth it?

I—we—can have as much historical materialist analysis about why this is the state of academe as we’d like, but what can I do immediately to distribute this knowledge? In what way can I decolonize geology and space science—in our labs, out in the field, and in our practice—and serve my belief that space belongs to everyone? Critically, how can we study something so immense, the infinite rendering of our will and imagination, the ultimate test of human violence and power as well as hope and innovation, without most of us feeling incensed to deliver all of this knowledge to the entire population of this Earth? To, at the very least, interrogate academic hierarchy? And how can what we study color the ways we understand, e.g., the recruitment of international students (like myself) at British institutions of higher education relative to the dearth of British BAME Ph.D. candidates in the sciences?

Sagan discussed how knowledge only augments wonder; the fights I’ve had to stay in this field have similarly only increased my wonder, because there’s something all the more imperative about pursuing this knowledge when you have to consistently demand to study it. In 2018, I’m still telling myself it’s worth it. I have found incredible community on both sides of the Atlantic, in planetary science, astrophysics, geology, and ecology; I have my champions in my friends, family, and myself. But because I find it worth it, I’m making it my job not to make others feel like staying in space science and geology is worth it, but making these fields worth it. This work won’t finish with me, and that’s something with which I must contend. But I can try my hardest.

As we look in the face of something so mysterious and beyond human scale, something entrenched in probably millions of imaginations, remember that we have no claim to space, and that we belong to it. Our imaginations beget reality and we are able to investigate and admire this little solar system that is everyone’s to understand—and make it better.


If you missed the first part of this mini-series, it was me talking about my viewpoints on diversity in UK earth science:  Curating the ‘Minorities in STEM’ account: Part 4.

Curating the ‘Minorities in STEM’ account: Part 4

Hello! So…it has been a while. Since Part 3, I finished my time as a visitor PhD at Aarhus University in Denmark and now that paper has been submitted for review (and is now available as a preprint…AND we have comments!), PhD work has been going well, just re-working on all my chapters and I am now a Teaching Fellow in Physical Geography at Newcastle University!

So back to the task at hand, Part 4 is based on a thread I did for the Minorities in STEM Twitter account back in April, and I am delighted to have guest bloggers throughout the month providing their perspectives on the diversity (or there lack of) in Earth Sciences to last the month…enjoy!


I will start by sharing this article about who has PhDs in Geology in the US…spoiler: it’s not very diverse in terms of ethnicity. When I read this article, I wanted to see if there are any similar stats for the UK. I found that there is, but it is not broken down into earth science let alone geology, which in my opinion presents a few problems. First problem is the data itself. There are a lot of countries that are classified as “Asian”. Same goes for generally grouping people by the continents. Each country is different, with different cultures, what qualifications/careers seen as “valuable”. Despite that, it does paint a not-very-diverse picture for UK universities: in 2015-2016, only 29 % of BME students were doing a full time first degree and the same group are less likely to achieve a 1st or 2:1.

It reminds me of the report that came out at the beginning of April about equality amongst UK universities: the University of Hull ranked first (woo!) and the Russell Group was not surprisingly at the bottom. Equality and diversity go hand in hand, sure you say you’re doing loads of outreach to encourage people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get interested in STEM but that doesn’t necessarily translate into them going to your university. There are so many factors.

I’m not saying I know all the reasons nor have solutions, but culture plays a big role BUT so does representation and visibility of how diverse STEM is. It goes beyond gender, when I mean diversity I mean ethnicity, sexuality, disabilities even your route into your career too. Just look how successful Black Panther was. I personally loved Shuri because she was literally a STEM princess! Now imagine how awesome it would be that other movies put the spotlight on other BAME STEM careers. It would be so awesome!

Back to the point: I have not found any solid data to see the ethnic diversity in UK earth science, particularly geology where I fall under. I’m serious when I say this: I can count on my hand who I know. If there are any more, PLEASE let me know!

The earth sciences are big on science communication and public engagement. I’m big on it and only wish I had more money and time to do more! Men and women in this field love to do it. Buuut ehhh…while having an increasing number of women in the field is great…there is a big lag in the other forms of diversity I talked about: ethnicity, sexuality, disabilities, career path and economic background. If we are serious in encouraging kids to take up STEM as careers, we need to be truly serious about the VISIBILITY of the representations.

We all have role models growing up right? TV shows/documentaries/movies that made you go: “I want to be like them one day” well…how about increase the visibility of the “other”? We’re everywhere! You just have to look! We’re all STEM nerds here, let us inspire!

The earth sciences in the UK are diverse in terms of men and women. In terms of other genders: nope. Sexuality? Yeah it’s getting there. Economic background, yes it’s on track. Ethnicity? Errrrmmmm….

This is where I’d love to see statistics on BAME earth science professionals here in the UK. Are we just that few? Or is there an issue of visibility here? Even in terms of retaining us in this field: is it like the women academic “leaky pipe” but worse for ethnic minorities? Diversity in all its forms only serves as good for science and the public. Of course, I am not saying that white people need to move out of the way, but instead, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder. If there are few of us minorities in earth science…then maybe ALL of us from all stages of STEM careers need to check ourselves, others, their institutions and truly come together to address the issue. Champion those who are doing awesome, help/mentor those who need help. And make all our diverse lives VISIBLE.

Maybe it’s my naivety and optimism. Maybe I’m just sick and tired of hearing the same stuff about “diversity” and it just sweeps ethnicity under the rug and nothing serious gets done about it. I’m an impatient person, so for me, actions speak louder than words. BE THE CHANGE! Following on from this, is nothing being done because we’re all just waiting for someone else to get the ball rolling? Can’t be bothered? Too much red tape? Do us minority folk really got to pull ALL the weight here? I have chronic fatigue folks, most days I’m too tired.

I will end this post by stating that, talking about addressing these issues is one thing, but actually taking action to improve the lack of UK earth science ethnic diversity is another thing. It’s a cultural, equality and educational issue that everyone needs to tackle.


Crowdfunding an earth science podcast

Hi! So I am setting up an earth science, science communication-themed podcast called “What on Earth?!” with my friend Nuzhat Tabassum, a fellow geology PhD student at Bristol.

Despite how visibly prevalent Earth Science is and the impacts it can have on communities, it is one of the least accessible science. The school curriculum has very little exposure to geological studies and even among students that choose to study Earth Sciences at a degree level, the student population is not representative. Earth Science is just underrated!

So to address this, we will be creating a podcast that covers current earth science news and, invite earth scientists to discuss their work and their science topic. This cannot be done without your help!

Donations will cover equipment, recording and editing software and launching a website with our own domain.

Crowdfunding page: click here

What on Earth?! Podcast Twitter account: click here


The Geology Game: a potential serious game?

Hello! So, you may or may not know that I like videogames. I play them to de-stress from the work but my science brain is always ticking away, so I like to try and find the science from non-science games (in the marketing sense). But, whilst searching for games for the serious game night at EGU, I found a little nugget called “The Geology Game“. It costs £7.19 and well, I am a sucker for a bargain.

So…after spending 4.9 hours (not all at one go) on it…let me give people a run through of how it works, its features and stuff and conclude whether or not it could be used to teach about geology!

First and foremost, after doing a little digging (pun intended), the developer is not a geologist and said they did just 2 months worth of research for this game, particularly on where each fossil/bedrock/mineral should be located. So take the information displayed with a pinch of salt!

Start screen

First off, you choose a name for your museum, where it will be located and the difficulty level.

New game screen

Next, you are taken to the screen of the status of your museum (left) and then the status of the museums you are competing against which are generated at random.

Museum home screen

I am up against Israel, China and Iran. Four things make up your museum’s status (which starts off as none on a new game): income (the bundle of money), prestige (the earth showing the core…for some reason), visitors (ticket) and exhibits (dinosaur skull). This is all summarised in the top left hand corner:

Museum status

You can also get back to this screen by pressing “U” or the museum tab. Press “F” to take you to your fossil exhibits, “B” to your bedrock ones, “N” to your collected minerals, “C” to your museum’s facilities, “G” to your geologists and “S” to save your game, load a saved game, start a new game or to the audio and graphic settings. Let us take a look at the different tabs!

The fossil collection is divided by the Paleozoic, Meozoic and Cenozoic eras and its various geological periods (click on the images to make them bigger to see). What I do like about this section is the mixture of fossil types, its not just about dinosaurs! Another useful thing if using this in classrooms is that if you click on an individual specimen (for all your fossil/bedrock/mineral collections), it is linked to the internet for links to find out more about it:

Next, this is what the bedrock collection looks like:

They are split up into igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks then their various subgroups. Nearly completed my igneous rock collection, must be fate. Lastly, we have the minerals:

At this point, I assume each of the three collection categories are split up the way they are not only for accuracy but also convenience…I certainly would not want to spend ages trying to find olivine.

Another tab is your museum’s facilities where you can increase the number of visitors and prestige:

There is a bunch of things to buy, but you cannot buy them whenever you want, you need to have investments to do so, they look like this:

20180511181823_1(1) - Copy

We will come back to that later. Let us look at the perhaps the most important tab of all: the geologist tab!

Geologist skills pageGeologist summary

Erm…okay it does look a little confusing. You start with one faceless, nameless, white (yeah do not think I will overlook the lack of gender and ethnicity diversity here) geologist with no skills. But as you progress by going to sites, successfully identifying and bringing back specimens to exhibit, you gain geology, travel, fossil, bedrock and mineral skills. Kinda relevant to some of the skills an actual geologist needs? Each of these skills highlighted for this faceless geologist equals tools (picture below) that I can use to access more sites and to identify new specimens. The catch is, my geologist needs to be at the museum and not off on fieldwork.

Tool kit
Each tool either helps you open a rock, identify a specimen, travel to a location or to access a site.

Okay enough of this…let’s go on a fieldtrip! This starts by going to the world map:


If you were just on your museum page, the map goes to the area where you are based. As I am based in London, I view Western Europe. You can see that China is visiting Scotland at the moment, meaning I cannot access that area. But nevermind, I have visited that area a lot in the beginning of my game! All my geologists are currently off in different parts of the world…let’s find them. You simply do this by clicking on your faceless, nameless geologist portrait at the top.

South Africa screen

Looks like my geologist is still on his way to Madagascar, it will take him five turns to get there, so I cannot do anything at the moment with him. Luckily enough, I do have a geologist who is at their site:

India page

My only faceless and nameless geologist woman has arrived at Deccan, whilst her college is still on his way to Sri Lanka. Anyway, you would need 3 maps, 4 translation guides and 1 satellite to open this site up. But instead of that, we will hop over to the last remaining geologist who is already in Iran:

Iran fieldsite screen

Each site has its own relevant interesting geological site to ogle as well as sparkling unidentifiable rocks that we must extract our potential fossil, bedrock or mineral. Also note your geologist’s bag, I already have a few identifiable things in it:


To try and obtain a specimen, you first do this by selecting a rock, then make a note of the number of hammers in the corner of it:


The range is from 1-10, and the higher the number, the more chance of finding something…


…buuuutttt I found nothing. When this happens, just drop it. You can also increase your chances of finding something by writing field notes:

I have written 6 fieldnotes about this site already, and I have 5 able. Just click on the green +1 button to add more notes.

Okay let us try again!

Found a tool
Oh that is underwhelming and finding tools in rocks is really random but hey, could use an extra woolly hat.



Sweet! I found a fossil! To find out what we got, you need 3 screwdrivers (I think?) and 1 fossil kit. If you have enough, click identify fossil!


Nice! I have no idea what it is…some sort of elephant from the Cenozoic Era…anyway, you can either bag it or drop it. I already have one of these in my exhibit (identifiable by the “1” next to its name), but will bag it anyway. Let me see if I can find something I do not have yet.


Cool citrine! I know I do not have it because of the “0” next to the name, and also useful to know is the number of other specimens I have under the gems and precious metals section: here it says I have 8 other unique specimens. After you have filled your bag, exit the site (bottom right hand corner or press “E”).

Return home

Once you head back to the map, go to the top and click on the museum button. It looks like it will take 4 turns for a geologist to get back. Click the globe button to send him back to London.

Just press space bar and then your turn ends. Once the new turn starts, you get a mixture of randomly giving tools, or tools based on the skills your geologist who eventually returns back to the museum has. Once the geologist is back, go to the museum home screen by clicking on the nameless and faceless geologist’s portrait, the museum tab or “U”. Once you do this, click on a specimen and you will have the options to either exhibit or drop it.

Awesome, baryte has been added to my sulfates collection…one step closer to having it complete! With each newly added specimen, your income, prestige and visitors increase! One little annoying thing is that if one row of your collection is full, and you have found a new thing you want to add…you cannot add it without sacrificing one you have already. If this was the real world, I doubt anyone would want to drop anything new they found…but alias in this game I have no choice.

And that is pretty much it! It does get repetitious after a while, but there are plenty of sites to keep yourself occupied to learn about different fossils, bedrocks and minerals that have been found at these real life geosites. Would I recommend it as a serious game though? Hmm well yeah if you want to teach about the basics of geology and the types of sites you can find different stuff sure! The fun factor does wear off pretty quickly though, so maybe a few rounds in half an hour bursts. I would be interested to know if anyone does download and use the game, they let me know how they find it!



Curating the ‘Minorities in STEM’ account: Part 3

As well as discussing mental health in academia, I did a thread on support networks, to help make academia more bearable.


Building up a support network whilst being in academia makes the work more bearable. Not only can it help de-stress, but also help with workload, maybe even lead to research collaborations! This is interesting to see how organic theses networks can be, because in disaster research (and others) there is thing called “resilience”, and a social network is one measurement of disaster resilience. When disaster strikes, individuals, households, communities, even a whole country can gain help to recover with their network.Having such a social network in academia should not be any different. When things get tough, call upon your friends and family to help things get better! And it is a two way thing, if your friend is in a rough patch…help them!

These support networks can take on so many forms: going for a coffee, doing some sports together, a night out clubbing or going to the pub (and doing a pub quiz…or karaoke?!), doing literally any kind of fund activity you can do together! You build up a friendship and a strong bond 🙂 As a side: pets are great too!

The diversity of the group(s) and what you do is up to you. An additional group that could be beneficial to anyone is finding people who share a similar culture to you. That way, if you have moved to a place that does not have your cultural community, you make your own! My support groups include fellow PhDs and postdocs here in Aarhus, Denmark and back at Hull.

As well as offline, online support networks is great for connecting people around the world. These have become just as important to me, particularly in the volcanology community where generally we can be found everywhere…because volcanoes are everywhere! Most of my online interactions are through Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes we video call/Skype too! Conversations can be helping make sense of our writing we are stuck on, but most of time, it is just to hangout!

Being friendly, helping each other, championing each other, promoting, praising etc. based on creating a positive and strong team/research community, could be the starting point to making academia seem less “hostile” and the competitiveness less intimidating to an early career researcher. If everyone felt acknowledged and appreciated, not only does that improve everyone’s moods and attitudes to their work, but their institutions too. This in turn, improves productivity! Which could make REF, TEF, student satisfaction etc. better!

I believe that building up support networks, helping each other out, not only makes academia more bearable but improves productivity. Which brings me to pointing out some troubles in academia when it comes to pushing people out. If you are strongly opinionated (like me) or have views that differ from everyone else, they are either looked upon as inspirational, or as a threat. Even if your viewpoint is valid, it will not matter, because you have hurt someone’s ego. Ego can be a terrible thing. It becomes the case of “your wrong, I’m right”. Which should not be the STEM environment, we are all learning about the world together, not everything has to have a right or wrong answer. But trust me, that will not stop some trying to rain on your parade.

Throw in the competitiveness of academia, and all the intense stuff of academia I mentioned in my previous post, you could be pushed out. It sucks. That is why having both online and offline multiple support networks are great as a social network and in turn, your form of resilience. Or you know…maybe the person(s) you are working with are just total ********* and I have said that to many of my friends who have been having a hard time with their co-workers. Why y’all gotta be mean? We are all here to do science, LET US DO SCIENCE IN A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT.

But haters gonna hate, surround yourself with positive, loving and engaging colleagues, friends and family outside of academia and be there for one another offline and/or online. It has helped me get through rough patches without a doubt.

It may take a while for the “hostile” and toxic environment of academia to change, but building up your support network, do loads of fun stuff where you can, and things may just get better for us and our successive STEM generations 🙂


Curating the ‘Minorities in STEM’ account: Part 2

Last week I summarised about my journey into volcanology and the influences of my heritage and disability had on that journey. Another thread I talked about was mental health in academia.


I suffer from stress and anxiety. And in academia, it has been talked about a lot recently, but it is not a new thing. It has always been there. From what I have gathered from colleagues and reading about it, it is due to a few things: 1) lack of job security; 2) limited support management; and 3) a high workload. In addition, particularly for early career researchers such as myself, it is uncertainty. I feel like although being super into historical and social volcanology, I have set myself up for failure because nowhere really wants to let me fully embrace everything I have learned. I want to stay in academia so I can continue researching and engaging, but it is an uncertain place. This is because my topic is super-niche. But of course, I do have expertise in other areas, mainly disaster risk/resilience/vulnerability. I could technically research any hazard I wanted, but my first love is volcanoes and the people that live around them.

Getting to research volcanoes for a living is not guaranteed when you get a PhD in it. This makes me uncertain in staying in academia. It makes me anxious because I have worked so hard to get here. This in turn stressed me the hell out. These cascading effects, on top of just the stress of the job, it is intense. You can reach boiling point and “burnout” real quick.

Of course, mine is only of one experience. Other people have children and way more responsibilities than me. So I can only imagine the added stress and anxieties that brings, when working in an uncertain, intense environment like academia.

I myself, being part of a big Caribbean family, I am attached to them. So I want to stay in the UK, and at least near one family member (for my undergrad I was near my mum, for my masters and PhD I was near/lived with my dad). I also need Caribbean culture nearby too, which has been an interesting experience being in Denmark. The main diverse group here is African, not Caribbean. I have done my best to combat this cultural-loneliness by cooking some Caribbean home comforts and just keeping up with calling my family.

Which brings me to another mental health issue in academia: loneliness. A PhD is a lonely process, despite being surrounded by other people. In the UK it is well known that every from young adults to the elderly suffer from it, it is an endemic situation. I am an introvert and most days do prefer my own company, but I am in a relationship with someone I would love to settle down with. But you know…the whole uncertainty in academia thing. As a British volcanologist, this may require me finding relevant work outside of the UK. This has placed me in a really rubbish situation: what do I sacrifice? My relationship or my career aspirations? This then, makes me more stressed and anxious. Because I do not want to sacrifice either one.

Having a life outside of academia is important. I have friends within academia I can just go out and do something as simple as going to a restaurant (and not talk about work). My friends, my family and partner outside of academia is also important too. It helps de-stress. Often, we experience guilt by not focusing on the work if you are having the time to relax and de-stress from work. It is the pressure of the job, wanting to do good work – be it research, admin, teaching, science communication etc. The workload, lack of support, strict deadlines, funding pressures and so many more…make us feel guilty if it is not done on time or not to a high standard.

A lot of these factors I have talked about, plus a “hostile” environment, measurements of performance such as the REF and TEF, sexual harassment not being taken seriously, lack of permanent positions, the gender pay gap and so many other factors, push people away from academia. I want to do research because I feel I am good at it. But then again, I look around and think other people are better. Yep, I am referring to “imposter syndrome” – it is like the peak tier of intellectual guilt. You feel like a fraud, it saps your confidence and self-esteem. Before Denmark, I shared an office with 3 other women. All different ages, from different countries/towns in the UK, and way different projects. But we still feel like one was “doing better” than the other.

That is why building up a support network – within your research team, department/institution, with people at other places, friends and family outside of academia, offline and online, is so important. It helps make the work more bearable.

I summary, personal responsibilities and academia pressures can make mental health issues hard to cope with. But, do not be afraid to talk to someone, be it in an informal and/or formal capacity. You are not alone ❤


Curating the ‘Minorities in STEM’ account: Part 1.

Hello! This past week I have been curating the Minorities in STEM Twitter account, and I shared a few threads with followers. Monday, I introduced myself and a bit about my PhD work; Tuesday was how my Caribbean heritage and physical disability influenced me to becoming a volcanologist; Wednesday was diversity in earth science and Thursday and Friday was about mental health and support networks in academia.

I will be putting these threads into blog posts, so to make it easy for people to find. So first thread I will share is my journey into volcanology.


The journey starts with me being diagnosed with a chronic physical disability called Systemic Onset Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis at the age of 2. I struggled to walk, had inflamed joints and terrible fevers. From 2 to 18, I spent a lot time taking medication and in hospital because I was so sick.

But I became interested in geography (particularly natural hazards at secondary school) and the sciences. My family would take me to places to keep my curiosity going outside of school. For the sciences, particularly biology, I was interested in it because I wanted to understand my disability. I was well known in my clinic to be the one asking questions. My former paediatric physiotherapist said they loved/feared it! And I say fear because they didn’t want to disappoint me by not answering my questions!

Being in constant pain has made me equal parts stubborn and determined. Going on geography field trips (and later volcanology ones) were and are a struggle. But if you love something, you put yourself through the pain and bare the consequences later.

As well as all this, my disability was treated with “tough love” in my Caribbean family (which I am sure it is not just limited to our culture) – it was all, yes we love you, we know you’re in pain but get on with it, you still got your brain now use it. Reflecting back on it, I suppose it was a way in investing in me: my disability may have hurt my body, but it made my mind sharp, and my family knew this! With Caribbean families, it is all about hard work, appreciating what you got and being full of love – since my mind was sharp, I had to put it to work!

By the time I got to go to Coventry University to study Geography and Natural Hazards, my disability was under control, and my family were proud for me for just going to university. During my course I learned that when my disaster management lecturer told us “it’s not a hazard without the people”, it was so true. So because I had become such a nerd for natural hazards, I studied both: the hazard and the people they impacted.

Near the end of my 4 year course, I knew I wanted to keep studying natural hazards but I had limited options. BUT then I saw some Masters programs for volcanology. I asked my family for some advice and then all the sudden they started telling me about this volcano called La Soufrière on the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines erupting in 1979! I loved hearing the stories of Jamaica, so imagine when I heard about St. Vincent’s volcano! I was captivated, I wanted to know more about this volcano. So, I did a Masters for the sole purpose to learn about this volcano that had impacted my family and my ancestors. I was determined to do it for my MSc dissertation, so I created a project with the lessons from my undergrad and family in mind: it’s not a hazard without the people.

Independent fieldwork on St. Vincent doing a volcanic risk perception study was the best month of my life: I stayed with a family friend, I met family I’ve never even knew about, I met so many other amazing people, the weather, mountains, the volcano…everything about the trip was just pure magic. And of course…I got to do some science!

The dissertation I wrote was noted by the examiner in being “a novel piece of work, in which Jazmin drove herself”. And that determination/stubbornness, born from my disability and the encouragement of my Caribbean family made it possible. BUT I was not done! I needed to continue researching La Soufrière, so I applied for PhD projects. None I applied for allowed me to look at St. Vincent specially, and I got rejected. But then, my best friend talked me into applying for one more: the one I am doing now!

Following on from my Masters dissertation, I asked the simple question that opened up a whole new other world: “what did this look like in the past?” So I have ended up looking at three eruptions of the volcano: 1812, 1902 and 1979. I think the biggest thing I have learnt during my PhD about St. Vincent are the two groups of people that came before colonialism: the Kalinago (“Yellow Caribs”) and the Garifuna (“Black Caribs”). From this, I reached out to American, Canadian and Australian academics about “territorial acknowledgement” – where you state that where you do your research, and the land you occupy on, was not originally your own. Their voices are almost entirely silent from the narrative, and that really gets my goat. So, with my stubbornness, I have made sure I found as much evidence of possible of what happened to them during the eruptions.

What’s all this talk to do with me being a British-Caribbean early career researcher? Well…I’ve learnt that I am in fact, a descendant of the “Caribs” but unfortunately, I do not know which group. But, my PhD has become super personal and I am in too deep now!

In summary: my chronic physical disability made me stubborn/determined, my Caribbean family encouraged me to pursue my love of science. I carved out my path as a social and historical volcanologist with the combo of both with a splash of creativity.



Doing historical volcanology

So every year I say I should do more blogging…we will see how that goes. But in the mean time, I asked Twitter for some ideas of what to write and got this suggestion from my friend and fellow PhD volcanologist Geoff Lerner (he is doing some awesome stuff out in New Zealand, do check out his Twitter!)


So using inspiration from Geoff…I’m going to attempt to give a general overview of how historical volcanology works.

dog and book gif

To begin: how did we come to know about the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius, and the destruction of Pomepii and Herculeum? The observations of Pliny the Younger. He was a man who lived in the distant past who observed a volcanic eruption. We also have countless volcanology studies about the eruption (and others that happened since). We also have unearthed archaeological sites and artefacts. Thanks to all this evidence, we now know that this eruption happened and its impacts on the surrounding society.

…and I guess we have the movie now?

A historian is a person who researches past events that relate to humans through narratives. Volcanologist one way or the other look at past volcanic eruptions…so you could say we are “Earth” historians.

Look I just googled “history gif” and I do not know why it is of an animated iceskater okay?

Volcanology in itself is diverse and researchers come from all different backgrounds: geology, petrology, geophysics, engineering, geochemistry  – I labelled here a number of “physical” science disciplines. In volcanology we are increasingly seeing the inclusion of the “social” sciences when exploring the impacts of volcanism on an exposed population.

Historians use tangible (sites, objects, instruments, remains) and intangible (memories, narratives, indigenous knowledge) artefacts. So a historical volcanologist uses tangible and/or intangible artefacts to understand past volcanic events from the human perspective. For me, I have mainly used intangible artefacts, with written records in archives and interviewing people remembering an eruption. Archaeologists are particularly good at using tangible artefacts, with plenty of research out there of looking at deep past volcanic events and their impacts on early human civiliations.


If a volcanologist looks at past volcanic events, combining the understanding of how people responded to the event within the historical and social context, with the scientific understanding of volcanism, it provides a richness and numerous perspectives of the story of an eruption that may not have been captured if doing a single disciplinary approach. Looking at the past, we can see how much the volcano and the society that live around it, have changed or not. Further social volcanology studies for a given volcano would benefit from the historical perspective in this way. Furthermore, a “traditional” physical volcanology study would complement a historical volcanology study and vice versa. One or the other could find things the other had not found before, which could lead to a fuller picture of what happened!


So to end this post I have compiled a little checklist I have gained during my PhD doing a historical volcanology project:


  1. Whatever “physical” science approach to volcanology you use, think outside of the box of how it would be beneficial to the society who has to live with the particular volcanic region you are researching;


2. This is important for every volcanologist – do your research on your volcano: its past activity, current activity, what signs and hazards it is known to produce and any probablitic scenarios of any potential future impact on society;

3. And now we take it up a notch: do your homework on your volcano in the context of the society who had to live with it. Here I mean the social and cultural significance of the volcano, what they knew and do not know about it, and perhaps most importantly (if using intangible artefacts): what language was used to describe what they saw and felt about the volcano? In times of activity would be a priority, but if you have the time (and money) look at quiet periods too;


4. And now, if you are looking at a historical eruption and you want to see what is in the archives* ask yourself: has the language to describe any volcanic phenomena associated with the volcano, similar or different to the present? You will need to be very aware that in the past, especially before the modern notions of “volcanology” as a science, people were very descriptive when observing volcanic activity (think “curtains of fire”, “it grew dark during the day”, “we heard rumblings” and so on);

*Using archives first requires identifying a collection: in most places this is available online, others it requires contacting the specific department and arranging a visit to see what is there. If a collection may prove useful, be prepared to go down some rabbit holes and not come back up for a while…it takes perseverance to find what you are looking for.

rabbit hole
Actual representation of what it is like doing archival work

5. Be respectful of the words written/spoken, objects etc. of those who are no longer here. As a volcanologist, and as a scientist, you can interpret what was observed with rigour but never dismiss other people’s own interpretations when they were within the moment, observing a phenomena they may have never witnessed before. Like all disasters, volcanic eruptions induce stress and anxiety (usually temporarily, but sometimes longer), occurring in their own social and cultural context that is different from your own;

6. Be extra mindful when researching volcanoes in countries that were colonised/occupied. I say this because written records that have survived are usually of one dominant “voice” and many others have either been manipulated or silenced. For my investigations into the 1812 and 1902-1903 eruptions of La Soufrière, I found that the voices of women, children, African slaves, freed persons of colour and indentured servants were almost entirely absent or manipulated (the experiences of myself, my family and POC friends allowed me to have a trained eye to stereotypical/racist language and behaviour). I tried to correct this by doing my interviews for the 1979 eruption by including men and women of varying ages and ethnicities – remember: each voice who provided a narrative is valid as many people experienced these violent events with their own education, experiences and perceptions;

7. Seek out local historians, they may know information that you could not find. I have been in contact with a local Vincentian historian who has been super helpful in pinpointing locations that no longer exist on maps today – then of course give credit where credit is due;

8. Lastly, give back! I have used documents from multiple archives in 3 different countries, all have had a dedicated curator/librarian to help me find what I needed and are super keen to help in anyway possible. As a way of saying thanks and to provide knowledge for any future researcher, give a copy of your finished work to the archive you used. For public dissimination, certainly put the country whose volcano you are researching first – you may be as creative and collaborative as you like!

Historical volcanology has been a new and exciting avenue to me, I have learned a lot about the volcano, the country, its people and myself. I know people say “leave the past in the past” but how else would we know how to better ourselves as a people and know how far we have come in living on this dynamic planet?

To embrace the future…why not start with the past!