Steinmetz Spotlight: Sydney Walters ’22


Sydney Walters ‘22 proceeding her thesis research over spring break at the Northeast Regional Geologic Society of America Conference (NEGSA) in Lancaster, PA.

Avanti Khare, Sci-Tech Editor

This week’s Steinmetz Spotlight is Sydney Walters. She is a senior Geoscience major with a minor in Spanish Language and Culture from Avon, Connecticut. Her research focuses on the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano on the island of St. Vincent that occurred in April 2021.

She writes about her project, “The eruption of the La Soufriere volcano is really interesting to study because volcanic activity began there in late December of 2020 when the volcano began erupting effusively, which means that there was a lava dome being built in the crater that was formed by extremely viscous lava that was being extruded. On April 9, 2021, the volcano began erupting explosively and there were more than 30 separate explosions that took place over about 2 weeks. Effusive to explosive eruption transitions are really interesting and tricky to understand so for my research, I am analyzing scoria clasts from the explosive eruption in order to find evidence of what may have triggered the eruption to go from effusive to explosive. By determining what caused this transition, we can better understand the dynamics of the volcanic system and subsequently improve our monitoring techniques so that we can know when to evacuate people from active volcanic areas and keep everyone safe.”

When asked what led her to this area of research, Walters cites her lifelong interest in volcanoes. She says, “I have always been extremely interested in volcanoes and my research advisor was asked to help spearhead this research prior to the volcano becoming explosive. My thesis, Prof. Holli Frey, originally was supposed to focus on water analysis, looking for geochemical signatures that would allow us to predict if the volcano would erupt. However, my entire research project changed when the volcano went explosive so now I am a part of an international team, working with people from the Caribbean and the United Kingdom, trying to determine why it went explosive.”