Application to the IAS incubation fund

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Name of proposer(s): *Dr. Hugh Tuffen1, Prof. Harry Pinkerton1, Martin Pedersen2, Nina Moeller2, Prof. Brian Wynne2, Dr. Noel Cass3.

  • Main contact, Email:, Tel: 01524 593571.

Department(s): [1] Environmental Science Department [2] CESAGen [3] Department of Geography Project title: Erupting Conversations Funding requested: £2500 Description of the proposed project1:

    "Erupting Conversations" is an innovative project that will combine inter-disciplinary and post-disciplinary research on how Ecuadorian Indigenous Peoples' traditional knowledge interfaces with commercial and natural forces, part of a CESAGEN flagship research project, with studies in volcanology at the Environmental Science Department at Lancaster. This will open up new research directions in the field of social volcanology.
    Active volcanoes such as Tungurahua in Ecuador provide the setting for a collision between unpredictable natural forces, resilient communities with diverse belief and knowledge systems about nature, time and place, and scientists attempting to forecast dangerous eruptive activity. Meanwhile, there is mounting economic pressure to market and exploit hazardous volcanoes as top destinations for western adventure tourists. These diverse factors produce an environment in which social relations within communities and traditional connections with nature are severely tested (Lane et al. 2004). 
    In parallel, free market forces are accelerating natural resource extraction in remote areas, thereby provoking fundamental changes in ecologies and local people's livelihoods. The transformation of traditional ways of life and cultural practices goes hand in hand with the loss of knowledge embedded in and passed on through such practices. On volcanoes, such knowledge may involve not only recognition of the varying precursory signals that an eruption is imminent, but also, more broadly, strategies for how to exist at constant risk of environmental catastrophe, which are particularly relevant in today’s volatile climate.
    The collision between tradition, science and nature at volcanoes such as Tungarahua raises many issues of contemporary interest. However, since the field of social volcanology is so new, these issues have barely been explored. They could include community resilience, understanding and knowledge, effective two-way communication between scientists and local communities, social and psychological strategies for dealing with hazards, mythical representations of nature, tourism research and participatory approaches to action research in the field. There is also, on a more abstract level, a fascinating contrast between conceptions of time and risk: of cosmovisions. 
    We therefore propose to hold "Erupting Conversations", a series of workshops where researchers from diverse disciplines will identify common ground and future directions in social volcanology. This will involve

 A two day workshop at IAS for UK-based participants, for establishing contacts and assessing the current state of knowledge. Discussions will then be held with Dr. Tobin through video conferencing. The aims of the project will then be mapped out and documented in text and video format [Summer 2007].

 A second, smaller workshop in Ecuador where self-funded researchers from CESAGen and Environmental Science will meet local contacts, share the documentation from the first workshop and explore the scope for developing participatory projects. Outcomes of this workshop will be similarly documented [Late 2007].

 A final three day workshop at IAS, including Dr. Tobin, will draw together the themes and perspectives emerging from the previous meetings and outline a practical research agenda in the field of social volcanology. Potential avenues of funding will be identified and a timetable for grant applications established. [Spring 2008].

Intended outcome(s) of project2:

 To develop research within the new field of "social volcanology" and strengthen CESAGen's research portfolio in Latin America.

 To build new intra-institutional links within Lancaster University that transcend boundaries between the social and natural sciences.

 To build on the knowledge and contacts of the leading researcher on social aspects of natural hazards in Ecuador, Graham Tobin.

 To develop effective strategies and methodologies for social volcanology research in Ecuador and identify the most promising topics for future investigation.

 To establish the aims of future research in aspects of social volcanology and develop a plan of action for writing collaborative grant proposals.

 To prepare a report on the process and findings of the workshops which can be used to guide future investigations.

Indicative list of Lancaster University participants3:

Dr. Hugh Tuffen, Environmental Science Department. Prof. Harry Pinkerton, Environmental Science Department Dr. Jennie Gilbert, Environmental Science Department Martin Pedersen, CESAGen. Nina Moeller, CESAGen. Prof. Brian Wynne, CESAGen Dr. Paul Oldham, CESAGen Dr. Noel Cass, Department of Geography Dr. Rebecca Ellis, Department of Sociology

Anticipated duration of project4: 1st June 2007 - 31 July 2008

Proposed budget5:

First workshop at the IAS

Catering cost: £250 Travel and subsistence costs for 2 UK participants: £360 Video conferencing: £50

Sub total: £660

Second Workshop at IAS

Catering costs: £375 Graham Tobin travel from US: £380 airfare + £60 from airport Graham Tobin subsistence: 3 x £65 = £195 Travel and subsistence costs for UK participants: £490

Sub total £1500

Workshop in Ecuador

Catering and other costs: £340

Total: £2500

Any other comments6: We believe that the proposed programme and its outcomes are particularly timely, given that plans are underway to develop the International Mountain Research Centre at Lancaser University, a central part of whose mission will be to study how people interact with natural hazards in mountainous areas.

Meanwhile, major organisations such as the American Geophysical Union have recently begun to encourage scientists to explore sociological aspects of the geosciences and to present this work at the most important international meetings.

It is therefore an opportune time to establish new interdisciplinary networks within Lancaster University and beyond, which will lead to applications for further research funding. Potential funding sources include ESRC, The Wenner-Gren Foundation and, ultimately, Framework 7.

Other Participants

In Ecuador

José Encalada, Coordinadora Nacional de Campesinos (CNC) Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) Patricia Mothes, Instituto Geofísico, Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Quito, Ecuador


Graham A Tobin, Department of Geography, University of South Florida. Zoe Young, London, UK. Freelance action researcher.

Other Lancaster institutions

Gonzalo Araoz, Centre for Health Research and Practice Development, Faculty of Health and Social Care, St Martin’s College, Lancaster.


Lane, L.R.;Tobin, G.A.;Whiteford, L.M. (2004) Volcanic hazard or economic destitution: hard choices in Banos, Ecuador. Global Environmental Change, 5:23-34.