UWI seismic centre cops global award for managing La Soufri?re crisis | Loop Jamaica

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L-R: President of the IAVCEI, Dr Patrick Allard, Director of the UWI SRC, Dr Erouscilla Joseph, UWI SRC-Montserrat Volcano Observatory Volcanologist, Dr Karen Pascal, US Geological Survey and Award Nomination Panellist, Dr Jacob Lowernstern and Professor of Volcanology from University of East Anglia and Award Nomination Panellist, Jenni Barclay during the presentation of the 2022 Volcanic Surveillance and Crisis Management Award.

High commendation has been bestowed on The University of the West Indies (The UWI) from the leading global volcanological association.

The regional Seismic Research Centre (UWI SRC), located at the St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago, was announced as winner of the 2022 Volcanic Surveillance and Crisis Management Award presented by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) on Thursday, June 16.

The prestigious, peer-nominated accolade, awarded biennially, recognised the Caribbean team of experts at the UWI SRC for its outstanding management of the 2020-2021 eruption of La Soufri?re in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The nomination was based primarily on the UWI SRC’s response, made particularly challenging within the context of the global pandemic.

Due to UWI SRC’s state-of-the-art monitoring techniques, robust partnerships, and timely communication with stakeholders, approximately 16,000 people were evacuated ahead of the explosive phase with no reported serious injuries or casualties.

A team comprising experts from UWI SRC and Montserrat Volcano Observatory was the first among a rotation of several scientific teams deployed to St Vincent from December 2020 following the confirmation of new dome growth detected by SRC scientists using NASA satellite imagery. Dome growth at the volcano signalled the beginning of an effusive eruption, which escalated to an explosive phase in April 2021.

In addition to leading the science through monitoring, researching, educating, and advising, the UWI SRC has also been providing critical communications response that has received commendation from the international volcanological community. Leading up to and throughout La Soufri?re’s explosive phase, UWI SRC worked closely with the country’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) to help the Government and its agencies in risk communication in addition to shaping public policy and response plans.

Major volcanic ashfall covered most of mainland St Vincent and neighbouring islands, most notably Barbados among other hazards.

President of the IAVCEI, Dr Patrick Allard said the award recognises and honours the remarkable role UWI SRC has played for almost 70 years in monitoring active volcanoes in the Caribbean island arc and in responding to volcano-seismic crises that occurred in this region.

Dr Erouscilla Joseph and other UWI SRC staff members convened and participated in scientific sessions and workshops at the COV11 conference in Greece. In response to the award, she commended the IAVCEI for supporting under-resourced agencies of the Global South.

“The operations of the UWI SRC are essential for the continued monitoring of the low frequency, high impact geophysical hazards affecting the Caribbean. The issue of significant financial challenges posed by inconsistent and inadequate funding from contributing territories is a longstanding one that has resulted in annual budget cuts over the past ten years, which have considerably impacted the strength of our monitoring and advisory capability.”

The successful management of the eruption stemmed from the UWI SRC’s longstanding partnership with regional authorities and its commitment to serving the region as part of the broader mandate of The University of the West Indies.

“The response to the eruption of La Soufri?re is a reflection of the hard work, expertise and commitment of all staff who worked tirelessly throughout the eruption some of whom, often put their own lives at risk because we were conscious that people’s lives and livelihoods would be affected,” stated Dr Joseph.

Congratulating the UWI SRC, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles noted that he is particularly proud of the “ONE UWI” scientific capacity and response strategy of the Centre which is funded and supported through the University’s Regional Headquarters.

“Our Seismic Research Centre is a demonstration of harnessing The UWI’s mandate of service in action to the region. We are truly encouraged to have this international recognition for the centre’s work, as yet another signal of our achievements as a global university rooted in the Caribbean, remarkably punching above our weight.”

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