UMaine Collaborates to Create Standards for Volcanic Tephra Collection, Measurement and Reporting – UMaine News


Thanks to an international team of researchers from the US Geological Survey, the University of Maine, and various institutions across the country, the scientific community now has a standard set of protocols for collecting data on volcanic ash known as tephra.

Tephra is any airborne material produced by an explosive volcanic eruption and plays an essential role in understanding past volcanism and its effects on climate and the environment. Tephra deposits also provide spatially widespread, high-resolution temporal stratigraphic markers across a range of sedimentary environments and are therefore used in numerous disciplines, from climate science to archaeology.

However, the study of tephra deposits is challenged by a lack of standardization that inhibits data integration across geographies and disciplines.

in one to learn published in July 2022 in the journal Nature Scientific Data, researchers designed a framework for collecting and reporting tephra data to guide future researchers. Andrei Kurbatov, co-author of the study and associate professor at the Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences, said the team was inspired by the work of geologists George Patrick Leonard Walker and Ron Croasdale, whose tephra dataset is published in was created in 1971 and can still be used today due to its comprehensive character.

The researchers developed six workbooks that together contain the best practice recommendations. The workbooks are carefully constructed to ensure that at least the most important data is captured and to outline optimal, ideal or best practice data collection. Each workbook targets a different area of ​​research, from collecting and documenting data and samples on site, to processing and preparing samples for various types of laboratory analysis, to reporting data, methods, and results.

Kristi Wallace, first author of the study and US Geological Survey geologist, says the team was motivated to establish these standards “at the request of the global tephra community that needs a solution to share tephra data between the myriad research disciplines that tephra collect, make interoperable as part of their work.”

Due to the diverse nature of real-world tephra studies, it is expected that no single data set will contain all best practice recommendations, but the standardized framework aims to promote consistent documentation and archiving while enhancing interdisciplinary communication and effectiveness to promote the exchange of data.

“We hope that new guidelines and data sharing approaches will encourage a future generation of researchers that need access to global and properly documented tephra data,” says Kurbatov.

Contact: Sam Schipani, [email protected]


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