Research fellows 2011 - 2012

One of the most important activities of the Nordic Volcanology Center is the research fellow program. Every year five young Scandinavian geoscientists are invited to do a research project in Iceland.

In 2011 -2012 the following research fellows with the projects have been appointed:

Name Position E-mail Phone
Bergrún Arna Óladóttir Nordvulk fellow 525 5484
Birgir Vilhelm Óskarsson Nordvulk fellow and PhD student 525 5476
Christina Bomberg Andersen Nordvulk fellow 525 5476
Eirik Gjerløw Nordvulk fellow and PhD student 525 5484
Esther Ruth Guðmundsdóttir Nordvulk fellow 525 4255
Gabrielle Jarvik Stockmann Nordvulk fellow  
Gro Birkefeldt Moller Pedersen Nordvulk fellow 525 4496
Martin Hench Nordvulk fellow 525 5219
Sylvia Eleonor Berg Nordvulk fellow and PhD student 525 4496


Bergrún Arna Óladóttir

During the last six years I have been working with Icelandic tephra. In my BS project I concentrated on a single tephra layer. During my masters project the focus was on numerous layers from one single volcano, Katla. For my PhD project I worked on numerous layers from three volcanoes in Vatnajökull forming a long time series. This work has been carried out here at the University of Iceland and Université Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Surprisingly, my project here at NORDVULK is also related to tephra! This time I will focus on the magnitude of Holocene explosive basaltic eruptions by studying the dispersal of selected tephra layers chosen from the dataset obtained during my PhD. Additionally, I will build up a tephra database for Icelandic Holocene tephra layers, mainly focusing on basaltic tephra. By combining these two tasks I aim at improving the knowledge on the productivity of Icelandic volcanic systems and will try to find out if, and then how, the productivity is related to chemical composition of the products.

Birgir Vilhelm Óskarsson - mynd

Birgir Vilhelm Óskarsson

I come from a background in structural volcanology, with focus on the morphology of lava flows and their emplacement mode, as well as the products of lava-ice interaction and the hazard assessment following such eruptions. My MS thesis, concluded in 2009, was a research on a multi-composition fissure eruption that took place on the ice-capped central volcano Eyjafjallajökull, south Iceland. Interestingly, Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 after almost 200 years of inactivity, in an eruption ressembling the eruption I had studied. Both my undergraduate and MS studies were done at the University of Iceland. After concluding my MS, I worked in a one-year project with Nordvulk on the mobilization of major and trace elements with weathering in Holocene soils from Iceland.

Current Research Project
Currently Im involved in a phd program which aims to explore general features of the Neogene volcanism in Iceland. The project is conducted in the eastfjords of Iceland, where piles of flood basalts are beautifully exposed in steep, glacially carved mountain sides. In this study, individual lava groups within the flood basalts are mapped, which include one or two groups of each type, characterized by composition and flow rchitecture, namely the olivine basalts, tholeiites and porphyritic.  Besides general description of internal and external features of the lava lows within these groups, eruption vents are located giving clues of the rifting history of Iceland, and an estimate of the eruption rates assessed giving an idea of the scale of the eruptions. This is possible by comparing these eruptions with modern Icelandic examples. In addition, geochemical analysis of the lavas mapped add significant information on the petrogenesis of these groups, a work done in cooperation with two ther Nordvulk fellows, Christina and Sylvia. Flood basalts are little understood in general terms, why they occur, how they occur, the magnitude of these events in history and their implications in the formation of Iceland. Thus this project aims to answer few of these questions.

Eirik Gjerløv

Eirik Gjerløw


Bachelor and master degree from the university of Tromsø in Norway. My master thesis was titled Petrology and age of high-grade metamorphic rocks in the western gneiss-complex in Troms (northern Norway). After I finished my master degree I worked two years at the University of Bergen (also in Norway) doing various sample preparation and analysis. I am currently a PhD student at the University of Bergen and the plan is to stay at Nordvulk until the summer 2013 and go back to Bergen after that
for the last year of my PhD.

My current research project focuses on the Holocene eruptive activity on the Jan Mayen island located in the north Atlantic. The eruptive history of the island is little known, except for a few eruptions since the island was discovered in the 17th century, so there is a lot of work to be done concerning the eruptive history. I am studying in particular the 1732 eruption on the island and the resulting tuff-cone, the relations between different lava flows on the Beerenberg volcano and tephrachronology in marine cores from the sea around Jan Mayen and in soil sections from the island itself.

Why I wanted to go to Iceland:
Since I am studying the Norwegian volcanic island Jan Mayen and the knowledge in Norway about volcanology is rather limited, I wanted to go somewhere I could get more experience in volcanology, and for this Iceland was the obvious choice, and Nordvulk provided an excellent way for going to Iceland to learn more about volcanology.

Gabrielle Jarvik Stockmann

Gabrielle Jarvik Stockmann

Background information:

I’m a Danish Ph.D. student in Geochemistry who arrived in Iceland 2007 to work on an Icelandic-French-American project on CO2 capture and storage. My educational background is a M.Sc. in Geology and a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Copenhagen. During my master’s project I worked together with fellow geologists, geophysicists and biologists on a project in South Greenland, where we described thousand of columns made of ikaite, growing under water in a place called Ikka Fjord. My part of the project was to determine the geochemical settings that led to the formation of this rare calcium carbonate mineral, ikaite. Our combined work was published in Nature in 1997.

Growing up as a child in Greenland and later on working there during my geology study, the Arctic has always been in my blood. I was therefore thrilled when I found out there was a chance to work in Iceland. What better place to go and work with geology, where geological processes are actively taking place right under your feet. During my four years in Iceland there has been one major earthquake (6.2) and two volcanic eruptions, so it’s never boring to be here!

I joined NordVulk in August 2011. NordVulk has kindly offered to fund me for a couple of months to finish the articles related to my Ph.D. project, which I’m very grateful for!

Research project(s) and interests:
My Ph.D. project is part of the CarbFix project, a big international project aiming at finding a technical solution on how we can turn industrial CO2 pollution into environmental safe carbonates – from gas to minerals. Being a volcanic island, Iceland is gifted with a lot geothermal energy, which is exploited, and providing heat and warm water to its inhabitants – and nice warm, outdoor swimming pools. However, exploiting geothermal energy leads to release of several gasses, where CO2 is one of them. The Hellisheidi geothermal power plant outside Reykjavik together with leading scientists in US, France and Iceland are establishing a method, where CO2 gas in captured, dissolved in water (creating ‘sparkling water’) and pumped down into the lava horizons underlying the Hellisheidi area. At 400-600 meters depth a geochemical reaction is expected to take place, where the CO2-loaded water will dissolve basaltic rocks and thereby release cations that can react with carbonate ions and form Fe, Mg, Ca carbonates.

There is probably no need saying if this technique works it will make an important contribution to how to solve increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.
I’m one of approximately 10 Ph.D. students who are each trying to model and determine the processes expected to take place during the CO2 capture and storage process at Hellisheidi. My part is to look at a) what effects the presence of calcium carbonate solids will have on the dissolution of basaltic rocks, and b) how naturally occurring bacteria in the Hellisheidi soil and groundwater might affect the geochemical process. Bacteria are known from other places to accelerate or block certain mineral dissolution or precipitation reactions.

My Ph.D. is a joint degree between University of Iceland and Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France, and my supervisors are; Sigurdur R. Gislason (Iceland) and Eric Oelkers (France). Furthermore, Domenik Wolff-Boenisch (Iceland) and Oleg Pokrovsky (France) have been excellent co-supervisors.

Why is Iceland/NordVulk the place to be for you?

Why should you come to Iceland? Because Iceland is simply an amazing place to work, when working on a topic related to e.g. volcanoes, rivers and glaciers. Coming from abroad you can really feel there is a great expertise in Iceland on these topics, and there are several strong research groups to link up to, which I personally find very important. There is not ‘just’ one expert, but a whole group to cooperate, discuss and interact with.

Of course, the nature in Iceland is superior and unique. I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else. Here are endless opportunities for interesting fieldwork and hiking trips. And the Icelanders, once you get through their sometimes “tough” façade, are warmhearted and helpful. For me as a Dane it was an extra bonus to find out Danish humor, which can be quite rough sometimes, works well here.

As earlier stated, things are never boring in Iceland, and to give you an idea of how “intense’ things can be, I can give you an example from my first month in Iceland. Within this first one month I met the President of Iceland, was interviewed by the Icelandic TV News and got myself a boyfriend (a “crazy” NordVulk volcanologist, who later became my husband).

Photo above:  Gabrielle (2011). Searching for Gabbro xenoliths at Grindavík, the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Gro Birkefeldt Møller Pedersen

Background information:
I am a danish postdoctoral fellow who started my fellowship at the Nordic Volcanological Center in January 2011 focusing on landform analysis of volcanoes based on various types of remote sensing (RS) data. The motivation for this study result from my PhD project Geomorphological study of the Galaxias region, Elysium volcanic province, Mars, which was carried out at Aarhus University, Denmark and concentrated on the second largests volcanic region on Mars; Elysium volcanic province. This volcanic region is the only volcanic province entirely situated within the Martian northern lowlands, which has been suggested to contain substantial amount of water and H2O ice and thus my PhD project concentrated on analyzing a variety of complex volcanic and glacial/periglacial landforms with special emphasis on landforms resulting from volcano-ice interactions.
During my education at Aarhus University (2002-2011) I have had the privilege to work several institutions, including; Hawaii Volcano Observatory, Hawaii, USA; Brown University, Rhode Island, USA; UNIS, Svalbard, Norway; Nordic Volcanological Center and University of Iceland, Iceland as well as DLR and the Free University, Berlin, Germany.

Research project(s) and interests:
With a background in planetary science analyzing volcanic landforms based on RS data is of major importance because volcanic landforms provide valuable information of the endogenic processes of foreign planets and thereby their thermal and geological evolution. However, no systematic correlations of different volcanic morphologies observed on RS data, combined with ground proof from field observations, have been conducted.
Thus, this research project focus on bridging fieldwork and remote sensing data of volcanoes on Reykjanæs Peninsula, Iceland, for developement of new mapping tools to analyze volcanic landforms and is divided into three smaller projects:
The first project investigates diagnostic morphologic characteristics, identifies information constraints of different types of RS data and evaluates of the spatial and temporal resolution control on geomorphic information, which is necessary to establish a general mapping procedure of volcanoes. The second project evaluates the morphometric signature on a variety volcanic landform to analyze if morphometry provides a identification of volcanic landforms and finally the third project incorporate the results from the two subprojects in order to produce a robust image segmentation procedure.

Why is Iceland/NordVulk the place to be for you? Hosting a variety of some the most spectacular geological sites in the world, Iceland have been a natural choice for continuation of my career and life. It is ideal for studying volcanoes, especially volcano-ice interactions, and it has amazing possibilities for outdoor reacreation is only minutes away from Reykjavík, which at the same time provide a broad selection of cultural events. Thus, there are many possible adventures and challenges to pursue while staying here and I must admit I have a hard time not enjoying every bit of it!

Martin Hench

Martin Hensch
Germany, University of Hamburg

- Phd in Natural Sciences (Dr. rer. nat.) of the University of Hamburg, November 2009
- Diploma in Geophysics (equivalent to MSc) of the University of Hamburg, December 2005

At Nordvulk since October 2009, first for a 2 years Postdoc position on the aftershock sequence and postseismic deformation following the 2008 earthquakes in Ölfus (South Iceland), but trapped by the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions. Presently studying the seismicity precursing and accompanying the eruptions at Fimmvörðuháls and the Eyjafjallajökull summit crater, concentrating on migration paths and focal mechanisms to draw conclusions on shape and size of the intrusion, as well as changes in the stress regime. This work is carried out in close cooperation with the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Volcano Anatomy project. Main collaborators are Bryndís Brandsdóttir (IES), Þóra Árnadóttir (Nordvulk) and Kristín Vogfjörð (IMO).

My main research interests are volcano seismology and surface deformation accompanying intrusions and eruptions. Nordvulk was the first choice to apply to, as Iceland frequently offers intrusive and eruptive activity. Rather primitive basaltic volcanism is an ideal condition for basic research on all these fields. And the Eyjafjallajökull eruption was – at least for a scientist – one of the best things that could happen during a non-permanent postdoc position. Despite of all experiences gained during this episode, it also enabled the acquisition of further funding, e.g. in form of the present Nordvulk fellowship and further funding secured until August 2012.

Sylvia Berg

Sylvia Berg


I am a Swedish Ph.D. student in geology from Uppsala University and began as a NORDVULK fellow in September 2011, supervised by Prof. Valentin Troll, Dr. Steffi Burchardt and Dr. Morten S. Riishuus. I hold a BSc and MSc degree from Uppsala University (2010 and 2011 respectively). For my BSc- and MSc theses, I have been working with igneous petrology, specifically with xenoliths, supervised by Prof. Valentin Troll. My work focused on both natural samples and experimentally produced magmatic textures in high pressure- high temperature controlled autoclave furnaces. For my MSc thesis I elaborated in this work through geochemical investigations (EMPA analysis) and also analysed natural and experimentally produced xenoliths by computer X-ray microtomography (μ - CT) at the Elettra Synchrotron Light Laboratory in Trieste, Italy (supervised by Dr. L. Mancini) to characterize internal 3D textures.

My geological interests are far-reaching, and therefore a PhD position was a natural step after my MSc. Hence, I applied for the NORDVULK fellowships, which I consider as a very unique opportunity to work 2 years in Iceland as an integral part of my 4-year PhD project at Uppsala University. The fellowship offers an extraordinary chance to expand my interests, to gain valuable and unique experiences, to work with international specialists within the field of igneous petrology and volcanology, and to experience nature on a young and active volcanic island.

Research project
My current research focuses on the Tertiary silicic complexes in NE Iceland in the region between Borgarfjörður eystri and Loðmundarfjörður. The area contains the second-most voluminous occurrence of silicic rocks in Iceland, including caldera structures, inclined sheet swarms, extensive ignimbrite sheets, sub-volcanic rhyolites and silicic lava flows. Yet it is one of Iceland’s geologically least known areas. My aim is to unravel the occurrence of voluminous evolved rhyolites in NE Iceland, which has for long been a challenge to our understanding of magmatic processes. We will use a combined petrological, textural, experimental and in-situ isotope approach. We plan to perform major, trace element and Sr-Nd-Hf-Pb-He-O isotope geochemistry, as well as U/Pb and Ar/Ar geochronology on rocks and mineral separates. In addition, high pressure-temperature partial melting experiments aim to reproduce and further constrain natural processes. Using the combined dataset we intend to produce a comprehensive and quantitative analysis of rhyolite petrogenesis, and of the temporal, structural and geochemical evolution of the silicic volcanism in NE Iceland. In turn, this research may add to our understanding of active central volcanoes in Iceland, as the chosen field area serves as a good analogue for volcanoes such as Askja and Krafla.

Why Iceland?
For a geologist, Iceland is an excellent place to be, and the always interactive and active island make daily life inspiring and enriching. In addition, as a NORDVULK fellow I have a prime opportunity to expand my geological and volcanological interests, and experience the beauty and wonders of nature in an active tectonic setting such as Iceland.

Photo: Fieldwork 2011 in Borgarfjörður eystri, NE Iceland. 


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