PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Seismic research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has won the 2022 Volcanic Surveillance and Crisis Management Award presented by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI).
SRC said that the “prestigious, peer-nominated accolade,” awarded biennially, recognizes the Caribbean team of experts at the UWI SRC for its outstanding management of the 2020-2021 eruption of La Soufrière in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
IAVECI president, Dr. Patrick Allard announces UWI SRC as winner of the 2022 Volcanic Surveillance and Crisis Management Award (UWI SRC Photo)
The nomination was based primarily on the UWI SRC’s response, made particularly challenging within the context of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) 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,” the SRC said.
SRC director, Dr. Erouscilla Joseph, who accepted the award in Heraklion, Greece during IAVCE’s 11th Cities on Volcanoes Conference (COV11), said the operations of the St. Augustine-based 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,” she added.
IAVECI president, Dr. Patrick Allard, said the award, previously attributed to volcano Institutes in Indonesia (2018) then Ecuador (2020), recognizes and honors 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, especially the Soufrière Hills eruption on Monserrat (1995-present) then the Plinian eruptive events at La Soufrière of St. Vincent in 2020-2021.
“The successes achieved by the UWI SRC during these events—in terms of scientific monitoring, hazard assessment and even co-management of emergency response, in a context of limited resources available, are fully acknowledged by the international volcanological community and well deserve this 2022 awarding,” Allard said.
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 signaled 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 Soufrière’s explosive phase, UWI SRC worked closely with the country’s National Emergency Management Organization (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 neighboring islands, most notably Barbados among other hazards.
UWI Vice-Chancellor, 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,” he added.