Volcanology · Experimental Petrology · Volatiles in Magmas

Volcanoes are the ultimate expressions of Earth's deep processes


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Research Interests

I use a combination of fieldwork, laboratory experiments, and thermodynamic modeling to better understand the inner workings of crustal volcanic systems. I am particularly interested in answering questions about how volcanic volatiles (H2O, CO2, S, F, Cl) cycle within the Earth and other planets and how a combination of magma crystallization, degassing, and chemical evolution leads to volcanic eruption. Volcanoes are notorious emitters of gases, many of which can have large impacts on Earth's atmosphere and climate. The magmatic plumbing systems -- the networks of magma "pipes" and chambers -- that exist beneath volcanoes are the pathways through which such gases exsolve, evolve, and ultimately are transferred from mantle to surface.


I use a combination of techniques to study the inner workings of magmatic systems.

Experimental petrology techniques to recreate miniature magma chambers in the lab: In this way, we can gain insight into the subterranean processes driving volcanic activity directly observed at the Earth's surface.

Analytical petrology to characterize rock samples: Igneous rocks record the histories of magma formation, crystallization, degassing, and more. I use geochemical analysis to unlock the mysteries stored within the rocks I study.



In situ and satellite remote sensing to measure volcanic degassing: In order to link subsurface to surface degassing, I utilize in situ volcanic remote sensing techniques (DOAS, UV Cameras, OP-FTIR, solar photometery) and satellite remote sensing (OMI and ALI instruments) to measure SO2 and other gas species emitted from active volcanoes.

Thermodynamic modeling: Thermodynamics is the magical math that brings all of my interests together. Thermodynamics can be used to model crystallization and degassing processes within volcanic systems and can be used to constrain total volatile budgets of volcanoes.




I am a classically trained experimental petrologist currently working as a post-doctoral fellow at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration with Drs. Christy Till and Ariel Anbar. My research is part of a National Science Foundation Frontiers in Earth Systems Dynamics (FESD) grant aimed at understanding the oxygenation of the Earth over time.

I received my Bachelors of Science in Geology from Arizona State University in 2010 where I worked in the OmniPressure experimental lab (aka Depths of the Earth) under the supervision of Dr. Gordon Moore. In 2014 I received my PhD from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK studying Mt. Erebus, an active volcano located on Ross Island, Antarctica with Dr. Clive Oppenheimer. From 2014–2016 I was an NSF post-doctoral fellow at the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California studying the 'Millennium Eruption' of Paektu volcano, located on the border between North Korea and China with Drs. Tom Sisson and Jake Lowenstern.

I have worked on San Carlos, Arizona; Villarrica, Puyehue, and Lascar in Chile; Peaktu, North Korea/China; Turrialba and Poas, Costa Rica; and Erebus volcano, Antarctica. I have done experimental work at the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA, Stanford University, the OmniPressure Lab (Depths of the Earth) at Arizona State University, the University of Minnesota Experimental Petrology Group, the Institut des Sciences de la Terre d'Orleans (ISTO), and the experimental petrology lab at Università di Camerino.

Current Projects

Physical and chemical constraints on large-volume pyroclastic blasts: The Campanian Ignimbrite eruption, Italy (Recommended for funding, work begins 2018)

Investigation of the Campanian Ignimbrite (Italy) to constrain physical and chemical parameters associated with gas release and ignimbrite emplacement of large-volume pyroclastic blasts. Proposed work includes: 1) detailed field investigations to better characterize the Campanian Ignimbrite stratigraphy to link distal and proximal deposits and to define the relative timing of volcanic events; and 2) a detailed petrologic study of CI products, notably by performing complete volatile analysis (H2O, CO2, S, F and Cl) of melt inclusions and apatite microphenocrysts.


EPIC/FESD Post-doctoral Fellowship

Experimental investigation using piston-cylinder apparatuses to measure the oxygen fugacity of slab fluids released by the dehydration of hydrous minerals during subduction. Such fluids are thought to be the catalysts for sub-arc mantle melting with a general consensus that a geochemical slab component is detectable in arc magmas. There is much debate, however, as to whether redox signatures may be transferred from slab to mantle in subduction zones. These experiments are the first to reproduce and measure the redox state of slab fluids in the lab and will thus represent the first experimental measure of slab fluid oxygen fugacity.


Nyiragongo (DR Congo) Field and Documentary Expedition, BBC

Member of the science and documentary teams as part of an expedition to Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes in the DR Congo. Objectives include working with local volcanologists to improve volcano monitoring capabilities at the volcano and collecting data to understand the current state of the volcanic activity in the East African Rift. Specific science roles include multi-gas geochemical measurements of the volcanic plumes and collection of rock samples for petrological analysis from each volcano. Documentary roles include taking part in production of Expedition: Volcano, a two-part science documentary that aired on BBC2 in November, 2017 and a PBS NOVA version of the same program, to air in the US in early 2018.


Biology Meets Subduction, Deep Carbon Observatory (Collaborator)

Biology Meets Subduction is an initiative designed to develop novel connections between microbiology, volcanic systems, and the cycling of living and dead (biotic and abiotic) carbon as Earth’s plates move and subduct past each other. Fieldwork included sampling of gases, waters, biological mats, and tephra in the Costa Rican arc and forearc. Subsequent analysis of all sample types will be used in the development of a thermodynamic model (led by Iacovino) to track the movement of carbon and other volatile species in subduction zones, from subducting slab to arc and forearc output.

Peer Reviewed Publications

7. Iacovino K, Till C, Lange R (submitted) DensityX: A program for calculating the densities of hydrous magmatic liquids from 327-1,727 °C and up to 30 kbar, Computers in Geosciences.

6. Lowenstern JB, van Hinsberg V, Berlo K, Liesegang M, Iacovino K, Bindeman I, Wright H (in review) Opal-A in Glassy Pumice, Acid Alteration, and Triggers to the 1817 Phreatomagmatic Eruption at Kawah Ijen (Java), Indonesia, Frontiers in Volcanology.

5. Iacovino K, Kim JS, Sisson T, Lowenstern J, Ri KH, Jang JN, Song KH, Ham HH, Oppenheimer C, Hammond JOS, Donovan A, Weber-Liu K, Ryu KR (2016) Quantifying gas emissions from the ‘Millennium Eruption’ of Paektu volcano, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea/China. Science Advances. doi 10.1126/sciadv.1600913

4. Ri KS, Hammond JOS, Ko CN, Kim H, Yun YG, Pak GJ, Ri CS, Oppenheimer C, Weber-Liu K, Iacovino K, Ryu KR (2016) Evidence for partial melt in the crust beneath Mt. Paektu (Changbaishan), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea/China. Science Advances. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1501513

3. Iacovino K, Oppenheimer C, Scaillet B & Kyle PR (2016) Storage and evolution of mafic and intermediate alkaline magmas beneath Ross Island, Antarctica. Journal of Petrology doi:10.1093/petrology/egv083

2. Iacovino K (2015) Linking subsurface to surface degassing at active volcanoes: A thermodynamic model with applications to Erebus volcano. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.09.016

1. Iacovino K, Moore G, Roggensack K, Oppenheimer C & Kyle P (2013) H2O–CO2 solubility in mafic alkaline magma: applications to volatile sources and degassing behavior at Erebus volcano, Antarctica. Contrib Mineral and Petrol. doi:10.1007/s00410-013-0877-2