University of Hull PhD student and volcanologist Dr Jazmin Scarlett has won a prestigious President’s Award from the Geological Society.
Dr Scarlett’s research saw her explore peoples’ perceptions of living in close proximity to the volcano La Soufrière on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The study spanned three separate eruptions of the volcano, between 1812 and 1979, and looked at the wide-ranging, complex issues of colonialism, racism and slavery.
Dr Scarlett has now been awarded a President’s Award from the Geological Society of London, becoming the first black woman to receive the accolade.
She said: “My research examined how, at the time of each of these volcanic events, Saint Vincent was in the middle of a major societal challenge.
“In 1812, the island was at the centre of the slave trade, and then fast-forward to 1979 and the eruption took place around six months before St Vincent gained independence from Britain.
“These were really unique periods in the island’s history, and each of these social issues had an impact on how communities responded to, and documented, the eruptions.”
Dr Scarlett, whose family originates from Saint Vincent, said while searching for archive material relating to the 1812 eruption, the only voices she could find belonged to white males.
“There are virtually no accounts from any women, children, enslaved person or native people from that period,” she said.
Her research also explored how indigenous communities in Saint Vincent had learned to live in close proximity to La Soufrière, and how this approach changed after the island had been colonised by the British.
“I found in many ways, those indigenous communities had a way of living with the volcano, and it was when the island became colonised, that it did not respond to events as well,” Dr Scarlett said.
Throughout her career to date, Dr Scarlett has become a prominent voice for diversity and equality in science. Earlier this year, she became the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group (VMSG).
She has now become the first black woman to receive an award from the Geological Society of London.
The President’s Award is given to early career geoscientists who are within eight years of their first degree in geoscience or a related subject, and have potential to be future leaders in their fields.
Speaking about receiving the award, Dr Scarlett said she was committed to “trying to change the status quo” in science.
“I want this award to inspire other people, who may face their own barriers and challenges,” she said.
“There are so many amazing people, from all backgrounds, who do not progress for whatever barrier they face. I want this award to mean something.
“For me personally, it is reassurance that I am doing the right thing. In research, it can be difficult sometimes to know whether your work is impactful.”
Dr Scarlett’s most recent research project examined how volcanoes and volcanic events are portrayed – and at times misinterpreted – in video games.
[Phil Winter – University of Hull]