Paul Ashwell

Paul Ashwell

Ph.D. | Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream | Earth Science | Geoscience Education | Undergraduate Academic Advisor

Research Areas:

Structure and emplacement of rhyolite lava domes; collapse of lava domes and formation of block and ash flows; porosity and permeability of volcanic systems; geoscience education – e.g. self-efficacy around field training

Research Profile:

Geology is a subject which is deeply linked to the outside world. Through the study of rocks, the environment and the world at large, we gain an understanding of how Earth has evolved through time. As a Geology undergraduate, many students find their first experience in the field (as part of an extended field trip course) as the most challenging, rewarding and stressful period of their degrees, and one that they feel makes them a ‘geologist’. Using my experiences in both taking and teaching field trip courses, I have created field trip experiences which allow students to focus on learning by experience, and reduce stress and anxiety. The changes to a students’ self-efficacy (their confidence or belief in their own abilities) has allowed me to track which aspects work best for a given situation or location. My role at UTM will allow me to continue developing courses and exercises for students, in order to give them a wide variety of experience and a large skill set to enable them to be more competitive in jobs such as exploration geology, environmental monitoring or engineering geology.

My research focuses on the eruption and emplacement of high viscosity lava domes. These lava domes are often the last products of large, explosive eruptions, and the extrusion of the dome can often last for months or even years. During this time, the dome will grow and periodically collapse, shedding material in the form of potentially large and devastating block and ash flows; this danger will prevent people from returning to their homes around the volcano. The collapse occurs as a result of a multitude of processes during expansion and cooling of the dome. My work aims to piece together the eruptions of old lava domes in order to determine the causes and controls of eruption and collapse, and to determine the importance of individual processes, such as microcrystal growth, in the collapse event.

Courses Taught:

ERS111H5, ERS201H5, ERS203H5, ERS225H5, ERS301H5, ERS404H5 (undergraduate)


C.I. Schipper, J.M. Castro, B.M. Kennedy, H. Tuffen, J. Whattam, F.B. Wadsworth, R. Paisley, R.H. Fitzgerald, E. Rhodes, L.N. Schaefer, P.A. Ashwell, P. Forte, G. Seropian & B.V. Alloway. Silicic conduits as supersized tuffisite: Clastogenic influences on shifting eruption styles at Cordón Caulle volcano (Chile). Bulletin of Volcanology. 2021. 83 (11).

R. Morgenstern, R. Turnbull, P.A. Ashwell, T.W. Horton and C. Oze. Petrological and geochemical characteristics of REE mineralization in the A-type French Creek Granite, New Zealand. Mineralium Deposita. 2019. 54, pp. 935-958.

P.A. Ashwell, B.M. Kennedy, M. Edwards & J.W. Cole. 2018. Characteristics and consequences of lava dome collapse at Ruawahia, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Bulletin of Volcanology, 80 (43).

P.A. Ashwell, J.E. Kendrick, Y. Lavalleé, B.M. Kennedy, K.-U. Hess, F.W. von Aulock, F.B. Wadsworth, J. Vasseur & D.B. Dingwell. 2015. Permeability of compacting porous lavas. Journal of Geophysical Research, 120 (3) pp. 1605-1622.

P.A. Ashwell, B.M. Kennedy, D.M. Gravley, F.W. von Aulock & J.W. Cole. 2013. Insights into caldera and regional structures and magma body distribution from lava domes at Rotorua Caldera, New Zealand. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 258, pp. 187-202.