Prof David Pyle

Professor of Earth Sciences

Research Theme
Tectonics, volcanoes and hazards

Research Area

TelephoneSearch the directory
Web Links:
Twitter @davidmpyle
Blog posts on Volcanoes
Oxford Sparks public engagement
Volcanoes Top Trumps
Volcanoes of Southern Chile
STREVA Project

Research Profile

I am a volcanologist, with interests in the rates and impacts of volcanism and volcanic degassing. Most of my recent work has been on young or active volcanoes, and current projects include studies of volcanoes in Africa (Ethiopia), Europe (Greece), Latin America (Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico), New Zealand and the Caribbean (Montserrat).  

Recent highlights include our work characterising the recent phase of unrest beneath Santorini, Greece; our ongoing work trying to understand the volcanic response to deglaciation in southern Chile; and use of synchrotron micro-analysis to determine the timescales of the pre-eruption assembly of large silicic magma chambers.

Current Research Projects

Recently Completed Projects

  • Emissions of mercury (Hg) and other heavy metals from volcanoes. (NERC standard grant, 2005-2009).
  • Impact and extent of the 2008 eruption of volcan Chaiten, Chile. (NERC urgency grant, 2008-2009).

Public Engagement and Public Understanding of Science

I am the academic lead on the Oxford University project Oxford Sparks. Oxford Sparks is now the main portal for all 'Online Public Science' across Oxford University, from science stories, to blogs, podcasts, teaching resources (for schools) and animations of science topics. Oxford Sparks launched in Autumn 2012, and already has released six animations so far, including the Large Hadron Collider, Cold Chemistry and the science of subduction zone volcanoes

As a spin-off from the STREVA project, we have recently launched Volcanoes Top Trumps as a card game, with linked educational resources, which will both raise awareness and help to raise funds for educational and other activities around volcanoes.

Press releases

December 2008 - Large earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

May 2009 - Ash fallout from the 2008 Chaiten eruption and images of Chaiten volcano

July 2012 - Launch of the Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas project

September 2012 - The arrival of a pulse of magma beneath Santorini, Greece

Post-graduate research in Volcanology at the University of Oxford

We are always interested in recruiting graduate students in volcanology. The main applications round is in the autumn, with many university scholarship deadlines in late January. For 2014, entry for NERC-funded graduate study will be through the new Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, which has 24 full NERC scholarships available per year, for the next 5 years.

Current Responsibilities

At the moment, I am Director of Graduate Studies in Earth Sciences, and am Academic Director of Oxford's new Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research. Outside Oxford, I am executive editor of a new online open access journal, GeoResJ.

Teaching Profile


List of courses that I currently teach, with links to Weblearn pages and other relevant resources

  • Igneous Petrology: a second year course which covers the fundamentals of phase equilibria of simple systems, and applies them to develop an understanding of terrestrial magmatism and its plate tectonic context.
  • Igneous Petrogenesis: an advanced third year class, introducing some current research questions relating to the interpretation of igneous rocks.
  • Topics in Volcanology: a fourth year seminar class, covering a range of current topics.

Selected Publications (Extended Publications)

  • Berlo, K, Tuffen, H, Smith, VC, Castro, JM, Pyle, DM, Mather, TA, Geraki, K, (2013) 'Element variations in rhyolitic magma resulting from gas transport', GEOCHIMICA ET COSMOCHIMICA ACTA. pp. 436-451 doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2013.07.032
  • Watt, SFL, Pyle, DM, Mather, TA, (2013) 'The volcanic response to deglaciation: Evidence from glaciated arcs and a reassessment of global eruption records', EARTH-SCIENCE REVIEWS. pp. 77-102 doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.03.007
  • Watt, SFL, Pyle, DM, Mather, TA, Naranjo, JA, (2013) 'Arc magma compositions controlled by linked thermal and chemical gradients above the subducting slab', GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS. pp. 2550-2556 doi: 10.1002/grl.50513
  • Ferguson, DJ, Calvert, AT, Pyle, DM, Blundy, JD, Yirgu, G, Wright, TJ, (2013) 'Constraining timescales of focused magmatic accretion and extension in the Afar crust using lava geochronology.', Nat Commun. pp. 1416 doi: 10.1038/ncomms2410
  • Ferguson, DJ, Maclennan, J, Bastow, ID, Pyle, DM, Jones, SM, Keir, D, Blundy, JD, Plank, T, Yirgu, G, (2013) 'Melting during late-stage rifting in Afar is hot and deep.', Nature. pp. 70-73 doi: 10.1038/nature12292
  • Nicholson, EJ, Mather, TA, Pyle, DM, Odbert, HM, Christopher, T, (2013) 'Cyclical patterns in volcanic degassing revealed by SO2 flux timeseries analysis: An application to Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat', EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCE LETTERS. pp. 209-221 doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2013.05.032
  • Parks, MM, Biggs, J, England, P, Mather, TA, Nomikou, P, Palamartchouk, K, Papanikolaou, X, Paradissis, D, Parsons, B, Pyle, DM, Raptakis, C, Zacharis, V, (2012) 'Evolution of Santorini Volcano dominated by episodic and rapid fluxes of melt from depth', NATURE GEOSCIENCE. pp. 749-754 doi: 10.1038/NGEO1562
  • Matthews, NE, Huber, C, Pyle, DM, Smith, VC, (2012) 'Timescales of Magma Recharge and Reactivation of Large Silicic Systems from Ti Diffusion in Quartz', JOURNAL OF PETROLOGY. pp. 1385-1416 doi: 10.1093/petrology/egs020
  • Matthews, NE, Pyle, DM, Smith, VC, Wilson, CJN, Huber, C, van Hinsberg, V, (2012) 'Quartz zoning and the pre-eruptive evolution of the similar to 340-ka Whakamaru magma systems, New Zealand', CONTRIBUTIONS TO MINERALOGY AND PETROLOGY. pp. 87-107 doi: 10.1007/s00410-011-0660-1
  • Watt, SFL, Pyle, DM, Mather, TA, (2009) 'The influence of great earthquakes on volcanic eruption rate along the Chilean subduction zone', EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCE LETTERS. pp. 399-407 doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2008.11.005