Don Swanson and the Importance of Field Volcanology

A New Special Paper from The Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: Working across a range of compositions and spatio-temporal scales, noted volcanologist Don Swanson has shown the importance of field volcanology time and time again. Authors in this new volume from The Geological Society of America focus on processes and environments, such as Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai'i, where Swanson's research and methodology have been particularly noteworthy.

Volume editors Michael P. Poland, Michael O. Garcia, Victor E. Camp, and Anita Grunder define "field volcanology" as "the careful observation of volcanic deposits and activity, and interpretation of those observations in an interdisciplinary context." They explain, "It is only through the careful collection of field data, be they geophysical, geological, or geochemical, that models of volcanic systems can be proposed, tested, and refined."

Don Swanson (Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, Hawai'i National Park) has practiced his meticulous, hands-on approach to develop fundamental insights into especially Hawaii, the Northern Cascades, and the Columbia River basalts.

Among his achievements are his calculation of the "magma supply rate to Kīlauea … the first such calculation for any volcano … and one that still serves as the basis for any work on the topic," according to Poland and colleagues. They also note that with the use of geodetic data, Swanson "was among the first to recognize and develop a model for the unstable nature of Kīlauea's south flank," and Swanson's careful fieldwork on the Columbia River basalts led to the "first comprehensive province-wide stratigraphy for any flood basalt province in the world."

In 2016, Swanson received the GSA Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Petrology, and Volcanology Division's Distinguished Geologic Career Award.

The well-rounded papers in this volume cover topics such as the flood basalts of the Columbia River Basalt Group; the Washington Cascades and the Canadian Cascade volcanic arc; Mauna Loa and Kīlauea volcanoes, Hawai'i; Taupo, New Zealand; Fernandina Volcano, Galápagos; Mogollon-Datil volcanic field, southern New Mexico; and six shield fields on Venus.

Individual copies of the volume may be purchased through The Geological Society of America online store,, or by contacting GSA Sales and Service,

Book editors of earth science journals/publications may request a review copy by contacting April Leo,

Field Volcanology: A Tribute to the Distinguished Career of Don Swanson
edited by Michael P. Poland, Michael O. Garcia, Victor E. Camp, and Anita Grunder
Geological Society of America Special Paper 538
SPE538, 458 p., $60.00; GSA member price $42.00
ISBN 978-0-8137-2538-3
View the table of contents:

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For Immediate Release
27 Nov. 2018
GSA Release No. 18-45

April Leo

SPE 538
Cover: Lava falls 25 m into ‘Ālo‘i Crater, fed by a 225-m-high fountain at Mauna Ulu, 600 m distant. Photo taken 30 Dec. 1969 by Don Swanson. The crater was later filled by lava and is no longer visible.