Colin Wilson

Professor in Volcanology
School of Geography, Environmental and Earth Science

Teaching in 2020

Research Interests

My research covers a broad range of topics in areas of volcanology, geochemistry and petrology. My earlier career was built around intensive field-focused projects aimed at understanding the physical processes involved in explosive volcanism. In particular, I worked on the eruption and emplacement of ignimbrites (the deposits of large-scale pyroclastic flows) in New Zealand and the USA. Over the last ~15 years my focus has changed into an interest in how the magma (molten rock) that feeds these large eruptions is formed and stored in the Earth’s crust, together with what factors control the timing and dynamics of eruptions.

My research areas have mostly been in the Taupo Volcanic Zone in New Zealand, but I have also worked at Long Valley in California, Yellowstone in Wyoming and in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Alaska. All these studies have involved numerous collaborators, and many of them have been the focus of student projects. At present a large group of us are involved in the ECLIPSE project, which is a 5-year programme designed to reduce uncertainty around unrest and possible eruption at the supervolcano system in the central Taupo Volcanic Zone (

Recent and current topics include but are not limited to:

The dynamics of magma accumulation as shown by mineral-specific records in the 25.5 ka Oruanui eruption deposits from Taupo volcano

The timings of magma ascent in large silicic (super-) eruptions, particularly linking melt inclusion records with information from field studies in the Oruanui, Bishop Tuff and Huckleberry Ridge Tuff eruptions

The 4-D evolution of the central Taupo Volcanic Zone using 40Ar/39Ar dating on surficial rocks and  U-Pb dating techniques on zircons from deeply buried geothermally altered rocks to establish eruption and subsidence histories

Mineral-specific insights into the magmatic systems and eruption dynamics of the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff, Yellowstone

Integration of geophysical studies with records from eruption deposits to infer the current states of the magma systems below Taupo and Okataina volcanoes

Assessment of the past environmental impacts of large explosive eruptions at Taupo volcano, coupled with modelling of the potential impacts of future eruptions



  • PhD in Geology - Imperial College, London (1981)
  • Diploma of Imperial College - Imperial College, London (1981)
  • BSc with Honours in Geology - Imperial College, London (1977)
  • Associateship of the Royal School of Mines - Imperial College, London (1977)


Publications 1980 - Now

Published Conference Abstracts1980 - Now

Teaching in 2020