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Volcano expert who went to UEA has crucial role when natural disasters strike

PUBLISHED: 11:45 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:14 20 December 2018

Dr Jonathan Stone. Pic: Jonathan Stone

Dr Jonathan Stone. Pic: Jonathan Stone

Jonathan Stone

When natural disaster strikes around the globe, it's a former University of East Anglia expert on volcanoes who gets the call to help lead the response.

Volcanologist Dr Jonathan Stone and his team make sure aid, food, medicine, experts and supplies got through to people after disasters.

Dr Stone, 31, who did his Masters and PhD in Norwich between 2010 and 2015, is part of UK Aid’s Humanitarian Emergency Team – ready to respond to disasters at a moment’s notice.

His fascination with volcanoes began when he visited Mount St Helens in Washington state in 
the USA when he was young. Fifty-seven people were killed 
and hundreds of homes had 
been destroyed when it erupted in 1980.

The scientist, who grew up in Liverpool, said: “For a five-year-old that made quite an impression.

Dr Jonathan Stone. Pic: Jonathan StoneDr Jonathan Stone. Pic: Jonathan Stone

“All the trees had been snapped in half and since that moment, apart from a while when I wanted to be a train driver, I thought volcanoes were the thing for me.”

But he later realised there was a bigger picture, with the terrible impact natural disasters can have on people caught up in them.

He said: “When I saw my first big eruption, I found it to be very exciting. But then, once you’ve seen a couple of big ones and see the impact on people, I’d be happy if I never saw another one.”

Earlier his year, he was deployed to Indonesia as part of the Department for International Development’s response to the devastating earthquake.

Dr Jonathan Stone. Pic: Jonathan StoneDr Jonathan Stone. Pic: Jonathan Stone

He said: “You see the suffering among people who have lost absolutely everything. We work 
to make sure the experts get to those people and that the supplies and the shelters get through to them.

“You feel a sense of pride that UK Aid is contributing to meet their needs. It was exciting, in the weeks afterwards, to see shops re-opening and markets starting up again.”

As well as responding to disasters, Dr Stone also works with people living side by side with volcanoes.

In Ecuador he has worked with communities which now help scientists monitor the volcanic activity near their homes.

Dr Jonathan Stone in Montserrat. Pic: Jonathan Stone.Dr Jonathan Stone in Montserrat. Pic: Jonathan Stone.

Dr Stone has just won an award from the Geological Society for the work he did at the UEA on volcanic eruptions.

He won the Willy Aspinall Award – named after the scientist who grew up in Lowestoft – for outstanding contribution to volcano risk management.

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “It is experts like Jon, who enable UK aid to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“By using our world leading resources and the best of British expertise – be it relief supplies or emergency medical teams - we are able to respond effectively to any crisis across the globe.”

Etna versus Vesuvius: Using Top Trumps for eruption education

He’s an award-winning scientist, but Dr Jonathan Stone has another claim to fame – he co-created Top Trumps Volcanoes.

He helped to devise the card game during the first year of his PhD at the University of East Anglia.

He said: “It came about after we had a conversation in a pub and Professor Jenni Barclay at the UEA was very enthusiastic about it.

“We went down to London to pitch it, but they weren’t sure it would sell.

“But it’s been well received and the exciting thing is that all the proceeds go into a fund which is used for work to engage with people in areas which are vulnerable to volcanoes.”

Volcanoes are ranked based on six categories - explosivity, deadlines, devastation potential, height, unpredictability and wow factor.

But Dr Stone says: “I’ve retired from playing it now, though, as my wife has won too many times!”

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