Alexa Botelho ’18 interviewed about her Geology Comps project

3 April 2018

The Carleton College news team recently spoke to Alexa Botelho ’18, a geology major from New Hope, Pennsylvania, about her comps project, which focused on accessible volcano monitoring results in the Canary Islands.

Alexa Botehlo

What is your major?

Geology with a Spanish minor. 

What is the title of your Comps?

Accessible Volcano Monitoring Results for Nearby Communities: Tenerife, Canary Islands 

What is your Comps topic?

My comps project aims to lucidly communicate volcanic observation to make the science more approachable, so that policies (namely emergency evacuation plans) supporting safe human-earth coexistence can ensue. 


We live on a planet embroidered with 1,000 active volcanoes. Although some of these volcanoes are in remote places, volcanoes like those in the Canary Islands are contiguous to communities and visitors. In these circumstances, volcanic eruptions threaten human lives and cause severe financial consequences. Therefore, it is imperative that volcanoes are monitored to forecast prospective eruptions, and that neighboring communities understand the potency of volcanoes.

Ultimately, if communities are made aware of their neighboring volcanoes’ behaviors and hazards, they can accurately assess the risks posed by an eruption and make educated choices in preparation for, amidst, and following a volcanic emergency. Through volcano monitoring, preparation, and education, human-earth coexistence can ensue.

Why did you choose your Comps topic?

In the summer of 2017, I conducted geochemical field and lab work on soil gases on Tenerife’s North–West Rift Zone and on the flanks of el Teide Volcano. While it was so so so incredible to scale the side of a volcano, every day that I worked in the field, I wondered when the volcano would erupt and would brainstorm an emergency evacuation. This paranoia led me to pursue a comps topic about emergency preparedness (with respect to volcanic eruptions) and now, natural disaster/emergency preparedness is a strong interest of mine! I also sought out a topic that would integrate geology, Spanish, and policy. 

Alexa Botehlo1

What was the most interesting article or piece of information that you found while researching your comps?

My favorite piece of information to dissect was PEVOLCA (the emergency plan of action in the Canary Islands). The document is in Spanish so I had the opportunity to engage Spanish skills as well as geology knowledge. From reading this document, I generated a flowchart that outlines the responsibilities of community sectors in the case of a volcanic emergency. This document highlighted how important collaboration is amidst an emergency response.    

What was your comps process like?

I loved the process!! Comps is an opportunity to delve into an academic passion; I was so thankful to have the opportunity to comprehensively learn about volcanoes, volcanic hazards, and emergency preparedness, and to develop my own ideas. The process of writing a paper, creating a poster, and delivering a presentation allows for a holistic learning experience. And, it’s one thing to do the research but it’s another to present it- it is a critical skill and a very special experience to communicate that information to professors, mentors, and friends.  

Why do you think it was valuable for you to write a comps? 

Carleton has fostered critical thinking, curiosity, global thinking, and so many valuable skills. Comps allowed me to exercise these skills and test my ability to research, analyze, and articulate. It was such a neat experience to have agency in my own project, too!

Will you expand on your comps in any way?

After submitting the paper and before presenting it, I presented the geochemical research from the NW Rift Zone at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting. Although I have no immediate plans to expand upon this topic, this project has opened so many doors for me. I am now very interested in emergency preparedness and would definitely consider graduate school in this realm. Furthermore, my summer research experience connected me to the international science community and to new friends. I am sure that this project will have a lasting impact on my life.

Alexa Botehlo

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