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Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Wolfson Fellow

Dr Claire Horwell, PhD

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42253
Telephone: 42253 or 42336
Room number: IHRR + ES Rm 322
Member of the Durham X-ray Centre

Contact Dr Claire Horwell (email at claire.horwell@durham.ac.uk)

Biography

2016 - present - Reader, Institute of Hazard, Risk & Resilience (IHRR), Dept. of Earth Sciences, Durham University, UK

2013 – 2016 — Senior Lecturer, Durham University, UK

2012 – 2013 — Lecturer, Durham University, UK

2012 – present — Co-Director of IHRR, Durham University, UK

2011 – present — Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University

2003 – present — Director of the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN)

2007 – 2012 — RCUK Fellow, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Durham University, UK.

2007 – 2011 — NERC Post-doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Durham University, UK.

2005 – 2007 — NERC Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK.

2003  2005 — Leverhulme Trust Post-doctoral Researcher, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, UK

1999 – 2002  PhD – NERC-CASE Studentship, University of Bristol, UK


Career Research Highlights

I am founder/director of the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, the umbrella organisation for volcanic health research and dissemination. I have acted as advisor to the World Health Organization, Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency) and the UK Cabinet Office regarding the respiratory health hazards of volcanic ash. I also work with the New Zealand government and agencies, helping them to prepare for future volcanic eruptions.


My research interest is in understanding the health hazards of natural and industrial mineral dusts and in helping communities to prepare for, and protect themselves from volcanic emissions. My research is split into several, interdisciplinary strands:

Are particles harmful to breathe?

i) Physicochemical analysis of particles: use of mineralogical and geochemical techniques to assess respiratory hazard. These are combined with my students' and collaborators’ toxicological assessements to determine potential respiratory hazard of volcanic ash, combusted biomass, diatomaceous earth, desert dust and coal dust.

ii) Fundamental questions surrounding the ‘structure-toxicity’ relationship of mineral particles and interacting elements (e.g. anthropogenic pollution), and the variable toxicity of crystalline silica are also addressed through mineralogical, geochemical and toxicological analyses. Petrological techniques are also employed to understand how crystalline silica forms in volcanic systems (paricularly lava domes).

iii) Exposure assessments to airborne particles is a key part of determining potential hazard. My group regularly conducts air quality assessments using state-of-the-art portable aerosol monitors, in environmental and industrial settings.

How can communities prepare for, and protect themselves from, volcanic emissions? 

iv) Public health guidelines on community protection are often generic. Working with Hawaii state and federal agencies, we worked with local communities to understand their lifestyles, and how their current protective strategies, in relation to the 'vog' emissions from Kilauea Volcano, relate to official advice. The findings of focus groups and social surveys enabled a new interagency partnership to revise official advice, which is now available through a dedicated online 'vog' portal (www.ivhhn.org/vog) and as a booklet, rack brochure and poster.

v) Working with the World Health Organization (PAHO) and governmental and non-governmental agencies in Indonesia, Mexico and Japan, the Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions (HIVE) project (http://community.dur.ac.uk/hive.consortium/) is building the first evidence base on effective respiratory protection for communities during volcanic eruptions. We are conducting laboratory experiments, social surveys (both anthropological and psychology-based) and a clinical trial.


Committee and Society Service (recent)

2015- present - Member; Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) for volcanic eruptions, UK Government

2014 – present — Chair, Nominations & Awards Committee; International Medical Geology Association

2013 – 2015— Member; Expert Advisory Group for Risk H55, UK Government Cabinet Office

2011 – present — Member; Health Protection Agency expert panel for future ashfall affecting the UK

2011 – present — Member of Scientific Steering Committee and Project Partner; Global Volcano Model

2011 – 2014 — Chair, Education Committee; International Medical Geology Association

2010 – 2011 — Member; Scientific Advisory Committee for Iceland Eruptions; World Health Organization

2005 – 2007 — Representative for Health for the ICSU 5 GeoUnions Initiative; International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics


Editorial Roles


Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Volcanology


Fellowships


2007 – 2012 — Research Councils UK: Fellow

2005 – 2011 — NERC Postdoctoral Fellow


Recent and Current Grants

2015 - HIVE - Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions. Research Into Health in Humanitarian Crises Programme; Wellcome Trust & DfID.


2013 — VERTIGO – Volcanic ash: field, experimental and numerical investigations of processes during its lifecycle. EU Initial Training Network Co-I

2010 — Rapid assessment of the potential health hazard of ash from Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Iceland. NERC Urgency Grant. P.I.

2010 Fragmentation of volcanic dome rock for the assessment of respiratory health hazard of fresh particulate matter. Part of EVOKES ERC Advanced Investigator grant (Dingwell)

2008 — Moyes Foundation PhD Studentship Bursary. Volcanic cristobalite formation: A global study for the assessment of health hazard. 3 year Studentship from Jan. 2009. P.I.

2008 — NERC Urgency Grant. Rapid assessment of the potential health hazard of ash from Kilauea Volcano, Hawai’i. Extended after award to include Chaitén, Chile eruption. P.I.


Research Groups

Department of Earth Sciences

  • Geohazards
  • The Solid Earth

Department of Geography

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Horwell, C.J., Baxter, P.J. & Kamanyire, R. (2015). Health Impacts of Volcanic Eruptions. In Global Volcanic Hazards and Risk. Loughlin, S.C., Vye-Brown, C., Sparks, R.S.J., Brown S.K. & Jenkins, S.F. Cambridge University Press.
  • Baxter, P.J. & Horwell, C.J. (2015). Impacts of eruptions on human health. In The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. Sigurdsson, H., Houghton, B., McNutt, S., Rymer, H. & Stix, J. Elsevier.
  • Baxter, P J, Searl, A, Cowie, H A, Jarvis, D & Horwell, C J (2014). Evaluating the respiratory health risks of volcanic ash at the eruption of the Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat, 1995-2010. In The Eruption of Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat from 2000 to 2010. Wadge, G., Robertson, R.E.A. & Voight, B. London: Geological Society of London. 39.
  • Weinstein, P., Horwell, C.J. & Cook, A. (2013). Volcanic emissions and health. In Essentials of Medical Geology. Selinus, O., Alloway, B., Centeno, J.A., Finkelman, R.B., Fuge, R., Lindh, U. & Smedley P. Springer. 805.
  • Derbyshire, E., Horwell, C.J., Tetley, T. & Jones, T.P. (2011). Airborne Paricles. In Pollutants, human health and the environment: Introduction for environmental scientists and health professionals. Plant, J.A., Ragnarsdottir, K.V. & Vouvoulis, N. Wiley. 255-286.

Journal Article

Show all publications

Related Links

Selected Grants

  • 2015: HIVE: A new evidence base for respiratory Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruption crises (£585963.00 from ELRHA)
  • 2015: Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions (HIVE) £600,000 Wellcome Trust & DfID
  • 2014: Volcanic Ash Field, Experimental and Numerical Investigations of Processes During Its Lifecycle (£207540.46 from European Commission)