Michelle Coombs, PhD

I work on a variety of topics including improving observatory responses during eruptions, understanding magmatic systems, and elucidating eruptive histories of volcanoes. I've performed geologic studies throughout the Aleutian-Alaskan subduction zone and in Hawaii.


Dr. Michelle Coombs is the Acting Center Director of the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Science Center, which is home to the five U.S. volcano observatories and the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. Michelle received her B.A. in geology from Williams College, and her Ph.D. in geology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She conducts a wide range of geologic studies related to volcanoes. These including using stratigraphy and geologic mapping to determine long-term eruptive histories and hazards; petrologic studies into subvolcanic magmatic systems; and studies of recent eruptions and their deposits to understand eruption triggering and processes. She has participated in numerous eruption responses including at Redoubt and Augustine in Alaska and at Kilauea in 2018 and is interested in improving operational and scientific responses to eruptions. 


2020–present: detail as Acting Director of the Volcano Science Center

2016–2020: Scientist-in-Charge, Alaska Volcano Observatory, Volcano Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

2004–2016: Research Geologist, Alaska Volcano Observatory

2001–2004: Research Geologist, Volcano Hazards Team, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park CA


Williams College, BA Geology, 1994

University of Alaska Fairbanks, PhD Geology, 2001


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