Science Research Specialist, Volcanology, Ericson Bariso @BarisoEricson: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Ericson Bariso at a thermal area in Kanlaon Volcano after doing geochemical measurements. ©2020 Ericson Bariso

NAME: Ericson Bariso

CURRENT TITLE: Science Research Specialist I

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Physical Volcanology, Volcanic Hazards, Petrology and Petrography, Geochemistry, History, Field Geology, and GIS

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: 10 years and 4 months

EDUCATION: BSc in Geology Graduate


TWITTER: @BarisoEricson

What’s your job like?

I am working at a government institution that is tasked with monitoring volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. I am a member of a team that conducts studies on active volcanoes in the Philippines. My work is a combination of fieldwork, regular office duties, and research, and providing services to stakeholders by sharing knowledge on various volcanic, earthquake, and tsunami-related hazards. Our team uses a variety of techniques to monitor and study the different hazards caused by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, starting from the acquisition and interpretation of satellite imageries, up to field data gathering, bringing with me my digital camera, notebooks, sample pick, scraper, GPS, and a drone to study the deposits extruded by the eruptions of the volcano. Meanwhile, on another project, I have to be in the middle of the crater lake, sitting on a rubber boat, acquiring data on the volcanic gas emissions of the volcano using an accumulation chamber, a pH meter, and a thermocouple.  

What’s a typical day like?

When I’m in the office, you can see me at my cubicle, with my laptop either reading scientific papers, writing emails, planning future research, preparing project proposals, sharing ideas with colleagues, interpreting satellite images, processing carbon dioxide outputs for Pinatubo and Taal, and writing about my research. At times you will see me attending conferences, training, and meetings with colleagues, foreign counterparts, and local clients, and providing lectures to stakeholders.

When I am in the field, I lead teams dispatched to monitor events, document and take samples of eruptive products during a volcanic crisis and evaluate hazards as a result of big earthquake events.

A typical day in the field is waking up early, in the mountains, inside the tent and a whole day of going around the crater lakes of Pinatubo and Taal aboard a rubber boat, measuring the volcanic gas output, collecting samples to be analyzed, taking notes, and making observations.

Sometimes I have to take long walks in the river and jungle, mountain climbing, traveling to various provinces and islands to talk with local officials, the local people, and investigate the hazards that occur in various places caused by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Ericson Bariso collecting tephra samples from the Akahoya Ash Layer, Also Volcano. ©2020 Ericson Bariso

What’s fun?

To get to places that people and tourists have never been before, and discover new breathtaking sites. When I’m out there, I learn a lot of new insights from discussions with colleagues and it excites me when I see what they were talking about and can hold them in my own hands. Both the office duties and fieldwork are fun. But I’m always looking forward to that chance of going out in the field, meeting and talking to ordinary people, learning from them, asking more questions and searching for the answers. I have a bunch of photos spanning a decade of fieldwork in different islands of the country, and it was fun remembering the stress, frustrations, and problems encountered, including the difficult terrains that we managed to conquer.

What’s challenging?

Getting the end-results of the project, and to get things done, given the resources available, and the amount of time allotted. At times I have to do things that at first, I thought I am not capable of. I have to learn new things, new methodologies, and work in areas where I’m not an expert. On top of this, I learned to be resourceful. I have encountered many difficult situations, and sometimes I feel that I do not know if what I’m doing is right because I often spend so little time studying various topics given the many deadlines that I need to beat. I feel fulfilled when I get to learn new techniques, types of equipment, and ideas, essential to the success of my research. It makes me more confident to handle new projects.

What’s your advice to students?

Gear up and take on the challenge! Read, ask questions, and learn. You’ll be more confident when you are passionate about every single thing that you do. If your heart speaks of Geology, take a chance, and do something. Interact with other geologists and experts, and you’ll learn a lot from them and their experiences. Challenge yourself to take a step forward. There are still a lot of jewels that need to be uncovered. It might not be easy but I assure you, it’s all worth it. 

science research specialist
Ericson Bariso standing on top of the Pyroclastic Density Current Deposit beside a huge lava block. At the back is the 2018 lava deposit of Mayon Volcano in the Province of Albay Mayon Volcano. ©2020 Ericson Bariso

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