IMAGINE is a 5-year European Research Council (ERC) project based in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge, led by Principal Investigator Dr Amy Donovan.  

The project investigates the intertwined human and environmental geographies of borderland volcanic areas in Latin America (particularly Chile, Argentina and Peru) and elsewhere. It combines human geographical theories of the earth with approaches from science and technology studies to think about volcanic places and spaces undergoing rapid environmental change and seeks to integrate new theoretical ideas with disaster risk reduction in developing contexts. 

The project builds on an assemblage approach to understand disasters as hybrid human-physical-environmental ruptures. It seeks to interrogate the conceptual spaces between vulnerability and hazard in approaches to disasters, recognising that scientific imaginations and those of communities may differ over small spatial areas, with significant impacts on risk. 

This draws upon several interdisciplinary data collection methods to examine the creation, use, and negotiation of knowledge regarding volcanic risk (and interconnected hazards) by communities, scientists, and stakeholders in transboundary contexts.

The methods used include expert interviews of volcanologists and Disaster Risk Reduction stakeholders at the national, regional, and local levels, interviews and participatory methods in communities living near volcanoes, and online surveys and data collection (among others). Due to the coronavirus pandemic, remote fieldwork options (online expert interviews and surveys) were initially conducted, followed by three data collection field trips in Chile in late 2021 and Chile, Argentina, and Peru in early 2022, and Chile, Argentina and Nicaragua in early 2023 with preparation for further fieldwork ongoing.


Please view our flyer for further details and photos of the project in action:

Our latest newsletter was published in July 2023 and includes project news from over the past 12 months, please click on the link below to view the interactive news.

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Main study sites

Chaitén, Chile

Chaitén, November 2021
Chaitén town (Los Lagos, Chile) with in foreground the Rio Blanco embankments, and in background the Corcovado peak

Chaitén is both the name of the town where we work and the name of the volcano that caused the lahars that destroyed it in 2008. We collaborate with the Museo de Sitio (Fundacion Procultura) which works to preserve the memory of the events.

Interviews were conducted with Chaitén residents and authorities in 2021 and 2022, during which we created VolcanoVoices that will allow us to share different visions of the territory and preserve its memory (see the video of our presentation ‘Story Spheres’ at Cities on Volcanoes 2022 further down on this page). We also created a life-size print of a volcanic cross-section to be exhibited in the Museo de Sitio to explain the eruptive history of the volcano to visitors (work in progress!).

Kütralkura Geopark, Chile

Melipeuco, Chile, Nov. 2021
Central Place of Melipeuco (Araucanía, Chile), with Llaima volcano in the background

We are working in two main locations in the Kütralkura Geopark: Melipeuco, and Malalcahuello and their surrounding communities, where we have conducted a total of 85 interviews with residents and authorities in late 2021-2023.

The geopark and its various ‘geosites’ provide a unique opportunity for sharing visions of the environment and understandings of volcanic hazards and associated risks. Specific audio recordings were also collected in Melipeuco and Malalcahuello to build VolcanoVoices. See our talk – in Spanish – at Simposio Geoparques y Geoturismo en Chile further down on this page as well as our presentation of early and emerging results from Malalcahuello at Cities on Volcanoes 2022.

Copahue, Chile & Argentina

View of the Robleria valley above the Butalelbún invernada (Alto Biobío, Chile) from the Paso Chanchuco which leads to the Chile-Argentina border and the summit of Copahue volcano

We are working in collaboration with the Pewenche community of Butalelbún in Alto Biobío, Chile, to investigate the persistent activity of Copahue volcano in the context of its highly dynamic geological terrain.  This case study is being undertaken by our PhD student, Carolyn Smith, through an extensive period of ethnographic fieldwork. The work is being undertaken with the permission and support of Lonko Roberto Manquepi, and the first phase of the fieldwork took place over a 6 month period in 2022, with a further follow-up trip in Feb-April 2023. Copahue is a uniquely situated case study as the volcano sits directly on the national border between Chile and Argentina; as such, this work encompasses the Mapuche communities that live on the Argentinian side of the volcano as well as the Chilean side. For further details please visit the following link: Copahue

Arequipa, Peru

Top photo: the Arequipa cathedral made of sillar with in background Chachani volcano. Bottom photo: the Añashuayco quebrada and quarry, dominated by the Chachani (left) and the Misti (right)

Arequipa is known worldwide as the ‘White City’ because of its sillar (a variety of volcanic rhyolite) buildings. The sillar is extracted from the ignimbrite quarries that surround the city. In the Añashuyaco quebrada, the quarrymen extract sillar by hand using traditional techniques. They also produce impressive sculptures in order to develop a tourist route, the Ruta del Sillar. This is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of geoheritage and volcanic hazards among the people of Arequipa and beyond. We are collaborating with the Ruta del Sillar AssociationINGEMMET and UNESCO through the International Geoscience Programme 692 to understand how to implement appropriate and effective communication tools, while preserving memory of this unique location.

Villarica / Quetrupillán / Lanín, Chile & Argentina

top photo: Volcan Villarica from the south, with lahar deposits that wind towards Pucon town. Bottom photo: Volcan Lanin from the Argentinian side

The three volcanoes of Villarica, Quetrupillán, and Lanín are aligned in a north-west to south-east line, ending at the Chile / Argentina border. These volcanoes have cultural significance related to each other for indigenous groups in the area and the border directly crosses Lanín. There is also a significant tourism presence in the town of Pucon and around Villarica (the number one ranked volcano for risk by SERNAGEOMIN) with high levels of development on the slope of the volcano. We are conducting interviews with community members in Conaripe, Pucon, and on both sides of Lanín to understand the different knowledges and perceptions of the volcanoes (including our VolcanoVoices methodology). This work is in collaboration with OAVV and other local partners.

Masaya, Mombacho and Ometepe, Nicaragua

Top: A tourist looking at the degassing in Santiago crater in the Masaya volcano reserve in February 2023. Bottom: Moyogalpa, one of the populated areas exposed to volcanic hazards at the foot of Concepcion volcano, on Ometepe Island.
Top: A tourist looking at the degassing in Santiago crater in the Masaya volcano reserve in February 2023. Bottom: Moyogalpa, one of the populated areas exposed to volcanic hazards at the foot of Concepcion volcano, on Ometepe Island.

We are collaborating with the National Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER) in connection with UNESCO’s  International Geoscience Programme 692 to explore the role of geoheritage as a tool of preservation, touristic development and risk education in communities exposed to volcanic hazards on the slopes of Masaya, Mombacho and Ometepe volcanoes. Hazard communication is particularly urgent at the foot of Mombacho, where rapid changes in vegetation cover since 2016 have raised concerns about the possibility of a debris avalanche. During our studies we conduct interviews with exposed communities, tourist guides and authorities, and develop our VolcanoVoices methodology to facilitate this communication.


Maps of our study sites

Atacama in Northern Chile/Argentina/Bolivia
Overview of our sites in Latin America
Ometepe, Mombacho and Masaya in Nicaragua
Chaitén, Chile
Patagonia: Argentina/Chile border regions
Arequipa, Peru


We are pleased to share a selection of papers that we have published throughout the project.   Please note that this page will be updated regularly.


Video recording of our 11 January, 2021 launch event. Full captions in English available.

Amy Donovan’s talk at the 2022 Annual Conference of the Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group

Julie Morin’s talk (in Spanish) at the 4th Simposio Geoparques y Geoturismo en Chile en el Geoparque Mundial Unesco Kütralkura, in February 2022

Full session with other talks available on the Kütralkura Facebook page:

Amy Donovan explaining ‘Why social science seem so annoyingly political, and what are the implications for interdisciplinary projects” at the Cities on Volcanoes 11 Conference, on 13 June 2022.

Rory Walshe presenting early results at the Cities on Volcanoes 11 Conference, June 2022.

Julie Morin presenting the Volcano Voices methodology at the Cities on Volcanoes 11 Conference, on 15 June 2022, in Heraklion, Crete.



Live Interview on Radio Chaíten – 18 November 2021

40 Thousand years of eruptive history of the Misti Volcano in Peru, article by Redaccion Regrid, 3 Dec 2022
Newspaper article
Interview in El Mercurio – 9 December 2021

Live interview on Melipeuco TV during the Feria de Divulgacion Volcanologica.
Many other people were interviewed during this science festival, the above video doesn’t focus specifically on our team interview.