The work of a volcanologist, or volcano researcher, naturally involves periods of field work in volcano zones. Because of the inherently dangerous nature of active volcanoes, volcanologists have to plan ahead and equip themselves properly to remain safe. Depending on the proximity to the volcano’s crater, different levels of protective gear may be required.
Some research work looks at the wider debris and lava field created by a volcano. In this instance, where intense heat would not be a problem, the volcanologist would need only modest amounts of protective gear. Many opt for long sleeves and pants, in case of floating embers, and a hard hat as protection from falling rocks or other debris. Heavy duty boots and gloves are considered a “must” for those working in the rocky, rough terrain of a volcano field.
Most active volcanoes are remote from human habitation and can be difficult to get to. It’s not uncommon for volcano researchers to have to be helicoptered into a research site. A fire retardant suit is standard on such helicopter flights, so many volcanologists merely retain the suit once at the research site as an extra level of protection against hot ash or other dangers.
Occasionally, volcanologists need to consider protection from toxic gases emitted by volcanos. If they’re traveling to a zone where they know this might be a problem, volcanologists would bring either a full-face or half-face gas mask, with a supply of extra filters. Some report that while they carry this gear as a precaution, they have rarely had to use it.
Some research involves close proximity to the rim of an active volcano. In this case, the volcanologist will need protection from extreme heat. This means she must wear a proximity suit: a full-body heat-shield suit with a whole-head helmet. No part of her skin will be left exposed by this level of protection. However, it does have limitations, as it’s bulky and difficult to move about in.