Project highlights

  • Gain an in-depth understanding of the magma plumbing system at an active volcano
  • Contribute to the understanding of the principle controls on magma evolution and enrichment at subduction zones
  • Develop expertise in a variety of field and laboratory techniques pertinent to volcanology.


The Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB) is one of the most compositionally diverse magmatic arcs on Earth and therefore constitutes a prime location for testing emerging hypotheses on arc petrogenesis and continental evolution (Gómez-Tuena et al., 2018). Recycling of upper plate crust in subduction zones, or ‘subduction erosion’, is a major mechanism of crustal destruction at convergent margins. Assessing the impact of eroded crust on arc magmas is, however, difficult owing to the compositional similarity between the eroded crust, trench sediment and arc crustal basement that may all contribute to arc magma formation (Ferrari et al., 2011; Straub et al., 2015). Ceboruco volcano is one of a few active volcanoes in the western part of the TMVB and is compositionally diverse ranging from mafic to rhyolite magmas (Nelson, 1980; Nunez et al., 2022). It is known that Ceboruco produced three compositionally and volumetrically different magma types including two caldera-forming explosive eruptions. However, it remains unclear how these different magmas formed, what controls their composition including distinctively high-Nb magmas enriched in LILE and HFSE resembling those of enriched intraplate magmas. Volatile bearing minerals, common to other volcanoes within the TMVB, are rare at Ceboruco raising the question whether metasomatism can be held responsible for this enrichment?

This project will focus on a field-based analysis of the volcano and geochemical and petrographic study of samples collected from various domes and lavas in order to gain a better understanding leading to the formation of a range of volcanic products. The aim is to create a schematic model of the Ceboruco magma system and to see whether the basaltic to rhyolitic magmas originated from the same reservoir or whether complex processes involving partial melting of different source regions, fractional crystallisation and magma mixing and/or crustal erosion was responsible for the diverse magmatism at Ceboruco. In order to achieve this, whole rock and in-situ analyses of the mineral budget will be applied and compared to data from other subduction zone volcanoes to outline a potential magmatic system for Ceboruco. This combination provides a unique opportunity to track the eruption history of subduction-related volcanism and magma enrichment processes.

Map of mexico detailing volcanic activity in red coloured zone in the west, orange zone in the centre and off red coloured zone in the east. volcanoes are signified by white triangles apart from a black triangle representing the active Ceboruco volcano. image is a simplified tectonic map of the north-eastward converging subduction zone showing the location of the Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB) which is broadly divided into western, central and eastern regions. The location of several compositionally diverse volcanic centres, including Ceboruco, are indicated.
Click to enlarge

Figure 1: Simplified tectonic map of the north-eastward converging subduction zone showing the location of the Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB) which is broadly divided into western, central and eastern regions. The location of several compositionally diverse volcanic centres, including Ceboruco, are indicated (after Frey et al., 2004; Gomez-Tuena et al., 2018).


University of Leicester


  • Dynamic Earth


Project investigator

Dr Marc Reichow, University of Leicester ([email protected])


How to apply


Samples will be collected from Ceboruco, Mexico during a planned field season providing representative sets of samples recovered from eleven distinct volcanic episodes supplementing an existing collection gathered by the Co-PI and analysed by the PI at Leicester.  Quantitative whole rock compositional characterisation will be carried out at the University of Leicester using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) and inductive coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), whilst mineral compositions will be determined through scanning electron microscope (SEM) coupled with Zeiss’ Minerlogic software, laser ablation mass spectrometry and supplemented by major elements determined by electron microprobe. Textural relationships will be analysed from thin section.  A range of radiogenic isotope characterisation (Lu-Hf, U-Pb, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd) will be carried out by ICP-MS at the NERC isotope facility, Keyworth following a grant application to the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF).

Training and skills

Students will be awarded CENTA2 Training Credits (CTCs) for participation in CENTA2-provided and ‘free choice’ external training. One CTC equates to 1⁄2 day session and students must accrue 100 CTCs across the three years of their PhD.

You will become proficient in the use of analytical equipment including quantitative evaluation of minerals, SEM and XRF, and high-resolution mass spectrometry. This combination of state-of-the-art analytical methods will provide you with a unique set of skills that will be attractive to industrial and academic employers. You will join a thriving community of igneous and applied researchers, and work closely with members of the volcanology study group.

Partners and collaboration

The student will benefit from supervision at the University of Leicester and Universidad de Colima. In house training will be provided on the usage of the SEM, XRF and ICP-MS high resolution mass spectrometry. The opportunity of receiving training the NERC-funded radiogenic isotope facility at Keyworth may also arise pending a successful application to the facility.

Further details

Please contact Marc Reichow ([email protected]) for further information or to discuss the project in more details.

If you wish to apply to the project, applications should include:

  • A CV with the names of at least two referees (preferably three and who can comment on your academic abilities)

Applications to be received by the end of the day on Wednesday 11th January 2023.

Possible timeline

Year 1

A thorough review of the latest literature including an in-depth data analyses of the existing data set on Ceboruco will be conducted. Any fieldwork and sample collection will be conducted in Mexico. Training in SEM imaging and point analysis will be provided at the University of Leicester. An application to the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF) will be made for radiogenic whole rock and mineral isotope analysis. Attend a national conference (VMSG).

Year 2

Ongoing sample preparation and analysis. Presentation of results at large national and international conference.

Year 3

Integration of data will provide a model for magma enrichement and evolution. Publication of papers. Presentation at large national and international conference.

Further reading

  • Ferrari, L., Orozco-Esquivel, T., Manea, V., and Manea, M. (2011) ‘The dynamic history of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and the Mexico subduction zone’, Tectonophysics, 522-523, pp. 122–149, doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2011.09.018
  • Frey, H.M., Lange, R.A., Hall, C.M., and Delgado-Granados, H. (2004) ‘Magma eruption rates constrained by 40Ar/39Ar chronology and GIS for the Ceboruco–San Pedro volcanic field, western Mexico’, Geological Society of America Bulletin, 116, pp. 259, doi:10.1130/b25321.1.
  • Gómez-Tuena, A., Mori, L., and Straub, S.M. (2018) ‘Geochemical and petrological insights into the tectonic origin of the Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt’, Earth-Science Reviews, 183, pp. 153–181, doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2016.12.006.
  • Nelson, S.A. (1980) ‘Geology and Petrology of Volcán Ceboruco, Nayarit, Mexico’, Geological Society of America Bulletin, 91, pp. 2290–2431
  • Núñez, D., Núñez-Cornúa, F.J., Rowe, C.A. (2022) ‘Recent seismicity at Ceboruco Volcano (Mexico)’, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 421.
  • Straub, S.M., Gómez-Tuena, A., Bindeman, I.N., Bolge, L.L., Brandl, P.A., Espinasa-Perena, R., Solari, L., Stuart, F.M., Vannucchi, P., Zellmer, G.F. (2015) ‘Crustal recycling by subduction erosion in the central Mexican Volcanic Belt’, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 166, pp. 29–52.


This project has a good resilience to any potential disruption caused by a future respiratory and contact infection. In the event of any travel restrictions, a large collection of samples from Ceboruco were collected during a previous field season and are already available at the University of Leicester. Any additional material can be collected and sent to the UK by the project partner in Mexico and analytical procedures can be undertaken at the host institution. Conferences are likely to move online in such an event and data may be presented remotely.