BSU professor joins National Geographic on volcano expedition

Jeffery Johnson
Posted at 4:43 PM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 22:28:03-05

In Idaho, volcanoes are not something you think about too often, but for one Boise State professor that is not the case.

Jeffrey Johnson is a Boise State University professor and volcanologist who recently went on an expedition like no other exploring volcanoes across the world with actor Will Smith, and the National Geographic team.

He says it was an unforgettable experience, and he would not have been able to do it, without the help and support of his students and colleagues right here in the Treasure Valley at Boise State.

“My research focuses on volcano science,” Boise State University associate research professor Jeffery Johnson said.

Johnson has worked at Boise State for 10 years and when he is not in the classroom with students, he is out researching and studying volcanoes — specifically their sounds.

“You often hear the term volcano whisperer, but Jeff is a volcano listener,” masters student Bryan Rosenblatt said.

Johnson has been involved in a few different volcano projects over the years, including one in Africa at a large lava lake volcano called Mount Nyiragongo.

“Based upon that previous opportunity I was invited to share my research with Will Smith on the latest National Geographic episode,” Johnson said.

The episode sent him across the globe here to Mount Yasur — one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

“They put me there a week in advance, so I was able to collect data and actually do research prior to the filming. I put out sensors to listen to the volcanoes and what’s happening, why they were erupting then when they do, how big do they erupt and generally understanding how they work,” Johnson said.

“I work, not by myself, but with a group of excellent scientists here at Boise State University including many students who are critical to all of the work that we do,” Johnson said.

Students like Bryan Rosenblat, who is finishing his master's degree and has been working with Johnson for some time, learning and creating equipment to use for research.

“We build all of these mics in this lab, and we go to a ton of different volcanoes. I've had the opportunity to travel to Italy and Chile, and we bring all these microphones we built here in this lab and listen to these signals,” Rosenblat said.

“The work of a volcanologist can be fun and exciting but really it's the science that drives what we do,” Johnson said. “I certainly will go back to many volcanoes in my career and if I have the opportunity to work with Will Smith again, I would absolutely do it.”

If you want to watch his time with National Geographic search for “Welcome to Earth” on Disney+.