My Research

BS_climbing3My name is Benoît Smets. I was born in 1983 in Belgium and still live there. Since 2013, I am married to a lovely girl called Florence and, since 2016, I am the lucky father of a little boy called Tom. If my professional life is focused on volcanoes and related hazards in the East African Rift, my first passion is rock climbing. By extension, I also practice other outdoor sports such as alpinism, hiking, running/trails, and mountain biking.

On this page, you will find a description of my research together with a small curriculum vitae.

Current affiliation

Royal Museum for Central Africa
Department of Earth Sciences
Natural Hazards Service

Past and current research

IMG_1234 corr01I am a geologist specialized in geo-hazard assessment and risk management. From 2007 to 2011, I worked as a junior scientist at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, where I have acquired my first 5-years of field experience in Central Africa, especially in the Virunga Volcanic Province (VVP), a volcanic region located in the western branch of the East African Rift. My research is mainly focused on the combined use of 2D/3D remote sensing, GIS and field surveys to study and monitor volcanic activity and related hazards in the VVP.

From 2012 to 2016, I developed a PhD research funded by the National Research Fund of Luxembourg (AFR Grant n°3221321) under the supervision of Dr. Nicolas d’Oreye (European Center for Geodynamics & Seismology, Luxembourg), Prof. Matthieu Kervyn (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) and Dr. François Kervyn (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium), entitled: “Dynamics of volcanic activity in a youthful extensional setting studied by means of remote sensing and ground-based monitoring techniques: Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes (North Kivu, D.R. Congo) ». The public defense of the Thesis occurred on 4th March 2016.

Nowadays, I am still working on the Virunga volcanoes to improve our understanding of the volcanic activity, the monitoring of the volcanoes and the assessement of related hazards. My current objectives are the development of camera systems to monitor and measure the lava lake activity of Nyiragongo, the development of UAV remote sensing approaches to study volcanic activity and the development of a bibliographic database on the Virunga, which will include unpublished and difficult-to-access documents, often coming from colonial and post-colonial archives. This work is currently performed in the framework of the MUZUBI project (STEREO-III Program, Belgian Science Policy Office)

My PhD research project


My PhD project, called NYALHA, focused on the study of the mechanisms that control Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira activity.

In a first part, the geological and structural settings of the Virunga Volcanic Province and the Kivu rift segment was reviewed and reinterpreted in the light of modern concepts and recent observations, in order to highlight the parameters that influence the development and distribution of volcanism.

The second part focused on the reconstruction of past volcanic activity, as well as the study of the current activity of Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes. Available monitoring techniques (geodetic, seismic, geochemical) are used to describe eruptive events and deduce eruption mechanisms. Existing monitoring techniques were complemented with an innovative combination of close-range photogrammetry and stereographic time-lapse camera technique, providing the first quantitative measurements of the Nyiragongo lava lake variations.

Results obtained in this PhD project are expected to improve the development of detailed and realistic eruption scenarios and allow a better lava flow hazard assessment in the Nyiragongo-Nyamulagira region.


  • 2016-present – Postdoc Researcher, Dpt. of Earth Sciences, Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), Belgium
  • 2016 – Postdoc Researcher, European Center for Geodynamics and Seismology (ECGS), Luxembourg
  • 2012-2015 – PhD Researcher, European Center for Geodynamics and Seismology (ECGS), Luxembourg
  • 2007-2011 – Junior Researcher, Dpt. of Earth Sciences, Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), Belgium


  • 2012-2016 – PhD Thesis in Science, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium
  • 2006-2007 – MSc in Natural Risk Management, University of Liège (ULg), Belgium
  • 2005-2006 – Agrégation en Sciences, University of Namur (FUNDP), Belgium
  • 2003-2005 – MSc in Geology, University of Liège (ULg), Belgium
  • 2001-2003 – BSc in Geology, University of Namur (FUNDP), Belgium

Grants and Prices

  • 2013 – FNR Award for the Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public 2013
  • 2012-2015 – AFR PhD Grant n°3221321, FNR Luxembourg
  • 2011 – Laureate of the Belgian Foundation for the Vocation, Grant 2011