The island of Surtsey is a unique nature reserve. The main objective of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History is to ensure that scientific research and regular monitoring takes place on Surtsey, as per the Advertisement of a nature reserve on Surtsey. The IINH works in collaboration with the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, the Agricultural University of Iceland, the Science Institute of the University of Iceland, Matís, the Surtsey Research Society, and others.  

Geologists carry out long-term monitoring of geological changes on Surtsey. This research has been ongoing since the summer of 1964, when the eruption that created Surtsey was still taking place. Research on the formation of palagonite tuff on Surtsey (palagonitisation) has been continuous from 1969, when the first traces were found on Surtsey’s surface. Surtsey provides a unique opportunity to research the process by which tephra consolidates into palagonite tuff. Scientists also monitor the development of Surtsey’s hydrothermal area, erosion, and changes to Surtsey’s area.

Biologists track the colonisation of Surtsey, soil formation, biotic succession, and interactions between plants and animals. Comparative studies have also taken place on older islands within the Westman Islands archipelago. For more information, see the Surtsey Research Society website,

Surtsey in 3D

IINH Contacts: Borgþór Magnússon (biology) and Lovísa Ásbjörnsdóttir (geology)