Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
skip past main content navigational bar yellow horizontal separator line


yellow horizontal separator line

Mauna Loa

yellow horizontal separator line


yellow horizontal separator line

Other Volcanoes

yellow horizontal separator line

Volcanic Hazards

yellow horizontal separator line

About HVO

yellow horizontal separator line

Volunteer program

Volunteer Program of the
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)

Volunteer sets up a GPS receiver at summit of Mauna Loa Volcano Dozens of volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year to help HVO's staff monitor the active volcanoes of Hawai`i and conduct research on various aspects of Hawaiian volcanism. The volunteers in turn gain experience working on active volcanoes and participating in scientific research--collecting and analyzing data, building and installing instruments for experiments and volcano and earthquake monitoring, taking photographs and conducting surveys, and working on team or individual research projects.

Volunteers help install a tiltmeter into a hole about 3 m deep Volunteers range from undergraduate students to retired educators, computer programmers to chemists, and writers to electricians. People come from around the world to volunteer or work at HVO. Hawai`i's active volcanoes and natural beauty make the volunteer positions very popular and highly competitive.

If you are not a citizen of the United States the USGS Exchange Visitor Program will enable you to collaborate and work with USGS scientists, similar to volunteers.

HVO provides free lodging for as many as 7 volunteers at a time in a fully-furnished house about 4 km from the Observatory. Volunteers staying in our guest house must be willing to work for at least three months on a full-time basis. Transportation is provided between the house and HVO, but volunteers are responsible for all non-work-related travel expenses (travel to and from Hilo, Hawai`i, and travel on the Big Island and neighboring islands). Volunteers are also responsible for all food and health-care costs.

Volunteer conducts a VLF (very-low frequency) survey over a lava tube Many of the volunteer positions require work in the field, sometimes in remote areas of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park and other parts of the Big Island. For these positions, volunteers often must hike several kilometers over rough and irregular ground in hot, humid conditions, or sometimes in raw, bone-chilling cold and wet weather high on the volcanoes. Also, some of the field sites are near active fumaroles, and many sites are intermittently swept by the plume of sulfur dioxide gas from the Pu`u `O`o vent--the noxious plume poses a health hazard by aggravating preexisting respiratory ailments (for more information about the plume, see Volcanic air pollution--a hazard in Hawai`i).

Volunteer information


Type & date of volunteer work and opportunities at HVO

After submitting your application, if you do not hear back from us after a month, please consider your application as not being accepted for the specific position. You are always welcomed to re-apply or apply for another specific position.

HVO supports a variety of volunteer opportunities. Although each volunteer is assigned to a research or support group and supervised by an HVO staff member, volunteers are provided with opportunities to learn about the other research activities at HVO. Check the categories of work listed below for detailed descriptions of volunteer opportunities available at HVO and to submit an application form to supervisors. You may also submit an application to all supervisors (see last entry in table below).

Type of Work Next Available Opening
Seismology Now
Geodesy/Deformation June 2016
Geophysics No Openings
Gas Geochemistry Now
Mauna Loa Geology January 2016
Library No Openings
Field Technician Now
GIS January 2016
All HVO Work See dates above

Volunteer opportunities with the Federal Government are available to both citizens and non-citizens.

Some universities and other educational institutions will grant academic credit for participation in volunteer projects. Student volunteers are personally responsible for making all arrangements with their instructors or department heads. The Federal Government will cooperate in this process by providing a record of specific service upon request.

Homeblank spacerVolcano Watchblank spacerProductsblank spacerGalleryblank spacerPress Releases
How Hawaiian Volcanoes Work

The URL of this page is
Updated: 9 February 2015