Volunteer Experience with the USGS Volcano Web Group
At the summit of Mauna Loa
By: Jennifer N. Adleman
BS in Geological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
at the University of Washington,
In March of 1999 I first visited the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory as part of
a field-trip course through my department. Even then, I never imagined I would
get the opportunity to spend almost four months working, living and traveling in
The route I took to get here is somewhat fuzzy even now. I remember
applying through a USGS agency volunteer website; never seeing the one
specifically for HVO until I got here! My background in geology and public
education lent itself well to the web projects proposed to me by one of the
webmasters at HVO. However, I had never made a website--never even
tried! I knew no html, not much by way of servers and wasn't exactly
thrilled by the prospects of spending so much time in front of a computer.
Luckily - that really didn't matter in the long run!
I arrived and immediately began to work on the two of the projects that
would consume most of my time here. I began to learn the ropes of html and
web-building programs by adding the weekly photo additions to the Kilauea
update page. Talk about a fast learning curve! In less that a
week I felt like a pro at this, sorting through and taking images, adding
text, coding, and then accessing the networks and servers needed to get the
update posted. The web's a really cool medium - almost instant
gratification, especially when we're trying to get current information
accessible to the public.
My second project (which seems somewhat endless) was to begin the coding
and legwork needed to piece together an international interagency website on
ash-hazard management. This was very different from the Kilauea update,
which basically involved me doing a lot of cutting and pasting of html; now
I was generating the code, and trying to figure out the best way to design
the site. A site of this type doesn't exist yet, and that's one of the
things that attracted me to the project. Unlike sitting in a programming
class doing practice websites or posting pictures of my summer vacation -
here I am generating a site for global use, to help people and communicate
important information on volcanic hazards. This project also allowed me to
meet and discuss ash-hazard management and mitigation with people all over
the world in a variety of different fields. I feel I have been able to make
some great connections that I will keep throughout my career.
At the ocean entry, Kilauea volcano
As far as my fears of being trapped behind a computer for four months
in Hawai'i, all were blown to the winds! My job required me to get out
into the field; to get images and generate reports on the current volcanic
activity of Kilauea. I would bet I made it out to the flow field at least
once a week! I also took advantage of my living arrangements with
volunteers in other groups at HVO. I went into the field to collect gas
samples from the crater on Kilauea, I helped revamp a geodetic information
station on the flanks of Kilauea, and I accompanied the electronics guys
half-way up Mauna Loa to put concrete in place for new instruments.
Several other volunteers and I went up Mauna Kea to look at deep mantle
xenoliths and were able to tour a few of the Mauna Kea Astronomical
Observatories and see their telescopes. I also went with a geologist on a
helicopter flight over the steaming vent to he ocean entry and back. We
landed on the active vent and mapped a small portion of it.
Break time at the summit of Mauna Loa
Red cinder cones on Mauna Loa
Several volunteers and I accompanied HVO staff to the
summit of Mauna Loa, where we discussed and mapped explosive deposits.
We discussed Mauna Loa's recent caldera activity and the hazards
that the volcano poses to the two largest communities on the Big Island,
Hilo and Kailua-Kona.
Beach and snorkel at Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Green Sea Turtle at Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Weekends were generally filled with island traveling!
As a collective group - the volunteers could easily rent a car and a
campsite for the weekend. I think by now I've been around the entire
island four times or more. Beaches are always a popular
destination - but do we do green, black or white sand this time? Ahh -
isn't life rough. Snorkeling and hiking were second and third on the
list of things to head down from our mountains to go and do. We also
made it to local festivals, luaus and farmer's markets quite often.
Living in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has its advantages as
well. Numerous hiking trails are right outside the door! There are
several other agencies that have volunteers living in our neighborhood
- and more often than not we'll have dinner or a party together; we hike
and travel with people from these other agencies too.
Pahoehoe flows during my last week, Kilauea
`A`a channel during my last week, Kilauea
The URL of this page is http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volunteer/www/Jenn/main.html
In some areas life is dictated by the weather or the
traffic, the work week or the holiday. Here were live and breathe by
the lava activity! Over the course of my four months here,
September through December 2000, I have seen incredible
I've been here for a pause in the flow, for ocean entry, bench
collapse, surface flow on the coastal plain, rives of `a`a and
pahoehoe on the pali! Believe it or not - my job was to report this activity
- to get out there - take pictures, get facts and figures and make the
information accessible to anyone with web access. Not to mention the
numerous groups of visitors HVO was asked to guide to the flow field.
I met teachers in the JASON program, USGS from all over the country,
and student groups from Hawai'i and New Zealand, just to name a few.
All in all, I wasn't stuck behind a computer, and when I was - it
was to share all the information I and others had on the current
Kilauea eruption. Or it was to work on a site designed to help people
safely prepare for, live through, and clean-up after volcanic ash fall.
All in all, HVO has been one of the most challenging, rewarding, and
thrilling experiences I have had.
Updated: 27 December 2000 (JNA)