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Students finish internships at volcano observatory

August 22, 2014 - 3:26pm

This week, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory bids aloha to interns Pua Pali and Greg Javar, who gained first-hand experience monitoring volcanoes and earthquakes by working with U.S. Geological Survey scientists this summer.

These interns, both University of Hawaii at Manoa students, were funded by USGS through the Native Hawaiian Science and Engineering Mentorship Program, which provides opportunities for students to excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. NHSEMP began as a joint initiative between UH-Manoa’s College of Engineering and Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies in 2001. It has since become a national model for science and engineering education by bridging educational institutions, government agencies and private industry.

Interestingly, the NHSEMP-HVO connection was realized by way of Alaska. The USGS Alaska Region has interacted with students through the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, which strives to increase the number of Indigenous Americans in STEM career paths, for the past decade. Three years ago, the partnership was formalized with an official cooperative agreement between the USGS and ANSEP.

Based on the success with ANSEP, the USGS Alaska Regional Director wanted to extend intern opportunities to Hawaii in 2014. Fortunately, an affiliation between UH-Manoa and ANSEP already existed. UH-Manoa was one of ANSEP’s first “Indigenous Alliance Universities,” and NHSEMP has been especially successful in graduating and placing Native Hawaiian students in STEM-related career paths at state and federal agencies.

Through NHSEMP, Pali and Javar were selected to work with HVO scientists. Two other UH-Manoa students were selected to intern with the USGS Pacific Islands Water Science Center on Oahu.

When Pali learned that NHSEMP was looking for a “volcano person” for a summer internship, she jumped at the opportunity. “I had no clue what would be in store for me,” she said, “but it did not matter, because the chance to work at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was something I couldn’t pass up.”

Both Pali and Javar have ties to Hawaii Island. Pali graduated from Konawaena High School before moving to Oahu, where she is now a UH-Manoa senior majoring in geology and geophysics. She is also the mother of three children. For Pali, coming to HVO was like coming home. “Living here this summer and being so close to Pele, to nature, and all that this place has to offer have prepared me for my upcoming semester, which will be my most intense yet!”

Javar, a Ka‘u High School graduate, is a sophomore at UH-Manoa, where he is pursuing a degree in civil engineering. This fall, he will continue his studies in Anchorage, Alaska, as part of an exchange program between UH and the University of Alaska. During his HVO internship, Javar served as a role model for students in his home town by assisting with an outreach program at Pahala Public Library about the work of volcano scientists.

While at HVO, Pali and Javar were introduced to the scientific disciplines and tasks that are required to monitor Hawaii volcanoes and earthquakes. They collected rock and ash samples on Kilauea, mapped lava flows on Mauna Loa, assisted with the installation of monitoring instruments, gathered GPS data on Mauna Kea, compiled a map for Hualalai using GIS, and more — all while gaining skills and knowledge through one-on-one interactions with HVO scientists.

Both interns admitted that “being in the field is definitely more interesting and engaging than sitting in front of a computer.” But they also understand that computer work is a necessary part of the job at HVO and accomplished their office assignments with aplomb.

Reflecting on his HVO experiences, Javar said, “I learned things that I would never have learned anywhere else. Working at HVO also changed the way I view the world, and that will help me become a better engineer.”

HVO appreciates the opportunity to mentor future scientists and engineers through the Native Hawaiian Science and Engineering Mentorship Program. We also value Pali and Javar’s contributions to HVO’s work during their summer internships and wish them all the best as they complete their degrees and pursue STEM careers. Mahalo and a hui hou.

Kilauea activity update

The summit lava lake within Halemaumau Crater produced nighttime glow visible via HVO’s webcam over the past week. The lava lake level fluctuated slightly but was roughly 130 feet below the rim of the overlook crater.

On the east rift zone of Kilauea volcano, the June 27 flow from Puu Oo continued to advance toward the northeast and had reached 5.4 miles from the vent by Wednesday. Within the Puu Oo crater, several small lava ponds were active on the crater floor.

Three earthquakes were reported recently on Hawaii Island. At 6:24 a.m. Aug. 7, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake occurred 4 miles northeast of Kawaihae at a depth of 10 miles. At 9:47 p.m. Monday, a magnitude 3.6 earthquake occurred 0.5 mile northwest of Ookala at a depth of 25 miles. At 8:28 p.m. Tuesday, a magnitude 3.5 earthquake occurred 14 miles northeast of Kukuihaele at a depth of 19 miles.

Visit the HVO website,, for Kilauea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai activity updates, recent volcano photos and recent earthquakes; call 967-8862 for a Kilauea summary; email questions to

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.