UH Hilo alumnus is the new deputy scientist-in-charge at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

While an undergraduate at UH Hilo, David Phillips was a student assistant at the Center for Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV) where he worked directly with Hawaiian Volcano Observatory staff on monitoring and outreach. Phillips continued to be involved with CSAV as an instructor while at UH Mānoa, always returning to teach.

David Phillips and his wife Francine Coloma stand in colorful fall foliage with snowy mountain in background.
New Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Deputy Scientist-in-Charge David Phillips and his wife Francine Coloma with Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji in the background. (Credit: Yasushi Harada. Public domain.)

The recent monthly column, “Volcano Watch,” published by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory announced that an alumnus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is the new deputy scientist-in-charge at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park: David Phillips.

Phillips and his wife Francine Coloma, who is a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), moved to Hilo in January. They arrived from from Boulder, Colorado, where Phillips was a program manager for UNAVCO, the Geodetic Facility for the U.S .National Science Foundation and NASA. According to the article, while there, Phillips oversaw multimillion-dollar facility operations to collect, process, and archive geodetic data, led community science activities around the globe, and coordinated earthquake response missions.

Phillips has a doctor of philosophy in geophysics from UH Mānoa and a bachelor of science in geology from UH Hilo. His dissertation focused on collecting and analyzing GPS data to study plate tectonics in the South Pacific, and also included work in South America and Antarctica.

From the “Volcano Watch” article written by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Tina Neal:

David has utilized high precision Global Positioning System (GPS) and Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) instruments to support state-of-the-art geophysical research projects in Hawai‘i, the mainland US, Japan, Italy, Croatia, Puerto Rico and other locales. As examples, he conducted terrestrial lidar fieldwork in Japan following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and coordinated airborne lidar and satellite radar imaging of the San Andreas fault, Yellowstone, and other important geologic features.

In Hawai‘i, David had a leading role installing continuous GPS sites on Mauna Loa Volcano in 2005 as part of a collaborative project involving UNAVCO, USGS and the University of Hawai‘i (UH). He has also installed continuous GPS sites on Kīlauea Volcano, at the Hilo airport, and on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i to support sea level and atmospheric studies in addition to volcano monitoring. Thus, he is no stranger to the challenges and wonders of working on Hawaiian volcanoes with local communities and with profound respect for Hawaiian culture.

While an undergraduate at UH-Hilo, he was a student assistant at the Center for Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV) where he worked directly with HVO staff on volcano monitoring and outreach. David continued to be involved with CSAV as an instructor while at UH-Mānoa and UNAVCO, always returning to teach. He is passionate about science education and the encouragement of local youth to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. He has taught youth programs at the Lyman Museum, led fieldtrips for Upward Bound, and helped Jim Kauahikaua (HVO) and Jim Anderson (UHH) teach a program for Nā Pua No‘eau. David is excited to contribute to HVO’s outreach program going forward.

Read the full column.