Volcanologists from around the world converge at UH Hilo for 8-week training course on monitoring volcanoes; Kīlauea erupts, providing real world experience

The purpose of the course is to help developing nations attain self-sufficiency in monitoring volcanoes. Three days in, Kīlauea volcano erupts, giving the cohort real-world experience in the field.

Group of 12 with lava flowing in Halemaumau crater in the background.
Just three days into the eight-week International Training Course, the cohort of 12 participants of 2023 enjoy the eruption of Halemaumau, from a safe distance as the sun sets, the evening of June 7, 2023. (Darcy Bevens/Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes)

By Susan Enright.

Twelve volcanologists and related technicians from around the world have arrived in Hilo for an eight-week International Training Course at the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV), an outreach center based at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The purpose of the course, which started Monday of this week, is to help developing nations attain self-sufficiency in monitoring volcanoes.

Don Thomas pictured
Don Thomas
Darcy Bevens pictured
Darcy Bevens

Three days into the course, Kīlauea volcano awakened from its three-month slumber and erupted within Halemaumau crater before dawn on June 7. “The group will go see the eruption this evening, plus spend tomorrow in field,” says Darcy Bevens, educational specialist at CSAV.

“Hawaiian volcanoes are among the most active in the world, but unlike violently explosive volcanoes, they can be approached and studied without significant risk,” says Don Thomas, director of CSAV and faculty member at the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “As a result, the course and Hawai‘i Island provide the ideal environment for practicing volcano monitoring techniques.”

The Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes operates out of UH Hilo as a training and outreach program. The mission is to provide information on volcanic and natural hazards that occur in Hawai‘i and worldwide. Operating since 1989, it is a cooperative program of UH Hilo, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, and UH Mānoa’s Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.

International Training Course

Smiling woman with lava lake in the background.
Summer cohort member Andrea Aguilar of Chile poses for a photo in front of Halemaumau’s lava lake at sunset on June 7, 2023. Aguillar signed up for the 2020 International Training Course but had to be patient until the pandemic was over. (Darcy Bevens/CSAV)

The annual in-person field training class was paused during the pandemic; this is the first cohort to arrive on island since the summer of 2019. Part of the course will be held on Hawai‘i Island and part in Vancouver, Washington. Participants learn about volcano monitoring methods—both data collection and interpretation—in use by the USGS. Participants also learn proper use and maintenance of volcano monitoring instruments.

In the 2023 cohort are Andrea Aguilar (Chile), Gede Bagiarta (Indonesia), Laura Barrantes (Columbia), Javier Calderon (Peru), Rodolfo Castro (El Salvadore), Juan Jose Idarraga (Columbia), Lois Jumawan (Philippines), Wahyu Kusuma (Indonesia), Nelinda Manrique (Peru), Olivier Munyamahoro (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Dave Rivera (Philippines), and Leonardo van der Laat (Costa Rica). For the past few days, the group has spent time at Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory, been briefed on emergency public outreach programs, and taken some time to enjoy the ocean—and then the unexpected eruption and a trip to Halemaumau.

“This is very cool program,” says Kusuma, who has been waiting for three years to attend the course. “Big thanks for all of the best instructors. In few days here, I learn so much. It’s first time in my life, I can see lava tunnel, green sand, pele’s hair and all of the geology things here. Especially the special one is the Kīlauea eruption is also my first experience to see the giant lava lake which I never seen before in Indonesia. Love it so much.”

Here’s the cohort and a sampling of activities so far this week, click photos to enlarge:

Group photo of class cohort, men and women photographed with large tree, some are sitting in the tree, others in front.
June 3, 2023, the summer cohort for the International Training Course on volcano monitoring poses for a photo at UH Hilo before their eight-week program begins. Front row, from left, Lois Jumawan (Philippines), Olivier Munyamahoro (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Laura Barrantes (Columbia), Javier Calderon (Peru), Gede Bagiarta (with cap, Indonesia), and Wahyu Kusuma (Indonesia). Back row, from left, Andrea Aguilar (Chile), Rodolfo Castro (El Salvadore), Juan Jose Idarraga (Columbia), Leonardo van der Laat (Costa Rica), Nelinda Manrique (Peru), and Dave Rivera (Philippines). (Darcy Bevens/Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes)

More than 30 faculty from UH Mānoa, along with current and retired USGS staff from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Cascades Volcano Observatory, and Alaska Volcano Observatory, will be teaching the course.

The curriculum covers monitoring technology, seismic station installation, precision global positioning system or GPS stations, and tiltmeters. Participants also learn to analyze and interpret data from those types of equipment, monitor and interpret the chemistry of volcanic gas emissions, map lava flows and explosive deposits, interpret maps in the context of eruption magnitude and risk, and assess satellite remote sensing and thermal imagery.

Training on crisis management and working with the media are also covered.

“With this focus on forecasting and rapid response, we really aim to bolster volcano observatories around the world in their efforts to save lives and property,” says Thomas.

Since 1991, 264 scientists and technicians from 30 countries have participated in the training program. Most attendees have been funded through the USGS Volcano Disaster Assistance Program with funding from USAID.

“After they return home, they have a network of colleagues that they can call on for help in problem-solving and brainstorming and dealing with the inevitable challenges that they’ll face in dealing with their home volcanoes,” says Thomas.

See media release by Marcie Grabowski at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology website.

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.