USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)

Volunteer Program of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)

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 tubeMany 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).

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