Christina “Tina” Neal has been selected to replace Jim Kauahikaua as the new Scientist-in-Charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Neal, only the second woman to lead the observatory in its 103-year-long history, will begin her new job on March 8, International Women’s Day.
“Tina brings to the HVO Scientist-in-Charge position the required breadth of scientific background, strong communication skills, and eruption response experience, including much work with various communities at risk. I was thrilled when she accepted the position, because I knew that both HVO and the communities that it serves will be in good hands going forward,” said Tom Murray, Director of the USGS Volcano Science Center, which oversees all five U.S. volcano observatories.
Neal comes to Hawai‘i from Alaska, where she spent almost 25 years working as a USGS geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory. But From 1983 to 1989, Neal lived in Volcano and worked on the staff at HVO, where she helped to monitor Mauna Loa’s 1984 eruption and the early years of K?lauea’s ongoing East Rift Zone eruption. Neal also mapped K?lauea’s summit and Southwest Rift zones. She moved to Anchorage in 1990 to work on the then-newly-created Alaska Volcano Observatory.
In 1990, Neal moved to Alaska to work at the newly-created Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage. There, she monitored and studied a number of Alaskan volcanoes and their eruptions, including Redoubt (1989–1990 and 2009), Mount Spurr (1992), Augustine (2005–2006), and Okmok (2008). In 1998, Neal accepted a two-year assignment in Washington, D.C., as the first USGS geoscience advisor to the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, within the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is responsible for coordinating U.S. government responses to disasters overseas. Her travels during this assignment took her to Thailand, Nepal, Ecuador, Colombia, Kazakhstan, and other countries, where she reviewed or assisted with the implementation of hazard mitigation programs. She resumed her duties at AVO in 2000, helped to strengthen the Alaska-based interagency response system for volcanic eruptions and coordinated AVO’s eruption monitoring and crisis response efforts with Russian volcanology counterparts. She is also internationally recognized for her efforts to reduce the risk of volcanic ash to aviation in the North Pacific and globally.She served as Chief of Staff and Deputy Regional Director for the USGS Western Regional Office in 2009–2010 and as Acting Scientist-in-Charge at AVO in 2010.
Kauahikaua is resigning after more than ten years as scientist-in-charge of HVO–the first person of Hawaiian descent to hold that position. During his tenure, he expanded, strengthened and digitized the observatory’s monitoring system while coping with Kilauea’s long-running, nearly continuous eruption, including the recent crisis in which lava has repeatedly threatened Pahoa. He plans to continue at HVO and go back to full-time research.