2016 Summer Travel Grant Series: Kilauea and Mauna Loa Research for Certificate Capstone on Evacuation Strategies and Planning Volcanic Eruptions in Hawaii


Sarah Eggert in front of the 2014 Pahoa lava flow during research trip to Big Island

Summer Travel Grant 2016 Recipient

Sarah Eggert

EWC Student Affiliate

My EWCA Summer Research Grant provided me an opportunity to be involved in a National Science Foundation-funded research project into volcanic hazard awareness and risk communication on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  One task of the research (a household survey of preparedness for a volcanic eruptions) was postponed, but fortunately, the task involving stakeholder interviews continued. During the third week of June, 2016, my colleague from East Tennessee State University and I arranged interviews with key stakeholders involved in volcanic hazards and response on the island of Hawai’i. From the moment I arrived in Hilo, we got to work. We were able to arrange interviews with representatives from utilities, the Fire Department, National Park Service, the National Guard, the planning department, Civil Defense, and USGS. These interviews were in addition to others that had taken place the previous week. We also canvassed the business district of Pahoa, gathering contact information of business owners affected by the 2014 Kilauea lava flow.

What an incredible experience! Each interview lasted up to two hours long and some were much longer. Our interviews started with general questions about the 2014 lava crisis and concluded with a mental model session to gather key variables and information necessary for creating an evacuation plan for communities surrounding Mauna Loa and Kilauea.

With the information gathered from the interviews, I will be writing my certificate capstone on evacuation strategies and evacuation planning for a future eruption of Mauna Loa. Unlike Kilauea, an eruption of Mauna Loa has not happened within recent history and is much more worrisome due to the characteristics of the potential eruption. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984 and at that time lava flows traveled northeast toward Hilo. However, the last eruption of Mauna Loa in South Kona District on the southwest side of the volcano was in 1950!

Thanks to my EWCA Summer Grant, I was able to interact one-on-one with various stakeholders and will have the opportunity to bring the expertise of each interviewee together to create a comprehensive, inclusive document that will hopefully prepare vulnerable residents of at-risk communities for an eruption of Mauna Loa.

Thank you for sponsoring this research that has much potential to positively contribute to a better understanding of volcanic awareness and risk communication for the island of Hawai’i!

The East-West Center Association (EWCA) and the EWCA Hawaii Chapter provided Travel Grants ($500 each) to 10 current East West Center students for the summer of 2016.