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Who is Pele?

April 19, 2014

It’s National Park Week, today through April 27!  This year’s theme is Go Wild, and at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, we invite you to Go Wild for Culture. We recently asked a staff member for the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, kumu hula Ab Kawainohoikala‘i Valencia of Hālau Hula Kalehuaki‘eki‘eika‘iu, what this park means to him. We asked him to pick one word to describe Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and his word was Pele. Find out who Pele is by watching the short video below:


Ab began our interview with an oli, a chant, to Pele. His oli gives us chicken skin everytime we watch this:


And not only is it National Park Week, but it’s also the 51st anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Festival, the prestigious week-long hula competition that starts Easter Sunday in Hilo. This year, the Merrie Monarch Festival and National Park Week coincide, so it was easy to decide that our theme should be Go Wild for Culture. We will also bring back the Hula Plant Photo of the Day blog post to “Go Wild for Culture” and to commemorate the Merrie Monarch Festival. Check back in a few hours to see what plants kumu Ab helped us select for this colorful week-long series.

Have a wonderful National Park Week! We have many cultural programs planned at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, starting next week, April 23-25. We hope to see you here, and that you discover for yourself Who Is Pele? Please share and like this post if you enjoyed it.

Mahalo nui loa from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park!



“Spiders,” New Technology and Monitoring Hawaii’s Volcanoes

April 18, 2014

This portable “power” platform is designed to be slung by helicopter to temporary monitoring sites on Hawaiian volcanoes. The platform is being used at Webcam sites and at Kīlauea’s summit to measure activity of the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater—a continuously recording gravity meter and an experimental camera for measuring sulfur dioxide gas (shown here). The platform can also be used for other types of monitoring instruments. (USGS)

The following is this week’s edition of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory‘s Volcano Watch:

When Mount St. Helens reawakened in late September 2004 with an intense swarm of earthquakes and very noticeable uplift of the volcano’s crater floor, there was great uncertainty as to how the activity would unfold and what style of eruption might result. Would there be a strong explosive eruption similar to the infamous eruption on May 18, 1980, or the subsequent effusion of viscous lava that formed a massive lava dome from 1980 through 1986? 

As the activity intensified and monitoring stations in the crater were destroyed by small, steam-driven explosions, scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) needed to install additional instruments in the crater to better track the earthquakes and ground deformation in real time. The uncertainty and potential for explosive activity, however, meant that the crater was considered extremely hazardous to scientists spending any more than a few minutes there. 

A typical monitoring station for detecting earthquakes or deformation consists of solar panels, batteries, antenna mast, housing for the electronics, and instrument pad or monument. Installing such a station requires multiple helicopter sling loads to the site and many hours to assemble by people working on the ground. 

Then CVO scientists designed and built self-contained, portable units that could be slung into place—and even moved or retrieved—by helicopter, without needing people to work at the site. These units were designed with non-rechargeable batteries to eliminate the solar panels and avoid problems with snow and ice during winter conditions. 

Nicknamed “spiders” because of their long-legged framework, several were placed on the old dome only 11 days after the start of earthquake activity! The spiders quickly showed that the old dome was moving northward as much as 2 cm (3/4 inch) per day. The massive dome was being shouldered aside by a mass of magma ascending beneath its south side. 

Lava finally erupted onto the crater floor about a week later and continued erupting through early 2008 to form a new dome nearly equal in volume to the 1980–86 dome. During the 3.5-year eruption, nearly 3 dozen spiders were used to successfully monitor the dome’s activity. 

View of north side of a lava dome on Mount St. Helens from a location immediately south of 1980-1986 lava dome. Circle shows the location of an instrument station on the dome. Inset shows the instrument station, a “tilt-leg spider” package named CDAN, on top of the north-face of the dome. This station housed a GPS unit and a seismometer until it was destroyed by an explosion on January 16, 2005, 36-hours after placement. (USGS photos, January 14, 2005)

The spiders were made possible in such a short period of time because CVO scientists had started developing a prototype GPS-based system for monitoring ground movement in 2000. The system was designed to be low-cost, require minimal power, and transmit data reliably and repeatedly. Fortuitously, the critical electronic, telemetry, and data-processing parts of the system had proven to work well by the time Mount St. Helens reawakened in 2004. For more information, see this publication (

More recently, a portable instrument package was developed at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) to quickly and easily deploy Webcams for recording activity at new eruptive vents and tracking the location and advancement of lava flows in real time. 

Like spiders, they can be slung by helicopter to remote sites, but they require scientists on the ground to set up the cameras, install and align the radio antennas, and connect the final wiring. Still, the new platforms greatly reduce the time and effort needed to deploy Webcams and other monitoring stations. 

The core of HVO’s portable unit is an aluminum framework strong enough to be slung by helicopter while also supporting the power system (solar panels and batteries), camera tripod, and the electronics needed to acquire, store, and transmit data to the observatory. 

With the help of a long-term volunteer, Frank Box, HVO now has several of these units ready for deployment when the eruption of Kīlauea changes or activity ramps up at one of the other active volcanoes in Hawaiʻi. The pre-fabrication will save many days of preparation time and reduce the number of sling loads needed to quickly install several new, temporary monitoring stations with minimal impact to a site.

Saving hawksbill turtles, one plant at a time

April 17, 2014

How do you help endangered hawksbill turtles survive? One plant at a time! Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park natural resources management staff recently planted 746 naupaka kahaki (Scaevola taccada,), an indigenous coastal shrub, near the remote lagoon beach at Halapē.

working at Halapē

Park staff David Benitez (front), Paul Keli‘ihoomalu, and Fred Aiona (back) are seen removing non-native haole koa at Halapē. Following haole koa removal, this area was planted with the native shrub coastal naupaka (Scaevola taccada).NPS Photo/Mark Wasser.

The planting serves a dual purpose: it establishes a barrier to prevent further expansion of non-native, invasive koa haole from encroaching further along the shoreline, and it improves the habitat quality for nesting hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) by stabilizing the sand.

naupaka & hawksbill hatchlings

Hawksbill turtle hatchlings head towards the ocean. NPS Photo.

Hawksbill turtles, called honu ‘ea in Hawaiian, are a federally endangered sea turtle that nest primarily on the eastern beaches of Hawai‘i Island. Two of their primary nesting areas are located within the park.

Apua hawksbill

A female hawksbill turtle at ‘Āpua Point, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo.

Naupaka planting

Mark Wasser planting naupaka kahakai at Halapē. NPS Photo/David Benitez.

This post was authored by Mark Wasser,  who works in the Restoration Ecology Program at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, part of the Natural Resource Management division. 

Celebration of the 114th American Samoa Flag Day!

April 17, 2014


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I + M = BLT

April 16, 2014

Two plant monitoring protocols combine with a vegetation mapping inventory to create a more robust understanding of the resources.

Bacon is delicious on its own. But when you add tomato to the bacon, the salty smokiness mixes with the tangy sweet acid of the fruit to make something even better. Add toast, lettuce, and mayo, and you’ve just  created a taste sensation which is undoubtedly more scrumptious than its individual parts.

KALA Plants

Kalaupapa National Historical Park coastline is alive with plant life.

The Inventory & Monitoring program (I&M) monitors natural “vital signs” like the Focal Terrestrial Plant Community (FTPC) and Established Invasive Plant Species (EIPS). Though these projects are each designed to serve a specific purpose, they can be used in tandem to achieve an even better understanding of the plant communities. Sprinkle on top a snapshot of another aspect of park resources like the recent vegetation mapping inventory, and you end up with a bona fide synergy of science. The B.L.T. Effect, if you will.

The detail achieved by bringing together different components of plant community composition can be extremely valuable to resource managers, and help with evaluating the health or status of natural resources of concern. In the future, I&M plans to supplement these protocols with other vital signs such as Early Detection of Invasive Plant Species and Focal Plant Species monitoring.

Focal Terrestrial Plant Community Monitoring 

To conduct this monitoring protocol, crews travel to the backcountry areas of Pacific Island Network (PACN) national parks to survey the vegetation of focal plant communities. These include wet forests, subalpine shrublands, coastal communities, limestone forests, and a mangrove forest. Specific areas within these communities, or “sampling frames”, were determined by park staff based on vegetation, geography and other factors. More importantly, sampling frames were assigned to areas that are still considered to be relatively intact ecologically.

Monitoring FTPC consists of determining all native and non-native species present in a 20x50m (forests and subalpine shrublands) or 10x20m (coastal) plot. Crews also take readings on the substrate and understory cover, then count and take measurements on seedlings, shrubs, and trees. Depending on access, vegetation diversity and density, this process can be fairly quick or take multiple days for a single plot. Monitoring is repeated every five years at each park to provide long-term plant community data, and eventually trends.

Established Invasive Plant Species Monitoring 

EIPS monitoring is conducted within the same sampling frames as FTPC – areas that are considered to be relatively intact. To monitor this vital sign, crews walk transects and estimate the types and amounts of all non-native species found in contiguous plots along the way. While the length of transects vary depending on where we are, each transect is 5m wide. Plots along the transects are either 10x5m or 20x5m, depending on the situation.

veg plot

A vegetation monitoring plot in the coastal strand of Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Following the same schedule as FTPC monitoring, EIPS transects are repeated every five years for each PACN park.

Vegetation Mapping Inventory

In 2008, I&M crews, contractors, and cooperators started working together to produce detailed vegetation classification maps for each PACN park. This process begins with crews painstakingly documenting all vegetation within (a lot of randomly generated) 400m2 circles. Contractors then combine these data with satellite imagery to produce draft maps of plant associations scattered across the parks. Afterward, crews conduct accuracy assessments before final maps and reports are produced (see The Whole Ground Truth).

Vegetation maps are a great tool for resource management in their own right. These inventories provide a snapshot of the vegetation across the parks. They can help managers identify areas of concern.

Bringing it all Together with Thematic Maps… A Better Sandwich

The meat of the story is in the thematic maps that are created from a combination of plant monitoring and vegetation inventory data. These maps are made to display specific themes or data of interest. A theme that targets non-native plant species, for example, can help provide insight to the “health” of areas within the parks.

We combine data from FTPC monitoring plots, EIPS transects, and vegetation mapping plots to create thematic maps (e.g. map below) for targeting non-native species cover in the rocky and sandy sampling frames of the Kalaupapa Coast. These maps will be published with the Kalaupapa Coastal Strand EIPS monitoring report (available soon) and focus on species of concern to the park, especially those that have the ability to displace native vegetation. By bringing together FTPC, EIPS, and vegetation inventory data we can provide resource managers with a more detailed picture of how these potentially damaging non-native species are spreading in relatively intact plant communities. The result is stronger than the sum of its parts… not unlike a good B.L.T.

sampling map

–Melissa Simon, NPS Biological Technician

& Cory Nash, NPS Science Communications

Canoe Race 2014

April 14, 2014
National park team; Men's Category

National park team; Men’s Category

Today, two teams from the National Park of American Samoa competed in the annual canoe race held in Pago Pago Harbor. Several different local government agencies fought hard to win the coveted titles for the men’s, women’s, and mixed category.

Both of our national park teams finished first and second place in the men’s category and were cheered by their colleagues during the event. A big MALO LAVA to our team!

Preservation Award for Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail and its many partners

April 14, 2014
Laulima kokua (Many hands help)

Community and staff working together at Kiholo Puako Trail Earthquake Damage Stabilization Project, Puuanahulu.

Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail and its many partners will be recognized on May 30, 2014 with a Preservation Honor Award at Historic Hawai`i Foundation’s 2014 Preservation Honor Awards Ceremony. The Honor Award will be presented to Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail; Hawai`i Division of State Parks; `Ohana of Napuu Area; Hui Aloha Kiholo; Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Department of Land and Natural Resources; and Ala Kahakai Trail Association.

This award is for the 2014 Kiholo-Puako Trail Earthquake Damage Stabilization Project. This historic trail, an alanui aupuni (government road) also known as the “King’s Trail”’, dates to the mid-1800s and represents one of the finest examples of trails constructed by the Kingdom of Hawai’i. Listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the Kiholo-Puako trail is a primary north-south route for trail users in Kiholo State Park Reserve and Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail and is still actively used for cultural and recreational purposes. Two sections of the historic Kiholo-Puako Trail in Pu`uanahulu on Hawai`i Island were repaired and stabilized while effectively demonstrating community-based management and engagement. These damaged trail sections comprised of two massive masonry causeways extensively damaged during a major 2006 earthquake and aftershocks. This project is a great example of architectural stabilization using traditional Hawaiian dry-set masonry (hapai pohaku) by a team of highly qualified masons and archaeologists working together. The project documented, repaired and stabilized 180 linear feet of dry set masonry trail fabric and included detailed documentation of the trail, the adjacent ancient ala loa (long trail), and associated archeological features before, during and after the repair work that will contribute to the preservation of this very important piece of Hawaiian history. The funding for this project was provided by the Cultural Cyclic Maintenance program.

This is the 40th year of the Preservation Honor Awards, which are Hawaii`s highest recognition of preservation projects that perpetuate, rehabilitate, restore or interpret the state’s architectural, archaeological and/or cultural heritage.

For more, go to


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