Christina Neal Takes Top Spot at USGS HVO
The following is this week’s edition of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory‘s Volcano Watch:
The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Christina (Tina) Neal to serve as the new Scientist-in-Charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Neal succeeds Jim Kauahikaua, who served in the position for the past ten years.
It is a fitting coincidence that Neal, only the second woman to lead USGS HVO in its 103-year-long history, takes the helm on March 8, International Women’s Day, a day established to celebrate the achievements of women around the world.
“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. After so many years in the land of the midnight sun, swapping snowshoes for ‘slippahs’ (flip-flops) might seem a drastic change, but she’s no stranger to the aloha state—or HVO.
From 1983 to 1989, Neal lived in Volcano, and worked on the staff at HVO. Her work included monitoring Kīlauea Volcano during the early years of its ongoing East Rift Zone eruption, as well as Mauna Loa during its 1984 eruption. She fondly recalls one day in March 1984, when she spent the morning working atop the erupting Mauna Loa and the afternoon collecting lava samples from the active Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent on Kīlauea. For a volcanologist, simultaneous eruptions on two volcanoes made for an unforgettable workday.
As part of the Big Island Mapping Project, Neal mapped the summit of Kīlauea, resulting in the USGS publication “Geologic Map of the Summit Region of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaii.” She also mapped Kīlauea’s Southwest Rift Zone for the “Geologic Map of the Island of Hawai‘i.”
In 1990, Neal moved to Alaska to work at the newly-created AVO 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). Working on remote Alaskan stratovolcanoes is not for the faint-hearted—the steep-sided, glacier-covered volcanic mountains are hazardous even when not erupting—a tip-off to the mettle of which Neal is made.
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 foreign countries, where she reviewed or assisted with the implementation of hazard mitigation programs.
When Neal returned to AVO in 2000, she resumed her work as a geologist—mapping and studying active Alaskan volcanoes. With colleagues, she strengthened 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.
In addition to outstanding geologic work, Neal honed her managerial skills during two details 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.
Over the years, Neal has maintained ties to HVO. In 2012, she helped with HVO’s 100th Anniversary Open House, and in October 2014, she spent two weeks at HVO assisting with monitoring efforts and community meetings as Kīlauea’s active lava flow moved toward Pāhoa.
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