Field Methods in Volcanology


As of September 2012, this course has been cancelled until further notice, due to administrative budget constraints and scheduling conflicts.

Due to some administrative changes in the UH-Hilo summer program, CSAV has encountered both scheduling conflicts and budgetary shortfalls in our ability to offer Geology 471 for the foreseeable future.  We're very sorry to have to suspend this offering.

Even without Field Methods in Volcanology, there are lots of great courses available at UH Hilo, including Geology of the Hawaiian Islands (GEOL 205) and Volcanology (GEOL 470). Why not come visit us for a semester--or stay for all four years! Read more about the Geology Department!

Geology students

NEW VIDEO: Lava Field is Backyard Laboratory for UH Hilo Students.

Field Methods in Volcanology from 1995 - 2012

Since 1990, the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV) has offered a six-week summer International Training Course in Volcano Hazards Monitoring to scientists and technicians from developing countries with active volcanoes. Scientists from 25 countries, including Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Cameroon, have learned how to interpret seismograms, analyze fumarole gases, and conduct precise leveling surveys through this training course. CSAV now offers a similar training program--a field camp in Hawaii--that provides a basic introduction to field methods in volcano monitoring for university-level students within countries such as the United States, Canada, and Europe. Students are housed at Holo Holo In located in Volcano Village.

Geology 471, Field Methods in Volcanology, is a three-week, three-credit general course,  held in late July and early August.  Many students who have attended this course have gone on to exciting careers; visit our Alumni section for updates.

This program differs from traditional summer geology field camps, which run for several weeks, provide six credits, and involve extensive mapping and structural interpretation. The CSAV course gives students a chance to work with the instruments a volcanologist uses, collect data on an active volcano, and interpret the results. Traditional field camps are conducted almost entirely in the field. But for Geology 471, roughly half the course is taught indoors, either in a lab or classroom.

Course Topics from 1995 - 2012

There are five sections to the course, described below.

1. Physical Volcanology

In Physical Volcanology, students visit active lava flows (eruption permitting) to analyze flow characteristics, and evaluate geomorphological characteristics of volcanic features on both Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

photo of Scott sampling lava
Protective gear is worn to study the viscosity of molten pahoehoe lava.

photo of lava entering seaLava enters the sea in the National Park.

2. Gas Geochemistry

For Gas Geochemistry, students learn about the compositions of volcanic gases and sampling techniques; field work includes radon sampling on Mauna Loa and collecting gases from Sulphur Banks fumarole and vents near Halemaumau; gases are then analyzed in the lab using both wet chemical and gas chromatagraphic methods.

photo of gas analysis
Gas samples are analyzed in the UH Hilo geochemistry lab.

photo of students by Sulfur BanksStudents at Sulphur Banks.

3. Ground Deformation

For Ground Deformation Monitoring, students learn theory and techniques, and then go into the field to practice with the NAK-2 precise leveling gun,  EDM, and GPS.


photo of field instrument
Brian Hale reads a Total Field Station in the Kau Desert.

photo of Chris with NAK-2 gun Chris Harpel with NAK-2 gun.

4. Seismology

In Seismology, students learn the basic theories of seismic signal generation and propagation, view current records from local seismic stations, and set up a seismic station in the field. Back in the lab, students analyze the seismic records to determine magnitude, location, and nature of the quakes.

photo of seismic set up
Installing a seismometer and telemetry station.

photo of seismic drumPS-2 seismic drum.

5. Case Studies

For Case Studies, students evaluate the application of techniques they have learned to real-world volcanic crisis situations, such as Pinatubo or Nevada del Ruiz. Students break into small groups of three or four and work together, gathering information from the UH-Hilo library and the Internet. On the last Friday morning of class, the group presents oral reports on the case studies, at Holo Holo In. Each student receives a grade based on this oral report and on a two-hour comprehensive final exam taken the last Thursday afternoon of the class.

Case StudiesStudents present oral reports.

Final Exam Students take Final Exam.



Costs for this former summer course

Tuition and fees for this summer program formerly were $1,785.00. This includes housing, ground transportation, and course materials. The cost of food is not included.

Logistics for this former summer course

Students enrolled in the course will be staying at Holo Holo In, just outside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Holo Holo In is a hostel-style dormitory, and has a kitchen, where students can prepare meals.

Transportation from Hilo airport to the dormitory will be provided on Sunday afternoon, one day before the course starts. After the course is over, transportation back to the airport will also be available.

There are five days of instruction each week. For the two Saturdays that fall in the middle of the course, we provide field trips to some of the spectacular beaches and waterfalls on the Big Island. For the two Sundays that fall in the middle of the course, no activities or transportation will be provided. Students may rest, go hiking in the National Park, visit a local Farmer's Market, or prepare Case Studies reports.

Classroom instruction will be based out of Holo Holo In, located within Volcano Village. Enjoy reviews from past participants. Download a syllabus.

Adam with seismograph
Adam Curry (2008) deploys a seismograph.
photo of instructor in KOEC
Roughly half of the course is spent indoors with labs, lectures, and demonstrations.

Prerequisites for this former summer course

Prerequisites are broad and general: you need previous university-level coursework in geology, mathematics, and natural sciences.

Rigorous field work is an integral part of the course. If you are not certain that you can hike three to five miles a day for several days running, under demanding field conditions ranging from hot to rainy, then this may not be the appropriate course for you.