East Hawaii News

Christina Neal Joins HVO as Scientist-in-Charge

March 6, 2015, 2:47 PM HST
* Updated March 6, 3:34 PM
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As Jim Kauahikaua prepares to step-down from his role as Scientist-in-Charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, a position he has held for the past ten years, Christina Neal prepares to take over.

Neal will take over the position on March 8, which also happens to be International Women’s Day. She is only the second woman to hold the positon since its beginnings 103 years ago.

“The significance of this happening coincidently with International Women’s Day is a great honor. It is not lost upon me that there are not so many women in science leadership positions,” Neal said during a media conference call Friday. “I am happy to be another one and serve as a role model especially to young girls and young women, to see they can be whatever they want to be.”

Neal has previously spent the last 25-years working in Alaska as a USGS geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory. She, however, is no stranger to HVO. Between 1983 and 1989, Neal lived in Volcano and was a HVO staff member. She remembers her work during the early years of the East Rift Zone eruption and of the 1984 Mauna Loa eruption.

Over the years, Neal has maintained ties with HVO. In 2012, she assisted in HVO’s 100th Anniversary Open House. This past October, she spent two weeks at HVO helping to monitor conditions of the June 27 lava flow and assisting with community meetings.

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“The thing I am most looking forward to is reconnecting with a lot of the people I knew, and knew well when I lived here in the 80’s. Many of them are still here and I look forward to rekindling those relationships. I love the state of Hawai’i and I really enjoy all of the outdoor and cultural things that are offered here. I am going to have to renew my familiarity with them all. I have been steeped in Alaska things for 25 years,” Neal told reporters when asked about what she was most excited about in returning to Hawai’i, outside of the Volcanoes.

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After her work with HVO in the 1980’s, Neal moved to Alaska to pursue work at the new AVO in Anchorage. In 1998, she took 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. In her role, she aided in coordinating government response to disasters overseas. She returned to AVO in 2000 and accomplished a great feat, including work that strengthened the Alaska-based inter-agency response system for volcanic eruptions and coordinated AVO’s eruption monitoring and crisis response efforts with Russian volcanology counterparts.

Among her many accomplishments, Neal has been recognized internationally for her efforts in reducing volcanic ash to aviation in the North Pacific and throughout 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,” Tom Murray, Director of the USGS Volcanic Science Center said.

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Aside from her numerous years of geologic work, Neal has also sharpened her managerial skills as Chief of Staff and Deputy Regional Director for the USGS Western Regional Office from 2009 to 2010 and as Acting Scientist-in-Charge at AVO in 2010.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have been selected to lead this wonderful institution. HVO is a world class scientific group and it’s also a really important critical part of Hawai’i state hazard management system. Everyday the work of HVO staff provides really critical guidance and helps support public safety in Volcano and Earth,” Neal said.

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