Hawai'i Volcano Blog

Volcano Watch: USGS hosting open house about replacement of building destroyed during 2018 Kīlauea eruption

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Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists and affiliates with the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The U.S. Geological Survey will host an informal open house on March 15 about the proposed new building in Hilo and its draft Environmental Assessment.

The event will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory offices in the Iron Works building at 1266 Kamehameha Ave., Suite C in Hilo. Members of the public are invited to come learn about this project and the proposed new building. 

Photos showing the location of the building that formerly housed the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. The photo on the left was taken on July 13, 2018, during the Kīlauea summit collapse sequence. The photo on the right was taken on July 19, 2022, after eruptions had partially filled in the collapsed area. Photos: U.S. Geological Survey

Many locals and visitors remember visiting Jaggar Museum on the rim of Kīlauea caldera (Kaluapele) in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Prior to 2018, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory operated from buildings next to the museum. Visitors could sometimes see scientists doing their work to monitor volcanoes and earthquakes in order to reduce their impacts on communities in Hawai’i. 


These observatory buildings were damaged beyond repair in 2018 when the Kīlauea summit partially collapsed during the lower East Rift Zone eruption. The observatory has moved to multiple temporary homes since then. 

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park also houses another USGS group — the Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center. It focuses on the study of biological resources in Hawai‘i and other locations in the Pacific, promoting management and conservation. 

The observatory and research center have different but related missions. While the observatory falls under the Natural Hazards Mission Area of the USGS, the research center is in the Ecosystems Mission Area.


Under the umbrella of USGS, both groups strive to better understand the complex natural world in the context of the policy and hazards posed. Geologists at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory study the volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian Islands and biologists at the research center study the ecosystems on them. 

A new building for both has been proposed for 6.8 acres of state-owned land on Nowelo Street in Hilo. The proposed location is near the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus and other science-oriented organizations, including the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.  This will allow for more interactive work between scientists and will provide more opportunities for college faculty and students to collaborate with both the observatory and research center.

Because the project involves the use of State of Hawai‘i lands, an Environmental Assessment and anticipated Finding of No Significant Impacts has been prepared for the project in accordance with Hawaiʻi statutes and administrative rules. Environmental Assessments evaluate the potential impacts of a project to the surrounding environment.  


The Environmental Assessment also meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Information on how to review the draft environmental assessment for the new USGS building, and provide feedback, is available here.

During the open house on March 15, there will be informative displays and USGS Project Team members present to answer questions about the project. USGS scientists from both the observatory and research center also will be present to answer questions about these organizations and the work they do. 

Big Island residents live in a dynamic environment, with active volcanoes and a changing climate impacting its diverse ecosystems. The new USGS facility in Hilo will provide a cutting-edge space for scientists to do their work on these fundamental aspects.

Questions about the draft environmental assessment can be sent to [email protected]

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