Hawai'i Volcano Blog

Volcano Watch: Aloha to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s newest geology professor

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

Lis Gallant measures fountain heights during the 2022 eruption of Mauna Loa on the Big Island using a laser rangefinder. (U.S. Geological Survey photo)

Lis Gallant has spent the past two and a half years at the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, studying the lava and cinder cones from the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea. She is making a short move up the hill this week to join the Department of Geology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo as an assistant professor.

Volcanology was not always on the horizon for Gallant when she started her academic journey in Troy, N.Y.

She took courses at Hudson Valley Community College before receiving a bachelor’s degree in electronic media, arts and communications from Renssealer Polytechnic Institute. After several years working in the medical software industry, she returned to school and received a second bachelor’s degree in geology from Buffalo State University.

As an undergrad, Gallant conducted research on tephra deposits of Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador, which helped her discover a passion for science with real-world application. It was after this that she first came to the Hawai‘i Island to work at HVO as an intern mapping lava flows on Mauna Loa and assisting in Puʻuʻōʻō eruption response from 2012 to 2013.

Gallant then went to the University of South Florida to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees in geoscience. Her work focused on developing new computer-based lava flow hazard assessment tools. She also expanded her skill set by working with different kinds of radar to study subtle changes in the shapes of volcanoes and map eruptive deposits below the ground.


In addition to her research, Gallant was an avid teacher while working on her degree, instructing numerous courses and assisting with the University of South Florida’s summer field courses. She taught students from Florida — many of whom had never seen mountains before — to map folds, faults and geologic deposits for the first time.

Lis Gallant deploys a terrestrial radar system during the January 2023 eruption of Kīlauea on the Big Island. This instrument can detect small-scale changes in the shape of the lava lake’s surface and calculate the speed at which those changes are occurring. (U.S. Geological Survey photo)

While at the University of South Florida, she was part of the response to volcanic unrest at Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia and the eruption of Momotombo in Nicaragua. These experiences further bridged the gap between academic research and applied science, which set Gallant on her path after she received her doctorate degree.

Thereafter, she moved to the United Kingdom in 2020 and joined the IMAGINE project at the University of Cambridge Department of Geography. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from traveling to Chile and Argentina to examine the human and environmental geographies in these volcanic regions, she was able to forge strong connections with her colleagues, and she looks forward to engaging UH-Hilo students in this network.

Gallant returned to HVO in 2021 and continues to engage in exciting research and eruption response efforts. She helped respond to the 2020, 2021 and 2023 eruptions of Kīlauea and the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption.

She brought several pieces of novel scientific equipment to study the volcanoes, including a magnetometer mounted on an uncrewed aerial vehicle, a ground penetrating radar and a special radar called a terrestrial radar interferometer that can detect rapid changes in the shape of the landscape.


The terrestrial radar interferometer was deployed during the waning phases of the Mauna Loa eruption. The flow front was difficult to continuously monitor because of inclement weather and logistical constraints of working at high altitude. Gallant and graduate students from the University of South Florida successfully located the flow front in near-zero visibility conditions and were able to image flow thickening along the margins.

She has continued to teach during her time at HVO.

She is a faculty member for the GeoSPACE project, a field course that focuses on improving the experiences of disabled students in the geosciences. Her efforts were recently recognized by the International Association for Geoscience Diversity, which presented her with its Inclusive Geoscience Education and Research Award in 2022.

Gallant is excited to bring all of these amazing assets — passion for teaching, diversifying the geosciences and volcano research — to her students as she begins her first semester at UH-Hilo.

Although we will certainly miss her at HVO, we look forward to collaborating with her as a UH-Hilo partner. The Big Island UH campus has been an active partner with HVO for many years and this relationship will continue to thrive with the Department of Geology’s newest professor.


Please join us sharing our aloha for Lis Gallant!

Volcano activity updates

Kīlauea is not erupting. Its Volcano Alert level is at Advisory.

Active lava has not been visible within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea since June 19. During the past week, earthquake activity in the summit region remained elevated and summit tiltmeters generally showed inflation. A sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate of approximately 86 tonnes per day was measured Aug. 15.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. Its Volcano Alert Level is at Normal.

Webcams show no signs of activity on Mauna Loa. Seismicity remains low. Summit ground deformation rates indicate slow inflation as magma replenishes the reservoir system following the recent eruption. SO2 emission rates are at background levels.

There were three earthquakes with three or more felt reports in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: a magnitude-3.2 earthquake 21 km (13 mi) southwest of Laupāhoehoe at 29 km (18 mi) depth at 6:54 p.m. Aug. 22, a magnitude-3.4 earthquake 11 km (6 mi) east of Pāhala at 32 km (20 mi) depth at 12:05 p.m. Aug. 20 and a magnitude-2.4 earthquake 3 km (1 mi) south-southwest of Volcano at 2 km (1 mi) depth at 2:03 p.m. Aug. 17.

HVO continues to closely monitor Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

Visit HVO’s website for past “Volcano Watch” articles, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake information, and more. Email questions to [email protected].

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