New Scientist-in-Charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

  • Hon

A new Scientist-in-Charge has been named for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Ken Hon, recently retired from his position as a geology professor in the Geology Department at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, succeeds Tina Neal, who returned to the Alaska Volcano Observatory this past summer.


“We are pleased to have Ken formally re-join HVO to lead it through what will be an exciting few years, with new staff members and a new building on the horizon,” said Michelle Coombs, acting director of the Volcano Science Center.

Hon was a geology professor at UH-Hilo from 1997 to 2020. During his final three years, he served as vice chancellor of Academic Affairs, overseeing academic and research operations at the university and leading initiatives to create a new degree in aeronautical science and starting preparations for a degree in data science.

Hon previously worked with the USGS from 1981 to 1996. After completing his Ph.D at the University of Colorado Boulder, Hon was a volcanologist at HVO from 1987 to 1990. His research has focused on petrologic studies, geologic mapping of the internal structure of large ash-flow calderas in the United States and Russia and understanding the formation and emplacement of lava flows and lava tubes.


Coombs noted that Hon’s research contributions on lava-flow inflation and the importance of shear rates in determining lava-flow morphology are foundational for understanding the hazards and behavior of basaltic volcanoes. In 2018, Hon’s depth of experience with Hawaiian volcanism and hydrothermal activity led him serve on Gov. David Ige’s panel that oversaw the safe shutdown of the Puna Geothermal Ventures power plant during Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone eruption. Hon has also assisted his wife, Cheryl Gansecki, in creating widely viewed educational films on Kilauea’s eruptive activity.

“I am honored and thrilled to be rejoining the USGS and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory,” said Hon. “The next few years will be pivotal for HVO as we work to understand how Kilauea responds in the aftermath of the 2018 eruption and to build new observatory facilities to continue to serve the community in the future.”

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