HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — The University of Hawaii at Hilo will soon be home to a new facility for the U.S. Geological Survey.

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On June 28, 2023, students at UH Hilo and government officials attended and participated in a ceremony to bless the ground where the facility will be built.

Officials in attendance included U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and USGS Director David Applegate.

Applegate spoke on the “unique qualities” of this new location.

One quality in particular that is critical to our future success is access to a very precious resource: students who can become our next-generation workforce, helping bring science to bear on some of the most challenging issues facing our nation and the planet.” 

USGS Director David Applegate

Digital renderings of the new USGS facility at UH Hilo:

The new facility at UH Hilo will house the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center.

Through the HVO and PIERC, the facility at UH Hilo will help with monitoring volcanoes in addition to supporting conservation science.

HVO monitors activity from volcanoes and earthquakes and was previously located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

During the 2018 eruption of Kilauea, the previous facility of the HVO was damaged beyond repair.

The PIERC often conducts research and scientific studies to support biological resources throughout the Pacific.

In addition to studying invasive and imperiled species, the PIERC observes plant diseases.

UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin said the university has worked with the HVO and PIERC in the past and is excited for what can come in the future.

“Working side-by-side with professionals in the field is an invaluable complement to the education students receive at our university,” said Irwin.

Students at UH Hilo also said that the new facility could bring new opportunities.

It’s a major connection between us as students and like seasoned scientists and really being able to get an opportunity to find mentors, to be able to try on the different hats of science and see what feels good, what fits.”

Mishell Vasquez Morales, UH Hilo student

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Construction is estimated to be completed by late 2025.