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July 21, 2022

Frank A. Trusdell, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), recently received a Meritorious Service Award, the second highest honorary award that can be granted to a career employee by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  

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

Color photographs of scientist
HVO geologist Frank Trusdell collects a sample of lava from the fissure 8 channel during Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone eruption in July 2018 (A. Hara). Inset photo shows Trusdell presenting an update on Mauna Loa for a West Hawaii Community Forum in February 2018 (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today).  

The award is in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the USGS in the field of volcanology, particularly to the understanding of Hawaiian volcanoes, their eruptions, and hazards.

During his decades with HVO, Trusdell’s work has included a wide range of field-based studies and the production of detailed geologic maps of Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world. To date he has completed four of five maps, each encompassing an area of Mauna Loa from its summit to sea level. These geologic maps, which provide information on the long-term eruptive behavior of the volcano, are available under “Geologic Maps” on HVO’s Mauna Loa Publications webpage (

Trusdell also led the effort to create and publish lava inundation zone maps for Mauna Loa ( These nine maps, which identify parts of the volcano that could erupt and send lava flows downslope, provide information that will help emergency managers identify people, property, and facilities at risk during future Mauna Loa eruptions.

The award citation states that, “In addition to being the world’s authority on Mauna Loa, Mr. Trusdell’s meticulous investigations of eruption histories and volcano structure have also made him a foremost expert on Kīlauea and Hualālai volcanoes.” It further states that during periods of volcanic unrest in Hawaiʻi, Trusdell’s “calm demeanor and decades of experience critically informed HVO hazard assessments shared with the public and emergency managers.”

In addition to his work in Hawaiʻi, Trusdell has led USGS responses to volcanic crises in Ecuador, Alaska, the Cape Verde Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands. His role in these responses was to evaluate and quantify volcanic hazards.

The citation also commends Trusdell for his dedication to the next generation of geoscientists, noting that “his efforts to engage students and early-career scientists has strengthened the USGS and professional geologic community.” Throughout his federal service, Trusdell has mentored more than 50 students, visiting scientists, and volunteers. Under his direction, these aspiring professionals were able to experience working in a busy volcano observatory, witness eruption crises, engage with HVO scientists, and, in many cases, complete published studies.

Trusdell managed HVO's volunteer program for 10 years, during which he reviewed applicants (both domestic and international) and then guided selected volunteers as they learned about volcano monitoring. The award citation notes that the “far-reaching impacts of his dedication are reflected by the accomplishments of his protegees, many of whom have gone on to receive advanced degrees and accept positions with the USGS or universities.”

Trusdell, who grew up on Oʻahu, was also praised for his efforts to significantly increase the participation of minority youth in the earth sciences. The citation acknowledges that this is particularly important in Hawaiʻi, where the volcanic landscape and Hawaiian culture are inextricably intertwined.

Throughout his career, Trusdell has readily contributed to HVO’s outreach efforts. In addition to presenting countless talks in public programs, like those during Volcano Awareness Month, he has also participated in numerous community meetings during times of volcanic crisis to keep the public informed about the eruption.

After graduating from Kamehameha High School, Trusdell earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. He then attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa,  where he received a Master of Science degree from the Geology and Geophysics Department in 1991. 

Trusdell began his USGS career as a student intern at HVO, coincidentally just one day after Mount St. Helens, Washington, erupted in 1980. Forty-plus years later, when asked about highlights from his time at HVO, he replied, “Working with great people; monitoring eruptions on Mauna Loa (1984) and Kīlauea (1982‒2022), as well as volcanoes beyond Hawaiʻi; mapping the submarine flanks of Mauna Loa; and mentoring up-and-coming volcanologists.” Today, Trusdell shares his vast experience with HVO's team of research and operational geologists as their supervisor, a role that he accepted in 2020.

Congratulations, Frank! Your DOI Meritorious Service Award is well-deserved recognition for your many years of outstanding service to the USGS and HVO.



Volcano Activity Updates


Kīlauea volcano is erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level is at WATCH ( Kīlauea updates are issued daily.    

Over the past week, lava has continued to erupt from the western vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. All lava is confined within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Sulfur dioxide emission rates remain elevated and were last measured at approximately 1,300 tonnes per day (t/d) on July 21. Seismicity is elevated but stable, with few earthquakes and ongoing volcanic tremor. Over the past week, summit tiltmeters recorded slow inflation, which transitioned to deflation the morning of July 20. For more information on the current eruption of Kīlauea, see

Mauna Loa is not erupting and remains at Volcano Alert Level ADVISORY. This alert level does not mean that an eruption is imminent or that progression to an eruption from the current level of unrest is certain. Mauna Loa updates are issued weekly.     

This past week, about 98 small-magnitude earthquakes were recorded below the summit and upper elevation flanks of Mauna Loa—the majority of these occurred at shallow depths less than 15 kilometers (9 miles) below sea level. Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements show low rates of ground deformation over the past week. Gas concentrations and fumarole temperatures at both the summit and at Sulphur Cone on the Southwest Rift Zone have remained stable over the past week. Webcams show no changes to the landscape. For more information on current monitoring of Mauna Loa, see:  

Two earthquakes were reported felt in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: a M3.1 earthquake 10 km (6 mi) SE of Pāhala at 32 km (20 mi) depth on July 17 at 11:35 p.m. HST and a M3.4 earthquake 3 km (1 mi) S of Pāhala at 31 km (19 mi) depth on July 14 at 3:12 p.m. HST. 

HVO continues to closely monitor Kīlauea's ongoing eruption and Mauna Loa for any signs of increased activity.    

Please visit HVO’s website for past Volcano Watch articles, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake info, and more. Email questions to    

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

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