Tina Neal is a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has worked as the geoscience advisor to the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. Prior to this position, Tina was a staff geologist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage where she participated in a number of eruption responses, worked on the aircraft and ash problem, and studied Mt. Spurr, Mt. Redoubt, and Aniakchak volcanoes.
She has also worked at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) on the Big Island of Hawaii. She has an ScB in Geology from Brown, a MS from Arizona State University, and she did additional graduate study at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
(img caption: Tina Neal with Nepali girls in a Kathmandu boarding house. The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance helped fund the Nepal Society of Earthquake Technology, an organization promoting earthquake safety in Nepal. Tina was in Nepal helping celebrate the first annual Nepal Earthquake Safety Day.)
Hmm. Other than the many laughs in the cook tent inside Aniakchak during an eruption of Pu`u `O`o, a helicopter landed at our camp just after dawn. Out popped a reporter (male) followed by a woman in a full evening gown and high heels. They had just flown in from Kona after an all-night party. Thrilled by the sight of lava spurting above the cone about 1 km away, this woman proceeded to hobble in her shoes across the new lava field and back. I was impressed by her persistence.
Another time, just after dawn, a group of us were driving to the summit of Mauna Loa to conduct a geodetic survey. A M 6.7 EQ (earthquake) happened maybe 10 km away and we did not know we were having an earthquake because of the bouncing of the truck over the exceedingly rough 4WD road. Columns of red dust, illuminated by the early sun, rose from the walls of the summit caldera and we thought an eruption was beginning. Then, when John Dvorak radioed in the report, I demanded that we stop the jeep! I felt so cheated! I wanted to hop out to feel aftershocks!
In Alaska, I have had a few close encounters with grizzly and black bears, including a young brown bear that was attracted to Michael Ort’s black bean dinner at the Ukinrek Maars. He stuck his quivering nose and head into our weatherport one evening, catching 4 of us off guard. A flurry of gun grabbing and yelling ensued and the bear thankfully stepped outside. Michael managed a deterrent blast of pepper spray, under cover of my 30-06 and a shotgun, and the bear fled to paw his irritated eyes. We kept watch all night but the bear did not return.
Another time at Ukinrek, a group of us rounded a patch of alders and spooked a beautiful blonde grizzly who was down on all fours grazing. The bear stood up in a flash. I can only remember my neck snapping back as I tried to follow the trace of his head – it seemed an impossibly great distance above me….in a heartbeat he raced off, leaving us to gaze with enormous eyes at each other, pulses racing, knees a bit like jello!
Other difficult times were due to conflict with coworkers – sometimes about work issues, other times sadly about interpersonal behaviors.
Neither of these kinds of experiences made me question my field.
The most difficult thing? For many it is finding a job! Unfortunately, there are not many spots for volcanologists.