Honour, Our Global Environmental Science Grad!

Honour Booth conducting research in a laboratory.

Our student Honour Booth!

As a teen, when Booth began surfing regularly on Oʻahu and her mother always reminded her to use sunscreen, she would argue that it contained chemicals that were detrimental to island waters. The question of just how much sunscreen actually goes into the environment remained with Booth into college. This question inspired her to develop her research project with Philip Williams, a UH Mānoa chemistry professor. Booth has attended conferences including the International Coral Reef Symposium. In addition, being selected as a Peter J. Rappa Sustainable Coastal Development Fellow led to her working with the city’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. This spring, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry.

“A scholarly focus on sustainability and stewardship”
June 10, 2019, UH News

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Congrats, Honour!

Honour setting up her rain bucket

Congratulations to Honour Booth! Our undergraduate research fellow graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Environmental Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry.

For the past two years, Honour has been collecting rain in the Ala Wai Watershed. Her research aims to characterize rainfall patterns over an elevation gradient using the isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen in rain water. As rainfall patterns change due to climate change, it is important to know what rains will be responsible for recharging Hawaiʻi’s aquifers. Honour’s study is also used to determine whether a larger-scale study of this kind in the Pearl Harbor Watershed is feasible.

Honour collecting rain on a mountain

Honour will enroll in the master’s degree program in Urban and Regional Planning and will focus on sea-level-rise adaptation. Congrats, Honour!

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GG 699: Summer Fieldschool in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Department of Earth Sciences, Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, and Water Resources Research Center offers GG 699: Summer Fieldschool in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments. This hydrogeophysical summer school program aims to identify and quantify groundwater flow and its distribution in the old stream valley at Makapu‘u on the island of O‘ahu.

Participants will be trained in a wide variety of multi-geophysical methods, including ambient noise seismics, nodal-based, true 3D electrical resistivity tomography, and self-potential. The course covers the entire geophysical workflow, including data acquisition planning, data collection in the field, data processing, imaging, and hydrogeological interpretations. Special emphasis is on the integration of hydrogeophysical data and hydrologic modeling — a skill that is transferable to the reservoir scale in exploration geophysics. Participants will become familiar with the challenges and solutions for data acquisition and imaging in basaltic environments.

GG 699: Summer Fieldschool in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments, CRN 92270

About the Instructor: Niels Grobbe is an Assistant Researcher (tenure-track faculty) in Hydrogeophysics and Applied Geophysics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He holds a joint position in the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and the Water Resources Research Center.

Additional Information:

  • The course fee of 226 USD includes tuition, local transportation to and from the study sites, and food/drinks.
  • Off-island participants need to cover their own flights and lodging. University Student Housing is the cheapest option: $23.16 per night. $25 application fee. $100 security deposit.
  • The course is also open to State employees
  • Maximum number of participants: 20, first come first serve.
sponsored by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)



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Shelby Passed Her MS Defense!

Shelby and Nicole

Congratulations to Shelby Fillinger for passing her master’s degree defense! Shelby’s thesis’ title is “Spatially Analyzing Groundwater Flow Paths within the Pearl Harbor aquifer of Oahu, Hawaii using 2000-2002 Pineapple Agrochemical Data.” Her thesis illuminated groundwater flow direction within the central corridor of O‘ahu by examining the concentrations of pineapple production agrochemicals in groundwater. Using the legacy well contamination data, Shelby developed a geospatial statistics-based model of the groundwater flow path on O’ahu and utilized ArcGIS, and MATLAB. Shelby is a master’s degree student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hawaii.

Many thanks for the following people who helped Shelby:

  • Thesis advisor: Dr. Nicole Lautze
  • Committee members: Dr. Jonghyun Harry Lee, Dr. Roger Babcock Jr., and Robert Whittier
  • Support: Daniel Dores, Alice Kim, and Colin Ferguson

Congratulations, Shelby!


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Dr. Lautze Appointed as Associate Director of Water Resources Research Center

Congratulations to our Director Nicole Lautze: she has been appointed as the Associate Director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Nicole’s excellence in research and project management will be tremendous assets for WRRC and the University.

Water Resources Research Center at University of Hawaii at Manoa

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Congrats, Shelby!

Shelby with her poster

Congratulations to our graduate research assistant Shelby Fillinger for winning second place in the Hawaii Water Environmental Association student poster contest! Titled “Inferring Groundwater Flow Paths for Pearl Harbor Aquifer of Oahu, Hawaii, based on Historical Chemical Data,” her poster describes her research project.

Shelby has been using pineapple agriculture contaminants to track groundwater flow paths on Oahu. The data set includes state and federal government well samples from 2000 to 2002. Preliminary results show similarities and possible trends, and water north of Pearl Harbor aquifer is flowing south.

Shelby is a master’s degree student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and our Director Nicole Lautze is her advisor. Congrats, Shelby!

2019 Pacific Water Conference, Hawaii Water Environmental Association

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Colin Ferguson at Energy Week 2019, Kyushu University

Our master’s degree student Colin Ferguson is sharing our research at Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. So far, Colin shared our conference poster, met geology faculty, and participated in the final panel discussion. Colin also met a member of Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, who was also attending the conference. And Colin saw a small geothermal plant in the back of the ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).

Energy Week 2019, Kyushu University

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Hanapepe Salt Pond

Since Fall 2018, our director Nicole Lautze has been serving as the acting project manager for the Hanapepe Salt Pond project. In southwestern part of Kauai Island, the project cares for the Hanapepe Salt Pond.

Historically, Native Hawaiians have used this pond for salt production for over a thousand years. Unfortunately, in recent years, the changing surrounding environment and water pollution have threatened this traditional pond. Hence, the pond needs stewardship to ensure it will survive for future generations.

As for the project’s management, the UH Sea Grant College Program oversees this project, which receives funding from the Kauai County.

Photo credit: Kuulei Santos

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Welcome, Daniel!

Welcome to Daniel Dores–our newly hired Geothermal Geology Technician! He will be assisting with geothermal research.

Previously, Daniel served as a Graduate Research Assistant for geology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Daniel also served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, teaching two classes of Geology and Geophysics 101, at UH Manoa. Daniel earned his master’s degree in Geology and Geophysics from the UH Manoa (thesis: “Source-tracking Groundwater and Surface Water Pollution to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii) and a Bachelor of Science in Geology/Earth Science from William & Mary.

Welcome aboard, Daniel



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Congrats, Diamond!

Congratulations to our graduate student Diamond Tachera for earning her master’s degree in geology and geophysics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa! She is now working on her PhD. Our Director Nicole Lautze serves as Diamond’s advisor.

Diamond works with the geochemistry team on ʻIke Wai, collecting precipitation and groundwater samples within Hualālai Aquifer, as well as the surrounding aquifer systems. From these samples, the team gathers geochemical data, which will determine the following:

1) the degree of connectivity between the high level and basal aquifers
2) the sources of groundwater recharge, from the slopes of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualālai
3) how subsurface structures affect groundwater flow.

In quarterly field trips to Kona, Hawaiʻi, Diamond has engaged with the community and learned their concerns about groundwater sustainability in Hawaiʻi.

Congratulations, Diamond!

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Profile: Roy Hardy

Meet Roy Hardy — the Groundwater Program Manager for the Hawaii State Commission on Water Resources Management. A civil engineer for the State since 1987, Roy oversees the management of groundwater across the state.

For the Hawaii Scientific Drilling Project, Roy and our senior researcher Donald Thomas were exploring the Big Island’s deep freshwater aquifers.

Roy serves on the advisory council for the Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

During his free time, Roy keeps physically fit with his wife and exercise partner Tisha Hardy.

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New Insights into the Groundwater Hydrology of Maunakea and Hawaiʻi Island

In a public presentation, “New Insights into the Groundwater Hydrology of Maunakea and Hawaiʻi Island,” our senior researcher Dr. Donald Thomas shared his lifelong research, which spanned more than two decades in Hawaiʻi Island’s groundwater system.

According to his research, the Big Island contains far more stored groundwater than originally thought. Geophysical surveys and cored research holes have identified buried geological structures, which are related to the volcanic history of each of the island’s volcanoes. These geological structures barriers can hold water for thousands of years and even force water to flow far below sea level. Dr. Thomas also discussed the implications of his finding for future management of Hawaiʻi’s water supplies.

Over sixty people attended Dr. Thomas’ talk at the Moanahoku Hall, ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, Big Island, at 7 pm, Thursday, June 21, 2018.

This presentation was part of the Maunakea Speaker Series. This monthly scholar-focused presentation series is offered as a partnership among the Office of Maunakea Management, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo Department of Physics & Astronomy. This collaborative venture gives the community unprecedented access to fascinating research taking place on Maunakea and other topics unique to the Island of Hawai’i. A venue for scholars to share their stories and learn from discussion, the series promotes understanding and collaboration across all sectors of the community, while addressing the goals of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo. For more information visit malamamaunakea.org or call 808-933-0734.

More images are below:



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Geothermal Energy in Hawaii (Research In Manoa)

As Hawaii strives toward 100% renewable energy, geothermal represents the cheapest and most reliable baseload energy source. This week on Research in Manoa, Dr. Nicole Lautze joins Pete Mouginis-Marrk to discuss why geothermal energy is a viable energy resource for Hawaii, what is the relative cost, and where could we look?

Geothermal Energy in Hawaii (Research In Manoa)
Apr 30, 2018, ThinkTech Hawaii

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Keynote Speaker Nicole Lautze Inspires Girls at STEM Conference

As the keynote speaker, our Director Nicole Lautze encouraged girls in grades 6 to 9 to pursue STEM fields at AAUW Honolulu’s Tech Savvy Conference (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). A successful female scientist, Nicole shared her STEM journey and gave words of wisdom to the 80+ girls at the conference.

The Tech Savvy conference was a day-long conference to encourage young ladies to pursue STEM fields. This year’s conference took place at the Hawaii Loa Campus of Hawaii Pacific University in Kaneohe on April 21, 2018.

You need to add a widget, row, or prebuilt layout before you’ll see anything here. 🙂
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Fate of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Groundwater: Lessons for Hawaii and Red Hill from a Terrestrial Oil Spill Study

Click to enlarge

Our Director Nicole Lautze organized this event:

“Fate of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Groundwater: Lessons for Hawaii and Red Hill from a Terrestrial Oil Spill Study”
By Dr. Barbara Bekins, June 5, 12:00pm – 1:00pm, Mānoa Campus, HIG 210

The oldest continuous study of a terrestrial oil spill in the world began in 1983 by the U.S. Geological Survey.

In 1979, over 10,000 barrels of a light, paraffinic crude oil spilled from a pipeline rupture onto forested land on the outskirts of the town of Bemidji in northern Minnesota. The oil composition is dominated by saturated hydrocarbons (58–61%), with aromatics representing most of the remainder. Each of these compound classes has different fates.

The aromatic fraction, most notably benzene, has traditionally been of greatest regulatory concern because of its toxicity and mobility. The aromatics dissolve into in the groundwater according to their relative solubilities, and migrate as a contaminant plume.

Today benzene concentrations in the oil are 22 to 42% of those in freshly spilled oil, and concentrations entering the groundwater are decreasing. The saturated hydrocarbons are mostly poorly soluble alkanes that degrade within the oil body source zone to methane and CO2. Most of the produced methane migrates upward and is oxidized to CO2 and water, before reaching the surface. In the groundwater contaminant plume, benzene is biodegraded by iron-reducing bacteria, which utilize natural iron oxy-hydroxide coatings on the aquifer sediments. The largest organic carbon fraction in the contaminant plume consists of partial oxidation products of the oil compounds. Over 14,000 individual compounds are present in this largely unregulated fraction, but concentrations and toxicity decrease with distance from the oil source as oxygen contents increase through biotransformation.

These results could have implications for use of monitored natural attenuation (MNA) as a remedial strategy at leaking underground storage sites in Hawaii, including the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility.

Barbara is a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Division. She studies biodegradation of crude oil and nitrate contamination in groundwater and specializes in integrating field and laboratory observations using computer models. She also studies the generation of fluid overpressures and their effect on fault strength.

Event Sponsor: Water Resources Research Center/Ike Wai, Mānoa Campus
Information: (808) 956-3097, wrrc@hawaii.edu

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Ililani Media: Statewide Hawai`i Geothermal Power Plants Explored

The U. S. Department of Energy, Geothermal Technologies Office announced the availability of funds in 2014 to spur geothermal energy development through PFA.

The Hawai`i Play Fairway project, funded in part by DOE-Geothermal Technologies Office Award DE-EE0006729, sought to compile and integrate all geothermal-relevant data to show the probability of encountering a geothermal resource.

Statewide Hawai`i Geothermal Power Plants Explored
By Henry Curtis, February 23, 2018, Ililani Media

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Don Thomas Won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award

Congratulations to Dr. Donald Thomas — he won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western States Seismic Policy Council!

The WSSPC Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes leaders in earthquake risk reduction. Throughout their careers, the recipients demonstrated an extraordinary commitment, level of service, and application of earthquake risk reduction to public policy.

His biography by WSSPC:

Donald Thomas, Ph.D., is the Director of the University of Hawaii (UH) at Hilo’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV) as well as a long-standing member of the Hawaii Earthquake and Tsunami Advisory Committee (HETAC). For many years, Dr. Thomas has been doing the work necessary to keep people and the government fully educated and engaged – from scientific inquiry and research, to training and outreach, to undergraduate education – in hazards, mitigation, and monitoring of seismic activity. His dedication to the work has changed the way responders, builders, scientists, policy makers and the general public view, prepare for and respond to earthquakes.

A noteworthy example of his tireless efforts to promote hazard mitigation and awareness in Hawaii is making home earthquake retrofits accessible to homeowners. Don and his students took the detailed and complex designs for retrofitting post-and-pier foundations of homes damaged in the Kiholo Bay earthquake in 2006 and developed an online expert system that walked the homeowner step-by-step through the retrofit selection process. Based on identifying key elements of construction types, the expert system would determine the appropriate retrofit system, output construction drawings that homeowners or contractors could use to implement the retrofit, and provide a shopping list of hardware required to install the retrofit.

The WSSPC featured Don in its February 2018 newsletter (bottom image — click to enlarge).

The Western States Seismic Policy Council is the primary regional organization representing the western states, Pacific provinces, and territories supporting policies of the earthquake and tsunami programs that will reduce losses from earthquakes and their effects.

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Director Nicole Lautze Wins C3E Award

Our director, Dr. Nicole Lautze won the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Award for Education. She accepted her award at the sixth annual C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium in Cambridge, MA, on November 15, 2017.

The U.S. C3E Awards recognize mid-career women who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishments in clean energy. MITEI and the Stanford Precourt Institute sponsor these awards.

Nicole’s biography by C3E Awards:

Nicole Lautze is Associate Faculty at the University of Hawaii Manoa (UHM), where she founded the Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center (HGGRC).

During her five-year tenure at UHM, she has mentored more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students and has been granted nearly $2 million as lead investigator.

She leads a team of senior scientists in the development of an updated geothermal resource assessment for the state of Hawaii. The resource assessment involves the compilation and collection of geological, geochemical, and geophysical data across the state, and the development and implementation of a statistical methodology that integrates the data into a geothermal resource probability map.

She previously led a geothermal digitization effort for the state that culminated in the launch of www.higp.hawaii.edu/hggrc in 2015. The HGGRC website is a community resource that has received tens of thousands of hits and more than 150,000 document downloads since launch.

The Hawaii legislature set a policy objective that the state be 100% renewable by 2045, but there is surprisingly little discussion of better characterizing the state’s geothermal resource potential, a situation that Lautze is trying to change.

She holds a BS in Geology from UCLA and a PhD in Geology and Geophysics from University of Hawaii Manoa. She received two Fulbright fellowships (to Italy and Peru), a National Science Foundation International Research Fellowship (to Italy), and a U.S. Geological Survey Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellowship.



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Director Nicole Lautze Wins Clean Energy Award

November 2017

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry Congratulates 2017 Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Awardees
U.S. Department of Energy | news release
“Education – Nicole Lautze, an associate faculty member at the University of Hawaii Manoa, where she founded the Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center. She leads a team of senior scientists in the development of an updated geothermal resource assessment for the state of Hawaii.”

Morning Shakas: UH Researcher Honored
KITV | video
KITV’s morning segment congratulates Dr. Nicole Lautze for winning the 2017 Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Award.

UH Manoa Researcher Honored for Clean Energy Education and Empowerment
Kaunana | research publication of the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Nicole Lautze: 2017 Award Winner
Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Awards | profile

C3EUSA, Hawaii: Geothermalist Nicole Lautze Wins Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Award
Global Geothermal News | blog
Image result for university of hawaii seal
UH Manoa Research Honored for Clean Energy Education and Empowerment

University of Hawaii | news release

December 7, 2017

A Bipartisan Message of Clean Energy Progress
MIT Energy News | University magazine

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Army taps consortium to find water for training area high up Hawaiian volcano

April 7, 2017
Army taps consortium to find water for training area high up Hawaiian volcano
Public Works Digest via Defense Video Imagery Distribution System | news article
“Dr. Donald Thomas has been a frequent visitor to the high plateau saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. The geochemist … likes to drill holes into the mountain. … [The research] documented for the first time two significant aquifers amid a generally porous geologic zone. One was a perched groundwater pocket … The team also found a second aquifer, deeper down, that was huge and hot — 280 degrees F. … Thomas is now looking for ways, through CESU, to help the installation document the extent, quality and availability of the perched aquifer as a potable water source.”

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2017 ThinkTech Hawaii

September 2017

Latest Research in Hawaii’s Geothermal Resource
ThinkTech Hawaii | video
Dr. Nicole Lautze discusses geothermal and clean energy in Hawaii with host Jay Fidell and Sharon Moriwaki (co-chair of the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum).

January 2017

Groundwater and Geothermal Discoveries in Hawaii with Nicole Lautze
ThinkTech Hawaii | video
Dr. Nicole Lautze shares her research on geothermal and sustainable energy, physical volcanology and natural hazards. We learn how Nicole’s work has advanced the Hawai’i Groundwater & Geothermal Resources Center.

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2016 News

October 2016

Amazing Fresh Water Discoveries
ThinkTech Hawaii | video
Dr. Donald Thomas’ remarks at the recent Science Cafe meeting and his research at the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes.

July 2016

Advances in Hawaii’s Renewable Energy Resources: Where Are We?
ThinkTech Hawaii | video
How far along is Hawaii in terms of its renewable energy goals? Which renewable generation sources have been the most effective thus far? The Hawai‘i State Energy Office’s Renewable Energy Branch Chief, Veronica Rocha, and Donald Thomas of the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes address these questions.

March 2016

New Techniques for Looking Under the Ground
ThinkTech Hawaii | video
Dr. Donald Thomas and Jay Fidell discuss new techniques for looking underground.


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