NAME: Daniel Dores
CURRENT TITLE: Geothermal Geology Technician
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Environmental geochemistry, hydrology, renewable energy
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: 3
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Geology at the College of William and Mary, with Environmental Science and Policy Minor.
Masters of Science in Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
TWITTER NAME: @RootsandRocks
What’s your job like?
I work for the Hawai‘i Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center. We’re a research group nested within the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Our projects – both big and small – support the exploration and monitoring of Hawai‘i’s groundwater and geothermal resources. The research we do involves a mix of fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and a good deal of data analysis back in the office. We also get to partner with a wide variety of groups around the state with interests or research goals similar to our own.
What’s a typical day like?
A typical day in the office usually involves some sort of technical writing, data analysis, and group meetings on collaborative projects. While each team member has their own project or series of projects on which they’re working, we like to work together as much as possible and get multiple researchers involved in a project. Between grant proposals, technical reports, and journal papers, we’re usually always in the midst of writing up some of our most recent results. During field campaigns, our days look very different. Most of our fieldwork is here in the state, although we do travel to the different islands. Our work includes geophysical surveys, groundwater sampling, rainfall collection, and even deep groundwater well drilling.
The fun part of this job is getting to work on real projects that will have a lasting impact on Hawai‘i’s environment. We’re working to answer some of the biggest environmental questions the state is facing today related to its freshwater resources and energy production. Being a part of these solutions for Hawai‘i allows us to meet a lot of interesting people and have some really important discussions. And, when it comes to doing fieldwork, it’s hard to find a better location than Hawai‘i!
The most challenging part of this job is balancing our project workload, although time management is hardly a challenge unique to the earth sciences. What makes work in a research-based organization so tricky is balancing your current projects with the pursuit of new and innovative topics for the next phase of work for the team.
What’s your advice to students?
My advice to students is to be open to new opportunities, and don’t be afraid to take charge of the direction in which you want your career to move. There are so many programs out there that students and young professionals can use to their advantage. Undergraduate and graduate studies present a great window of time for you to learn new things, try different positions, and learn what excites you the most. Once you find the direction that interests you, make the most of exploring those avenues and pursuing that opportunity.
Our Director Dr. Nicole Lautze provided her expert insight in the 2018 eruption of Kilauea and Puna Geothermal Venture:
Dr. Nicole Lautze … hopes that people will appreciate the success of Ormat’s mitigation measures: “This eruption has shown that infrastructure on topographically high locations along Kilauea’s East Rift Zone can survive eruptions along the rift, and [that] the mitigation measures initiated by PGV/Ormat worked. More broadly, the eruption demonstrates that there will be value in finding geothermal across the state, including in locations less prone to natural hazards.”
… In order to meet [Hawaii’s 100% renewable standard goal] by the 2045 deadline, Dr. Lautze believes that more test wells are needed on other Hawaiian islands to determine viable locations for development: “Geothermal is the only viable baseload renewable energy source. There is a lot of talk about solar and storage here, but the fact is that issues with long-term storage remain. To me, geothermal is key.”
ʻIke Wai from the Hawaiian words for “knowledge” and “water,” respectively, is a $20-million project to ensure Hawaiʻi’s future water security through an integrated program of research, education, community engagement and decision support.
The annual international scientific conference organized by the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry was held virtually in June and covered several themes in geochemistry to include scientific observations in Hawaiʻi and Oceania related to climate change, coral reefs and water resources.
Three PhD candidates from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology’s Department of Earth Sciences discussed their work through the ʻIke Wai project, funded by the National Science Foundation to conduct research to understand Hawaiʻi’s aquifers.
“It’s a really cool fellowship and I’m really excited about it,” said Brennis.
The SMART program supports scholars in leading STEM fields that are in high demand by the U.S. government. SMART Scholars work within DoD labs and agencies that include Army, Navy and Air Force sponsor facilities, which impact national security and support the warfighter. Scholarship winners receive full tuition, monthly stipends, health insurance, book allowances and summer internships.
Brennis, who is also a U.S. Army veteran, began his research with Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology Associate Specialist Nicole Lautze. Lautze, who leads the ʻIke Wai geochemistry team, recruited Brennis to work on analyzing precipitation and spring samples on Oʻahu.
“I love [fieldwork]. I lucked out,” said Brennis. “Now I get to go out and collect data that is relevant and needed for a lot of water managers.”
Brennis manages 17 rain collectors across Oʻahu, including remote locations such as Kaʻala, the highest peak on the island. Collecting samples can involve 10-hour days with an 11-mile hike out and back from where precipitation collectors are located. Brennis who describes those kinds of days in the field as grueling, also admits that seeing the data that results from the collection is satisfying.
Incorporating data science
Hailing from Fayetteville, N.C., Brennis completed undergraduate studies at UH Mānoa following his military service. Brennis says data science is one of his favorite parts of research. He names School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Professor Neil Frazier as a mentor and attributes some of the knowledge he gained in scientific programming as a factor in being a competitive candidate for the scholarship.
“I use it in every class and every lab…it helps to visualize data and understand trends,” said Brennis.
The SMART Scholarship supports Brennis throughout the remainder of his graduate program. In addition, Brennis will complete a summer internship as a part of the SMART program, as well as serve as a federal employee upon completion of his degree.
As a husband and father, Brennis is focused on taking care of his family, completing his degree and is looking forward to learning more as an environmental scientist. He also looks forward to supporting the U.S. military’s mission and being a good custodian of the environment.
We continue our celebration of Women in Geothermal with a spotlight on Dr. Nicole Lautze, Director and Faculty Researcher / Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center, Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Dr. Lautze’s full quote is both inspiring and frustrating to know gender inequality is still so prevalent. We applaud and support Dr. Lautze in all that she’s doing for geothermal and women in geothermal / STEM.
“My passion for geothermal is derived from my fundamental concern for the planet. It has been an honor to lead the 5-yr-long Hawaii Play Fairway project, a statewide geothermal resource assessment, which includes a team of 5 male co-investigators and a number of both male and female students and employees. I enjoy working amongst bright and excited colleagues at all levels. Without intentionally setting out to be a champion of gender equality in geothermal and/or STEM, the gender-oriented roadblocks I have (and continue to) face(d) in my academic career are substantial. I am pulling for a sustainable planet and significant progress on gender equity into the future…”
Thank you for participating in our Women in Geothermal campaign Dr. Lautze. Your work is very important for our industry.
If you would like to participate in this campaign or know of someone who should be highlighted in this effort, then contact us in the comments below or DM us with questions.
Tachera is a kanaka ʻōiwi (Native Hawaiian) student who is pursuing a doctoral degree in hydrogeology at the SOEST Department of Earth Sciences. Her research focuses on precipitation and groundwater connectivity between Hawaiian aquifers, and her scientific goals focus on the intersection of indigenous knowledge and the scientific process to create sustainable water resource management within the State of Hawaiʻi.
Tachera earned her bachelor’s degree in geology and geophysics, also at UH Mānoa. Since she was an undergraduate student, she has participated in the Maile Mentoring Program, a campaign to support native Hawaiian students pursuing STEM degrees through mentorship. Tachera is also on the newly formed School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council at UH Mānoa.
“As a kanaka Earth scientist, I think the intersection of indigenous knowledge and Western science could play a key role in water resource management,” says Tachera. “I see myself as a science-community mediator in the future in a position that allows me to continue to work in a science field but placing importance on meeting and understanding community issues and goals.
The UCAR Fellowship program, which is in its third year, supports graduate students from underrepresented communities in their professional careers as Earth system scientists. The fellows will receive financial support for two years of graduate school and participate in two summer internships with UCAR and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is managed by UCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation.
“The Next Generation Fellowships were created to recognize that individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences are an asset to the scientific community,” said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. “This year’s cohort continues to raise the standard set by past fellows in scientific rigor, problem-solving, and community engagement and inclusion in Earth system science.”
The Mauna Kea Management Board spent a portion of Friday meeting talking about the decommissioning of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, and how a hydraulic spill back in 2009 was complicating the environmental due diligence of the process.
Thomas downplayed concerns of aquifer contamination, as he explained how the rainfall recharge can take over 2,000 years to filter down to the aquifer.
“If water is taking that length of time, essentially, the likelihood of contaminants surviving that trip is pretty close to zero,” said Thomas. “There is an active, biological community within the geologic formation that even looks at diesel fuel and hydraulic oil as a food source and will break that material down.”
Mauna Kea Hydrology Presented By Dr. Don Thomas
September 30, 2019, by Big Island Video News
The Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center (HGGRC) catalogs much of the completed and ongoing geothermal-related explorations in Hawaii. Visit HGGRC at https://www.higp.hawaii.edu/hggrc/.
The ongoing Hawaii Play Fairway Project, managed by HGGRC and funded up to $1.5M by the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office, will provide the first statewide geothermal resource assessment conducted since the late 1970s. Phase I, completed in 2015, involved the identification, compilation, and ranking of existing geologic, groundwater, and geophysical datasets relevant to subsurface heat, fluid, and permeability in Hawaii. Phase II, completed in 2017, involved the collection [of] new groundwater data in 10 locations across the state and new geophysical data on Lanai, Maui, and central Hawaii island, modeling the typography of the areas of interest to better characterize subsurface permeability, and the development of an updated geothermal resource probability map. Phase III involves the collection and analysis of scientific data from existing well sites and may include drilling of a geothermal test well (“slim hole”) at one of the high probability locations determined through Phases I and II. Results from the Hawaii Play Fairway Project will also indicate areas warranting additional geothermal resource exploration.
Hawaii is largely relying on solar panels and battery storage to achieve its 100 percent renewable electricity goal. But geothermal power offers the possibility of carbon-free energy without the inconsistency of solar and wind.
Hawaii is largely relying on solar panels and battery storage to achieve its 100 percent renewable electricity goal. But geothermal power offers the possibility of carbon-free energy without the inconsistency of solar and wind.
Currently, geothermal is not generating any electricity in Hawaii. Puna Geothermal Venture, the state’s only geothermal power plant, closed in 2018 after a near miss with a lava flow from nearby Kilauea Volcano.
Prior to its closing, PGV supplied 31 percent of Hawaii Island’s electricity demand. The plant’s operator says it plans to reopen by the end of 2019.
Geothermal energy has only modest representation in for Hawaii’s energy portfolio. In 2018, prior to PGV’s closure, it supplied less than 4 percent of Hawaii’s total electricity production. Plans for the future include a modest increase in geothermal, but solar remains the dominant source.
But researchers at the University of Hawaii point out that most of the state has not been explored for geothermal potential, a process not unlike surveying for oil deposits.
He told HPR that Puna Geothermal Venture produces around 1 megawatt of power per acre of land it occupies, far more efficient than its renewable competitors.
“Solar resources generally occupy 5 to 10 acres per installed megawatt. Wind resources fluctuate between 30 and 100 acres per megawatt.”
Geothermal other main advantage is that it can provide what is called baseload capacity, the minimum amount of power needed to be on the grid at any given time.
While solar and wind output fluctuates seasonally and throughout the day, generation from geothermal can be adjusted in the same way a fossil fuel plant can increase or decrease output.
However, there are drawbacks. Surveying for geothermal resources can be costly and time consuming, with no guarantee suitable conditions will be found. Generating power from naturally hot water requires invasive drilling, and sometimes the use of hazardous chemicals.
Blowouts are also a possibility, in which hydrothermal fluids like sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide are unexpectedly released into the atmosphere. Puna Geothermal venture experienced such an incident in 1991.
So can geothermal be a viable competitor to solar and wind father away from the active Kilauea Volcano? Brennis says that scientists believe the rest of Hawaii Island and Maui have strong potential for geothermal, but no one is really sure.
“That’s the key. We need to better characterize the potential across the rest of the state so we can plan effectively.”
Drs. Nicole Lautze and Donald Thomas shared their water research on the television show Voice of the Sea. In the episode “Water Resources Research,” Don talked about discovering new groundwater sources 10,000 feet below sea level on the Big Island:
[This discovery] helps us better maintain the resource and sort of change our thinking about how to regulate the resource, how to manage the resource, and maybe even ways we can better develop the resource with fewer impacts.
Nicole discussed looking at samples from deep underground and learning how various rock forms affect the flow and storage of freshwater underground:
More and more, we need to focus our work on very practical applications like what’s going to happen to our groundwater supply as the climate changes as population continues to grow. Well, we’ll need to understand where our water is coming from, where it’s stored, how it flows, because as populations grow, contamination issues arise.
For the Telly Awards, this episode won a bronze award in the education category, as announced in a UH news release:
Every year since 1990, technicians and scientists from developing countries with active volcanoes have come to Hawai‘i for a 6-week course to learn the latest volcano-monitoring techniques. The course is run by the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV), based out of the University of Hawai‘i (UH) at Hilo, and led by Don Thomas, faculty member at the UH Mānoa Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP).
This year, Nicole Lautze (HIGP) and Scott Rowland (Department of Earth Sciences), researchers in the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, shared their expertise in physical volcanology and remote sensing with participants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, and The Philippines.
The CSAV International Training Program is designed to assist developing nations in attaining self-sufficiency in monitoring volcanoes. The field training emphasizes volcano monitoring methods, both data collection and interpretation, in use by the U.S. Geological Survey and participants are taught how to use and maintain volcano monitoring instruments.
Hawaiian volcanoes are among the most active in the world, but unlike violently explosive volcanoes they can be approached and studied without significant risk. As a result, CSAV provides the ideal environment for practicing volcano monitoring techniques.
In addition to learning to assess volcanic hazards, participants learn the interrelationship of scientists, governing officials, and the news media during volcanic crises.
The course is not geared towards academics, but rather, addresses working in a crisis response mode, focusing on forecasting and rapid response to save lives and property. Since 1990, the program has trained over 250 scientists and technicians, from 30 countries.
CSAV was established by the Hawai’i State Legislature in 1989 and is a collaborative program among HIGP, the UH Hilo Department of Geology, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the UH Mānoa Department of Earth Sciences.
Earth scientists share expertise in international volcanology training course
July 2, 2019 by Marcie Grabowski
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?
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.
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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 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.
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.”
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.