On May 9, 2021, Christina (Tina) Neal became the new director of the U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Science Center, home of the Alaska, California, Cascades, Hawaiian and Yellowstone volcano observatories.
As director, Neal will manage the growth of the National Volcano Early Warning System, facilitate stakeholder engagement and ensure that the observatories are prepared to respond to the next eruption within the United States, whenever and wherever it occurs.
“Tina brings to the position the required breadth of scientific background, strong communication skills, and eruption response experience, including much work with various communities-at-risk. I was thrilled when she accepted the position,” said Aimee Devaris, regional director for Alaska.
Neal has been with the USGS for nearly 38 years. She started her career as a geologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Her work, from 1983 to 1989, included monitoring Kīlauea Volcano during the early years of its East Rift Zone eruption, as well as Mauna Loa during its 1984 eruption, and geologic mapping in the summit and Southwest Rift Zone of Kīlauea.
In 1990, Neal moved to Anchorage to work at the newly created Alaska Volcano Observatory. There, she monitored and studied a number of Alaskan volcanoes and notable eruptions, including Redoubt (1989–1990 and 2009), Mount Spurr (1992), Augustine (2005–2006) and Okmok (2008).
In 1998, Neal accepted a two-year assignment in Washington, D.C., as the first USGS geoscience advisor to the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development. As part of a multi-disciplinary technical assistance group, her work took her to Nepal, Ecuador, Colombia, Kazakhstan and other countries, where she assisted with implementation of hazard and risk mitigation programs.
Neal returned to AVO in 2000, resuming her work as a geologist—mapping and studying active volcanoes. With colleagues, she strengthened the Alaska-based interagency response system for volcanic eruptions and coordinated AVO’s eruption monitoring and crisis response efforts with Russian volcanology counterparts. She is internationally recognized for her efforts to reduce the risk of volcanic ash to aviation.
From 2015 to 2020, Neal served as the scientist-in-charge at HVO and managed the response to the 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse of Kīlauea. Neal and the HVO team worked with local authorities and emergency managers under hazardous circumstances, conducted essential scientific fieldwork and provided frequent situation reports and briefings to decision-makers about volcanic activity, and participated in numerous public town hall meetings and media interviews to keep the public informed. HVO’s efforts led to the nomination of Neal and her team for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medal in 2019.
Neal takes over from Dr. Michelle Coombs, who served as the acting director after previous director Thomas Murray took a position as the Senior Science Advisor for Hazards with the Alaska Regional Office.