Kevan Kamibayashi’s First Encounter with Kïlauea Changed His Life

Margaret Shiba
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

The first time I saw flowing lava, that was it . . . I was hooked!” That is how Kevan Kamibayashi describes his first encounter with an active volcano back in 1992, at the age of 11.

Born and raised on Kaua‘i, Kevan had come to the Big Island for a two-week summer program run by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Nä Pua No‘eau, Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children. Offered a choice of classes, he signed up for “Rocks and Rolls,” imagining a chance to play around with music. It turned out instead to be a class in geology . . . and it marked a turning point in his life.

Today, Kevan Kamibayashi works as the chief field engineer for the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, where he can see flowing lava pretty much every day. During that first program, taught as a hands-on field laboratory at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park by Dr. Jim Kauahikaua, HVO research geophysicist and scientist-in-charge from 2004 to 2015, and Dr. Jim Anderson, UH Hilo geology department faculty member, Kevan not only had a chance to see active lava flows, but also learned how to map them by hand, pre-GPS (global positioning system), using a compass and pacing out measurements.

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