Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


Geography, Environment and Planning

Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Graham A. Tobin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Charles B. Connor, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Constance A. Mizak, Ph.D.


Geographic Hazards, Kilauea, Lava Zones, Puna District, Volcanic Risk


The purpose of this research is to better understand how residents of communities located on the flanks of Kilauea, Hawai'i view the hazards associated with volcanic events taking into account hazard proximity, cultural beliefs, municipal trust, and evacuation planning. The study was conducted in the lower Puna district, an area with a rapidly growing population but limited infrastructure.

Data were collected though a questionnaire survey undertaken at venues throughout the district, including grocery markets, bakeries, farmers markets, the public pool, and other gathering places. Overall, the results indicated that people understand the natural hazards of the place but are generally not concerned about the potential impacts of these hazards on their livelihoods; few could determine whether or not they lived in a lava zone, the impacts on health, and the need for evacuation planning. Cultural considerations appear to play major role and many residents believe that Madam Pele, Goddess of Fire, has a stake in the events of Kilauea. Both hazard understanding and cultural belief systems varied by gender, age, income, and education. When compared to findings from earlier studies within the lower Puna district, it was noted that opinions have shifted over time and that belief in Pele had strengthened.

This study demonstrated that understanding the opinions and patterns of belief within communities must be ongoing and municipal planning must be altered over time to accommodate evolving needs and beliefs of a community to obtain optimum community support.