One of the best ways to become knowledgeable about astronomy and about Mauna Kea is to volunteer at the Visitor Information Station. People from all walks of life come to volunteer at the VIS, including astronomers working on the mountain, students at the local university, and the general public. Knowledge of astronomy and Mauna Kea is not required to become a volunteer. Everything that you need to know will be taught throughout the course of volunteering. A car is not required if you live in the Hilo area, as there is free transportation from the Hilo office. Also, we provide you with a free meal. Scheduling is very flexible, no minimum hours or set days are required. Let us know when you're free and we'll find times that work for you.
- Stargazing: During the stargazing program, volunteers set up and assist the public with VIS telescopes, point out bright stars and constellations, tell stories of Hawaiian and Greek/Roman mythology, inform the public of the hazards of high altitude, and update the public about current events on Mauna Kea. Public presentations are given nightly. This shift is 365 nights per year, with space for up to 5 volunteers per shift. The actual work is from 6:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m., so including transportation from Hilo and meal time, you leave Hilo at 4:00 p.m. and return around 11:30 p.m.
- Summit Tour: Volunteers lead or assist the public on the Escorted Summit Tour. Volunteers are expected to inform people on the tour about the hazards of Mauna Kea and give out safety information. During the tour they talk about the geological, cultural, and scientific significance of the mountain. The tour follows the summit guide escort with 4x4 vehicles and includes a visit to the Keck 1 facility. The tour is conducted on Saturdays and Sundays and a qualification process is necessary before a Volunteer can lead the tour. Up to 3 volunteers per day. The actual work is from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., so including transportation from Hilo and meal time, you leave Hilo at 11:00 a.m. and return around 7:00 p.m.
- Daytime volunteers: Volunteers come during the daytime and help with visitor service and maintenance such as cleaning, painting and trash pickup. 365 days per year, with space for 2 volunteers per day. The actual work is from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., so including transportation from Hilo and meal time, you leave Hilo at 7:00 a.m. and return around 5:30 p.m.
- Summit Trail Maintenance: Volunteers hike down the summit trail and pick up any trash they may find, and report the condition of the trails. Scheduled about once per quarter.
- VIS First Light Bookstore: Most volunteers help in the VIS First Light Book Store (FLBS) during their duties. FLBS duties include helping with pricing and stocking of the FLBS, cash register sales, regular checking and cleaning of the restrooms, and keeping the hot beverage table clean.
- Culture volunteers: Teach the general public about Hawaiian culture and Mauna Kea's place in it. Volunteers also speak about Hawaiian star names, mo'olelo, and different Hawaiian sites on Mauna Kea. They may also help with our Culture Night program.
If you are interested in volunteering at the VIS on Mauna Kea, please download our application form (link above) and send it by mail or fax to the address or fax number on the form. We'll call you to discuss scheduling.
In this video, our volunteers tell you all about the great opportunities we have on Mauna Kea!