The ability to see into the Earth is my favorite geophysicist superpower. I am fascinated by the idea that taking measurements of something as bizarre as gravity can lead us to so much knowledge about our planet. I am particularly interested in applying this tool to volcanoes, as they present both an intriguing geological problem as well as a clear and present danger to humans living near them. However, I’m also eager to apply the technique of gravity to other problems, such as determining structure in resource extraction, and monitoring fluid flow in water reservoirs and oil fields.
For a great overview of how I've used geophysics in both volcanology and industry, check out my JASON STEM Q&A interview! I had a blast talking about all the cool things I've done with geophysics and answering questions from students about my experiences as a volcanologist.
Measuring the force of earth’s gravity on the surface of the planet (or in boreholes!) gives invaluable information about distributions of mass in the crust, revealing tectonic structures, magma chambers, and other geological features of interest. We can also measure the gravity at specific locations over time, continuously or with regular time intervals, to track mass movement over time (4-D gravity). 4-D gravity has been used to track injected fluid in an oil field and has been used for many years to track magma movement at Kilauea and Mt. Etna as well as other volcanoes.
I am interested in improving how we perform land-based gravity surveys by developing techniques to optimize survey design in rough terrain. I would also like to improve our existing methods of inverting 4-D gravity data.
Although volcanic eruptions at a given volcano are rare on a human timescale, their effects can be devastating. As such, it is critical that we monitor volcanoes effectively, and to monitor volcanoes effectively we need good information about their structure, chemistry, and eruptive behavior. Long term monitoring of volcanoes with 4-D gravity can give important information about precursory signals at a volcano, and Bouguer gravity surveys can provide valuable structure information that can be critical in designing a good monitoring system and interpreting the results of monitoring.
In my work at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, I aided in the collection and processing of 4-D gravity data, and in my honor’s thesis at the University of Oregon I used forward modeling to evaluate the capabilities of the 4-D gravity network and suggest improvements to the network. For my master’s thesis at Simon Fraser University, I conducted a Bouguer gravity survey at Cerro Negro volcano, Nicaragua, that revealed zones of shallow magma storage and subsurface plumbing connections to a neighboring volcano. I also installed benchmarks for a 4-D gravity monitoring network at Cerro Negro and collected baseline data on this network.
Although gravity is my main focus, I also have experience in other geophysical techniques that can be used on their own or in conjunction with gravity. In addition to gravity data, I collected total magnetic data at Cerro Negro giving me valuable field experience in this area. During my internship with IRIS, I aided in the installation of passive seismic networks in the Olympic Peninsula (Washington) and on the Slumgullion Landslide (Colorado) to study slow slip and tremor events on subduction zones. I conducted an individual research project investigating low frequency earthquakes at Slumgullion Landslide.