Seismic tomography maps the deep interior of the Earth, elucidating the internal structure and dynamics of our planet. Ultimately, the connection between seismology, geochemistry, mineral physics, fluid mechanics and geodynamics should provide a complete and consistent picture of the way in which the Earth convects and evolves. However, we are still far from that understanding and many fundamental questions remain unanswered. For example, geochemical arguments favour an isolated lower mantle, while seismic tomography suggests that the upper and lower mantle are continually mixing. It remains unclear if seismically observed heterogeneities in various regions of the mantle are caused by thermal or compositional differences. Seismological constraints on the amount and distribution of inner core anisotropy vary greatly and conflicting theories exist concerning its origin.

As a global seismologist, I am keen to address these issues by developing new theoretical methods and using these to discover structures in the Earth’s deep interior, ranging from the upper mantle to the inner core. At the same time, I am directing my research towards data and models incorporating other fields such as mineral physics, geochemistry and fluid dynamics, since I believe that most important and exciting discoveries are made at the boundaries between disciplines.

Research areas of Arwen Deuss
Cartoon (not to scale) illustrating the different layers in the Earth, including the solid crust and mantle, fluid outer core and solid inner core, and summarising some of the main core observations. The Earth’s magnetic field is generated by fluid convection in the outer core. Seismological observations are made using body waves and whole Earth oscillations (normal modes) suggesting, for example, inner core anisotropy, which may be caused by alignment of iron crystals in the inner core.