Meghan Miller


Meghan Miller is an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Her work centers around structural seismology and tectonophysics, through which she studies earthquakes, tectonic processes, and plate motions as a means of understanding the Earth’s evolution.

Miller focuses on the interplay between mantle convection and surface geology, and specifically on subduction zone processes and continental dynamics. Much of her fieldwork is conducted near seismically and volcanically active plate boundaries, such as the Caribbean, western North America, and the Mediterranean. In order to gain insight into the deep structure of the planet, she and her team have employed data from recent major quakes, such as those occurring in Japan and New Zealand, recorded by sensitive seismic instruments deployed by her group in Morocco and Spain, to examine how seismic waves travel through the Earth.

Working with Professor Thorsten Becker, also in the Department of Earth Sciences, Miller uses HPC resources to investigate mechanical interactions between subducted oceanic and stable continental lithospheres and how these change mantle convection at the Caribbean-South American and in the western Mediterranean plate margins. Miller and Becker combine seismological observations and computational geodynamic models to better constrain the tectonic history of these regions and more generally investigate plate boundary evolution.

Miller’s work on detecting an active delamination of continental lithosphere beneath the Colorado Plateau was recently published in the journal Nature. She and her colleagues were able to identify the only known instance of active delamination, a process that may have contributed to the formation of the Grand Canyon. Miller and her colleagues are searching other regions for possible active delamination. Miller’s research is funded by the EarthScope, Continental Dyanmics, and Geophysics programs of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Miller was chosen as an EarthScope Distinguished Lecturer in 2010-2011 and honored by the NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program.

ABOVE: Map of broadband seismometers deployed in the Mediterranean region. The orange triangles represent the instruments deployed as part of Miller’s NSF-funded project to understand the deep Earth structure beneath the region.