MISSOULA – A University of Montana geoscience professor who studies the structure and evolution of the Earth has received a prestigious grant from NASA’s Surface and Interior Division.
Hilary Martens, assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, housed at the College of Humanities and Sciences at UM, recently received a grant of $ 443,000 over three years to study the structure of the Earth’s interior using GPS observations of ocean tides.
Martens will serve as the grant’s principal investigator, and the award includes funding to the California Institute of Technology as a collaborating institution, in addition to providing support to a full-time doctoral student at UM.
Martens will examine the relationship between ocean tides and Earth’s shape changes. The project will use GPS to measure how the Earth flexes and deforms under the changing weight of ocean water, which will provide new knowledge about the materials that make up the Earth’s layers, according to Martens.
“Imagine pressing your finger into a Nerf ball or a bowling ball,” Martens said. “Objects react differently to the same force because they are made of different materials. The structure and stiffness of the Earth have implications for how the Earth deforms under pressure. By gaining insight into elasticity and the Earth’s density structure by studying its dynamic response to ocean tidal loading, we can improve our understanding of the causes of plate tectonics and surface hazards, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. ”
Using GPS, the project will measure the response of the earth’s crust and mantle to the weight of ocean tides, from which the material properties of the Earth can be inferred.
Martens said GPS is able to monitor the changing shape of the Earth over time. This information can be used as a model to predict future changes, as well as to develop hypotheses about the physical evolution of the Earth.
“Water and air move on the Earth’s surface and changes in pressure cause the Earth to react,” Martens said. “The Earth is not perfectly rigid. It flexes under the weight of the water moving on the surface, so it is constantly changing. We can learn more about the material properties of the Earth’s interior, which control the deformability of the Earth. ”
Martens said a better understanding of the Earth’s structural model can be used to improve the accuracy of earthquake location, in addition to having a deeper understanding of Earth’s history and the stability of continents. . She said her research as a geoscientist encompasses a variety of scientific disciplines and methods, including data collection and analysis, analytical and numerical modeling, and ground and space observations.
Martens’ research also provides a broader view of water storage on the planet – including the snowpack, groundwater, and water in lakes, soils, and the atmosphere – which is particularly important for the management of water resources in a climate of warming. Last year, Martens received $ 1.4 million in funding from the National Science Foundation as part of a multidisciplinary team to track changes in the shape of the Earth from the storage and flow of l water in mountain watersheds.
At UM, Martens heads the Martens Lab, a geophysical research group that studies earthquakes in Montana and the interactions between the Earth and its water surface, or envelopes of fluids. Martens has a solid background in space science, planetary science and geophysics. She founded a Seismic Network for UM that engages students in local science and hazard monitoring, including measuring aftershocks in Montana earthquakes.
Martens received undergraduate degrees in music and physics from UM as a Presidential Leadership Scholar at Davidson Honors College at UM. As a UM graduate, she also received Marshall and Goldwater scholarships.
She received an MA in Geophysics from the University of Cambridge, University College London and the California Institute of Technology. She received her doctorate in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology.
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