Emily Van Ark


Emily Van Ark is interested in magma and volcanism in Earth’s mantle and crust under the ocean. As a member of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, she is working on three research projects. The first is focused on the volcanic production of the Hawaiian Islands and their undersea continuation, the Hawaiian and Emperor seamounts. The second involves the magma chambers at the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the coast of Oregon and Washington states. For the third project, Emily is working with models of partially molten mantle, deep in the earth near the core-mantle boundary.

Emily uses a variety of geophysical techniques to study these problems. For the Hawaiian islands seamount project, she worked with WHOI Senior Scientist Jian Lin using small variations in the strength of gravity measured by satellites to estimate how much the ocean crust has been thickened by volcanism. For the Juan de Fuca Ridge project, she spent a month at sea with WHOI Senior Scientist Bob Detrick and Associate Scientist Pablo Canales along with collaborators from other institutions, collecting marine seismic reflection data, which she later processed into images of the ocean crust. And, with MIT Professor Stephane Rondenay, she is using a seismic wave propagation model to find signatures of molten regions within the core-mantle boundary that might be targeted for identification in seismograms recorded at the surface of the earth.

Through all of her research, Emily hopes to gain a greater understanding of the dynamics of Earth’s interior and the interactions that occur at the boundaries between the ocean and the crust, the crust and the mantle, and the mantle and the core. She wants to know why Hawaii is where it is, how new ocean crust forms at mid-ocean spreading centers, how that crustal formation interacts with the amazing hydrothermal chemical and biological systems on the ocean floor, and whether there is just as much fascinating variation at the core-mantle boundary as there is at the surface of the planet.