Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Developing tools to image the Earth in 3D using gravity and magnetic fields

Develop cutting-edge computational tools that provide 3D views of Earth’s crust using gravity and magnetic fields. Results of these efforts will have a wide range of applications from mapping natural resources to evaluating natural hazards. These tools will be applied to airborne geophysical data, especially those collected for the USGS Earth MRI effort.

Link to PDF Version.

Project Hypothesis or Objectives:

Subtle spatial variations in Earth’s gravity and magnetic fields provide a powerful way to image geologic features that are kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface. Applications can include mineral resources, earthquake hazards, volcano hazards, and water resources. In recent years, methods using magnetic and gravity data to create 3D images of Earth’s crust have become an exciting new approach to analyses of these types of data.

The USGS currently has framework in place to conduct such modeling, but creative work is needed to make these tools more efficient and flexible so that a variety of geologic questions can be addressed. Additionally, the USGS is spearheading an effort to collect large amounts of new airborne geophysical survey data through its Earth Mapping Resources Initative (Earth MRI) program; the application of state-of-the-art tools will play an important role in the analyses of these data. 

Duration: Up to 12 months

Location: Denver, CO

Area of Discipline: Computer/Data Science, Geology, Geologic Hazards/Volcanology, Geophysics, Modeling, Remote sensing

Intern Type Preference: Any Type of Intern

Applicable NSF Division: GEO (Atmospheric, Earth Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Polar Programs), CISE (Computer and communications foundations, Information and intelligence systems, Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, Computer and network systems)

Expected Outcome:

The outcome will be state-of-the-art code that can be used to create high-quality 3D images of Earth’s magnetic and density variations. This effort will give the intern experience in working with geophysical modeling approaches in an area of active research and development, with potential for an important publication. The USGS will benefit from intelligent tools that can be used to interpret existing and new airborne geophysical data with a multitude of applications.

Special skills/training Required:

A strong foundation in mathematics, especially signal processing using Fourier analysis, is required. An ability to write code in a language that can be implemented on parallel processing systems, such as C, Python or Fortran is also necessary. Experience in working with potential field data is very helpful.


The intern will work with USGS scientists to develop numerical code used to generate 3D models of Earth’s crust. Specific tasks might involve implementing advanced approaches that improve computational speeds and/or accuracy of existing inversion code, finding creative ways to implement geologic constraints, and generating intelligent interfaces for streamlining processes. This type of modeling is at the frontier of gravity and magnetic analysis methodology and there will be encouragement and support to publish the corresponding results; a key goal is for results of this work to be used by the larger community. If there is interest, the incumbent may also have opportunity to continue working with USGS scientists on the application of these tools to new airborne geophysical data.