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Department of Earth Sciences

Structure of Earth's Deep Interior
Seismic imaging


My research interests lie in an observation-driven approach to better understanding deep Earth structure from crustal to mantle scales.  My work is driven by trying to answer some of the fundamental open questions about the structure and dynamics of our planet in terms of how the mantle convects and how the crust is formed, deformed and recycled. 


General Research Interests:

  • Seismic discontinuities and mineral physics - how imaging and understanding discontinuities  can be used to infer temperature and compositional variation
  • Seismic Imaging techniques
  • Detailed imaging of crustal structure - how it can reflect ongoing and ancient tectonic processes
  • Mantle plumes - their role in large scale mantle convection and the potential for thermo-chemical structure
  • Subduction zones - how they introduce heterogeneity into the mantle
  • Small-scale mid-mantle structure - what it suggests about mantle composition
  • Core-mantle boundary features - what  their role in mantle convection and how they effect the outer core


Current Work:

My current research focus is on imaging strange and poorly understood features sitting on the core-mantle boundary of the Earth known as ultra-low velocity zones (ULVZs). Very little is currently known about this enigmatic features, which are small in scale 100s by 10s km in size, but have huge reductions in seismic wave speed compared to the rest of the mantle of 10-50%. Several ULVZs have been observed at the base  of major mantle plumes under Hawaii, Iceland and the Galapagos and they have been suggested to represent some kind of plume anchor. We currently have very little understanding about what these features are or what effect they have on the large scale convective processes going on in the Earth's mantle. My current work looks at developing new seismic imaging techniques to better map out the detailed morphology and characteristics of these features, with the aim of to identifying their underlying cause. 

Previous Work:

Much of my previous work focused on the divergent plate margin and plume setting of Iceland which was the focus of my PhD research.  This lead to insights into crustal formation in regions of plume-ridge interaction, an improved understanding of the mineralogy of the mantle transition zone, and observations of exciting new and enigmatic mid-mantle small-scale structures around 1000 km depth. Recent work extended similar methods to the Hawaiian mantle plume, mapping out the poorly understood X-discontinuity, and its implications for the thermo-chemical nature of plumes.  Work with collaborators in GFZ Potsdam and the Turkish governments disaster management presidency (AFAD) has lead to a new crustal map of the region surrounding Istanbul, and a better understanding of the ancient and current tectonic processes that have shaped that complex region. Ongoing work will extend the use of this dataset to better understand the complex active subduction going on beneath Turkey. 



Key publications: 
J Jenkins, S Cottaar, RS White, A Deuss - Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2016
J Jenkins, A Deuss, S Cottaar - Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2017
J Jenkins, J Maclennan, RG Green, S Cottaar… - Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2018
M Kemp, J Jenkins, J Maclennan, S Cottaar - Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2019

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Supervisors: Sanne Cottaar

Post Doctoral Research Associate
Dr. Jennifer  Jenkins

Contact Details

Email address: 
Bullard Laboratories,
Madinley Rise,
Madingley Road,
+44 (0) 1223 337180