Teach the Earth > Geophysics > Interpreting and Teaching with Tomograms > Overview

Workshop Overview

What does the inside of our planet look like? Because light does not travel through solid rock, we will never know the answer to this question. However, the images from seismic tomography have given us deep and profound insights into the structure, composition, and dynamically driven motions of the crust, mantle, and inner core. These images, traditionally "red and blue," map out the anomalous structure of the solid Earth and form the basis of our hypotheses as to the workings of our planet. All of the images created from seismic tomography, the "tomograms," share in common their representation of large numbers of seismic signals. However, the similarity ends there. Many different kinds of seismic data are used, such as body waves, surface waves, normal modes, and ambient seismic noise. Seismic travel times are usually used, but seismic amplitudes are also used. Scales of resolution also vary, ranging from shallow near-surface images to whole mantle tomograms. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together seismologists who work regularly with seismic tomography with geoscientists and geoeducators who would like to incorporate more seismology into their classes, research, and advising. Topics that will be addressed include: The different kinds of seismic tomography; resolution of tomograms; interpreting tomograms (in terms of temperature, composition, mineral phases, partial melt, water content, mineral grain size, etc.); tomographic inversions; different data types used; sensitivity kernels for wave paths; using tomograms to identify dynamic structures; crustal imaging and industry tomography; etc.

Presenters will likely include:

  • Rick Aster, New Mexico Tech University
  • Jesse Lawrence, Stanford University
  • Jeroen Ritsema, University of Michigan
  • Michael Ritzwoller, University of Colorado
  • Jeroen Tromp, Princeton University
  • Suzan van der Lee, Northwestern University
  • Lara Wagner, University of North Carolina
  • Michael Wysession, Washington University
The format of the first four sessions will be a series of whole-group presentations and demonstrations using the Elluminate teleconferencing software. We will also provide listservs and closed, web-based workspaces to help individuals and small groups to work on the development and review of instructional activities related to seismic tomography.

Workshop Goals

The goals of this workshop are to:

  • Create a diverse collection of seismic tomography visualizations that demonstrate the range of seismological practices that generate and interpret tomograms;
  • Demonstrate cutting edge advances in seismic tomography research and provide participants with understanding in the range of seismic tomography practices, how tomograms are created, what their strengths and limitations are, and how they interpreted in terms of Earth structure, composition, and dynamics;
  • Develop effective teaching practices using seismic tomographic methods and images, including the development of teaching activities and demonstrations that are appropriate for different instructional levels and using current results of learning science that inform learning through the use of seismic tomography;
  • Demonstrate to participants the use of a variety of seismological software codes that can produce seismic tomographic images through an inversion of seismic data of different forms.


The workshop will take place in 6 2-hour sessions throughout April and May of 2013. The online sessions will be 12 to 2 pm on April 3, 10, 17, and 24 and May 22 and 29. Presentations will be recorded in the case that participants cannot attend the workshop on a particular date. The first four online sessions will include presentations and demonstrations from a series of invited speakers who are experts in the areas of seismic tomography. The final two sessions will provide the workshop participants opportunities to present and share their own ideas and approaches and to review and design teaching activities around selected seismic tomography topics.

Who Should Attend?

  • Geoscience instructors who would like to incorporate modern principles and products of seismic tomography research into their courses at all levels;
  • Geoscience faculty who are interested in learning how to use seismic tomography programs;
  • Data providers from seismic networks and Education and Outreach managers from seismic networks;
  • Post-docs and graduate students interested in pursuing careers in these areas (as space permits).


Participants are expected to:

  • Prior to the workshop - become familiar with the instructional materials currently available in the existing modules from the previous workshops on "Teaching Geophysics and Understanding Deep Earth" and "Visualizing Seismic Waves for Teaching and Research;" organize seismic tomographic images and/or concepts that participants plan to share with the group; submit existing activities and course descriptions related to seismology.
  • During the workshop - plan to participate in all sessions, including the whole-group presentations in May; plan, design, develop, and review new teaching activities inspired by the course material, done either individually or in groups;
  • After the workshop - continue to help develop and review the new instructional activities; make these activities available on the workshop website; advertise the availability of these and other existing related resources to the larger community.


Workshop Registration Fee: $95 (NAGT Members receive a discounted rate of $50. Learn more about becoming a member.)

For More Information

For more information, please contact Michael Wysession (michael@mantle.wustl.edu) or John McDaris (jmcdaris@carleton.edu).

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