Professor Meghan Samantha Miller

Professor, Research School of Earth Sciences
ANU College of Science
T: +61 2 6125 3073

Areas of expertise

  • Geophysics 0404
  • Seismology And Seismic Exploration 040407
  • Tectonics 040313
  • Geodynamics 040402

Research interests

Most of my research is based at poorly understood but critical tectonic plate boundaries, in particular subduction zones where oceanic plates are descending into the Earth’s deep interior. These are regions where tectonic activity, as observed in seismicity and volcanism, is localized, making them natural targets of high scientific and societal relevance. As a complement to the dynamic plate boundary research, the structure of stable continental interiors provides the best long-term record of plate tectonic processes.

Research questions that illustrate how those two objectives are related include: How has the outermost layer of the Earth evolved?  How do the stable continents affect the evolution of subduction zones?  How do processes and structures deep within the Earth control the geology we can observe at the surface?

Beginning in 2022, my ARC Future Fellowship will focus on how to advance cutting-edge Distrubuted Acoustic Sesning (DAS) technology and big data processing to develop unprecedented high-resolution images of the Earth’s subsurface, detect micro-seismicity, and thereby relate geological observations to Earth processes.




Whittier College               Physics and Geology                             B.A. 1997 

Columbia University        Applied Geophysics                               M.Sc. 1999

Cornell University           Geological Science                                 M.Eng. 2000

Australian National University      Earth Science/Geophysics         Ph.D. 2006


California Institute of Technology – Visiting Associate, Pasadena, California, 2015-2016

University of Southern California – Assistant/Associate Professor, Los Angeles, California, 2009-2017

Rice University - Postdoctoral Research Associate, Houston, Texas 2006-2008

University of British Columbia - Postdoctoral Research Associate, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2006-2008

Researcher's projects

Banda Arc Project  Eastern Indonesia is one of the least well-understood geological domains of our planet, and yet the region provides a truly remarkable location for unraveling some of the major puzzles of plate tectonics. The recent collision of the Australian continent with the active volcanic arc in the Banda region effectively captures the initiation of continental mountain building and the cessation of island arc volcanism, offering a rare glimpse into a set of processes that have shaped Earth’s evolution over geologic time.  Since oceanic subduction and subsequent continental collision have occurred in different stages along the Banda arc, we plan to use the region to study and assess the spatio-temporal evolution of this transition using a variety of methods: seismology, geodyanmics, tectonics, low-temperature geochemistry, and geomorphology.  We have installed 30 broadband seismometers, including the first ever seismometer on Timor Leste, across the archipelago of eastern Indonesia (NTT) in 2014.   The award is co-funded by the NSF Geophysics and Tectonics Programs, and the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) – Global Venture Fund (GVF) and led by M.S. Miller, T.W. Becker, and A.J. West.

Congested Subduction:  ARC Discovery Project led by L. Moresi, P. Betts, J. Whittaker and M.S. Miller. The project addresses the geodynamics of congested subduction zones and their impacts on the convergent margins.  We are using a combination of 3D geodynamic modelling, plate kinematic reconstruction and geological and geophysical synthesis to determine how congested subduction zones influence plate kinematics, subduction dynamics, and tectonic evolution at orogen and global scales. We aim to deliver a transformation change in understanding the links between congested subduction, mantle flow, trench migration, crustal growth, transitions between stable convergent margin configurations, and deformation in the overriding plates of subduction zones. Determining these relationships is significant because it will provide dynamic context to interpret the geological record of ancient convergent margins, which host a large percentage of Earth's metal resources. 

ICED (Imaged Crust Denali Exhumation) Project:  National Science Foundation (Tectonics and EarthScope programs) funded project led by S. Roeske, T. Waldien, J. Benowitz and M.S. Miller. This project entitled "A four-dimensional view of deformation in the Eastern Alaska Range - Where did the slip on the Denali fault go?"   The Denali fault in south-central Alaska ruptured in a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in 2002, one of the largest continental strike-slip (horizontal motion of blocks of rocks past each other) earthquakes ever recorded. The event brought attention to this little-studied but major fault, which crosses the trans-Alaska oil pipeline as well as the two main highways in Alaska. Scientists predicted Denali fault earthquakes to have only strike-slip motion, but instead, the 2002 quake started as a thrust (putting one block of rock over another) earthquake and uplifted rocks in the Alaska Range along a previously unknown thrust fault. The unexpected earthquake uplift pattern provided the scientific community additional evidence that thrust faults can siphon lateral motion from the strike-slip Denali fault. If these types of fault interactions persist for millions of years, then determining the amount of thrust faulting next to the Denali fault could help solve a long- lived controversy of how much total displacement has taken place across the Denali fault and explain why the Denali fault is surrounded by large mountains on all sides (forming the Alaska Range). Unraveling the history of thrust faulting and uplift next to the Denali fault will not only help us chip away at these intriguing scientific questions but will also inform us on how significant these faults have been in the past and where the greatest seismic hazards in the Alaska Range are today.

Available student projects


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  13 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers