Kathleen F. McKee
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow

Kathleen McKee

Research Interests

Volcano acoustics; Seismology

Academics

B.S., Geosciences (minor in mathematics), University of Tulsa (2008)
M.S., Geology, Peace Corps Masters International, Michigan Technological University (2012)
Ph.D., Geophysics, University of Alaska Fairbanks (2017)

Contact & Links

  • (202) 478-4881
  • kfmckee at carnegiescience.edu
  • Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
    Carnegie Institution of Washington
    5241 Broad Branch Road, NW
    Washington, DC 20015-1305
  • curriculum vitae
  • Personal Website

Overview

Kathleen McKee studies volcano acoustics, the science of volcanic sound. More often than not, volcanic sound is below human hearing, and is thus termed volcanic infrasound. Infrasound parallels seismology in its use as a volcano monitoring tool and geophysical method for improved understanding of volcanic processes. An explosive source near the surface, be it volcanic or otherwise, will radiate energy through the atmosphere as a sound wave and through the Earth as a seismic wave. She uses microphones sensitive to low frequency sound to record pressure changes as infrasonic waves pass by. Infrasound has been shown effective in detecting, locating, and characterizing volcanic eruptions up to thousands of kilometers away and therefore, plays a key role in keeping scientists and observers informed of global volcanic activity. Today, in the Aleutian Island volcanic arc where limited resources prevent full seismic coverage and the weather limits satellite remote sensing, infrasound can still be used to detect and characterize volcanic activity. McKee’s overall research interests are to advance understanding of volcanic systems and improve volcano-monitoring capabilities using infrasound and seismic data. Her master’s thesis focused on seismic noise observations of volcanoes and doctoral work on infrasonic detection and characterization of volcanic activity. Following on this work, her postdoctoral research is a seismo-acoustic examination of Stromboli Volcano’s shallow plumbing system.