New Geophysical Inversion Facility Director - Dr. Lindsey Heagy

January 4, 2023
Dr. Lindsey Heagy (credit: Junyi Sun)

Dr. Lindsey Heagy, Assistant Professor at EOAS, has taken a new role as Director of UBC-Geophysical Inversion Facility (UBC-GIF).

Dr. Heagy is interested in data science and inverse theory applied to questions in resource exploration, groundwater, and environmental studies. She is also a faculty member of UBC’s Mathematics of Information, Learning and Data (MILD) group, focusing on machine learning and inverse problems. Her research group primarily focuses on machine learning and inversion methods with geophysical data including electrical and electromagnetic data as well as potential fields (gravity and magnetic data) to characterize the subsurface.

“I am very excited to be taking on the role of director of the Geophysical Inversion Facility (GIF),” said Dr. Heagy. “We are at an important point in time for near-surface and applied geophysics. There are significant opportunities for geophysics to play a role in solutions to challenges we are facing in society, especially in light of the climate crisis. Locating and managing groundwater, monitoring CO2 sequestration, characterizing permafrost loss and other impacts of climate change, and importantly locating the mineral resources we need to facilitate the energy transition, are all applications where we require the ability to image the subsurface. Geophysics gives us the ability to do this by measuring data over the surface of the earth that are sensitive to variations in physical properties of the subsurface. The Geophysical Inversion Facility is focussed on developing computational methods for extracting insights from geophysical data.”

Over the past 30 years, GIF research, under the leadership of Doug Oldenburg, has laid the foundation for the ability to simulate and invert a wide range of geophysical data, including gravity, magnetics, electrical, and electromagnetic data to obtain physical property models of the subsurface. “We now have the ability to solve problems that work with hundreds of thousands of data where we are estimating millions of model parameters. The next generation of GIF will build upon this foundation and integrate advances in machine learning,” said Dr. Heagy.

Dr. Heagy also shared about what she and the GIF hope to achieve in the next few years. Our goal is to contribute to solutions of problems that are important to society. Locating mineral resources, managing groundwater, monitoring CO2, or remediating land are inherently interdisciplinary questions. Geophysics has a role to play, and the more that we can integrate with other disciplines, the more value geophysics can bring to the table. Our research develops computational methods that enable the integration of information, including geophysical, geological, geochemical, and other data to obtain insights about the subsurface. GIF has established itself as a leader in numerical simulations and inversions; in the next few years, an emphasis of our research will be on the integration of machine learning with inversions.”

“Two important components that have contributed to the success of GIF have been the close collaboration with the mining industry, which has provided data and research questions, and the subsequent dissemination of our work through the distribution of production-quality software. In our next phase, we plan to continue working with industry-relevant data sets to help formulate our research questions and solutions, and to keep distributing software to enable this work to be useable by others. The GIF Fortran codes are widely used by industry and academic groups worldwide. In the next few years, we will transition our model of software dissemination to an open-source model of development, through the SimPEG project. Collaborations through SimPEG have already facilitated humanitarian projects aimed at locating potable drinking water, as well as new ways to collaborate with industry because anyone can use, build upon and contribute to the project. I am looking forward to exploring new modes of collaboration that are enabled by the transition to an open-source model of dissemination.”

“GIF 2.0 is composed of a talented team of students, postdocs, and research associates working on projects in mineral exploration, groundwater, CO2 sequestration, and environmental applications. Connections with industry provide context and data on problems that are important to solve, and open-source software provides avenues for our work to contribute to solutions. We have the ingredients to make some meaningful contributions and I am excited to see what we can achieve together,” said Dr. Heagy.

To learn more about the UBC-GIF, such as their program, people, research and publications, software:
Listen to our podcast with Dr. Heagy: