Isabel Patricia Montañez is a sedimentary geochemist and paleoclimatologist recognized for her work on reconstructing past climates on Earth. She is particularly known for her studies that have integrated proxies of atmospheric CO2 concentrations and paleo-surface conditions on land and in the sea with numeric modeling efforts to interrogate interactions in the Earth system during deep-time intervals of major climate and ecosystem perturbation. Montañez was born in Geneva, Switzerland and grew up in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Pennsylvania. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania with a degree in geology and from Virginia Tech in 1989 with a Ph.D. in geoscience. She joined the faculty at the University of California, Riverside in 1989 and has been on the faculty at the University of California since 1998. She has been president of the Geological Society of America and is serving as the Chair of the Board of Earth Sciences and Resources at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Isabel Montañez's laboratory takes an interdisciplinary and multi-proxy approach to studying different components of the Earth system and the processes that mechanistically link them for a range of past climate states and over a spectrum of time periods. To understand the processes underlying perturbation of deep-time climates, carbon cycling, and ecosystems they have developed high-precision radioisotope frameworks for depositional basins spanning the paleo-high to low latitudes and used these chronostratigraphic frameworks to develop and correlate chemical, physical, and biologic proxy records of paleo-atmospheric pCO2, paleotemperatures, hydroclimate, and seawater composition. They use process- based ecosystem and Earth System models to globally synthesize and conceptualize the proxy observations and to gain insight into the processes that underlie the observed variability in the proxy records. For their studies of regional hydroclimate variability in the U.S. Southwest in response to mean climate change during the last glacial cycle and most recent deglaciation, they generate precisely dated time-series of physical and geochemical signatures in cave-formed speleothems. Proxy-model comparisons using water-isotope enabled ESM simulations run at variable spatial resolutions permit interrogation of the underlying mechanisms driving regional hydroclimate responses to past warming and cooling.

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Primary Section

Section 15: Geology