Isabel Patricia Montañez, PhD

Isabel Montanez

Position Title
Director, Institute of the Environment
Distinguished Professor


Montañez, a UC Davis distinguished professor and a chancellor’s leadership professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, is a renowned field geologist and geochemist specializing in past records of ancient climate change. Her work involves reconstructing global and regional climates, in particular those during warming and major climate and ecosystem perturbations to show how the baseline climate behavior of these interconnected components contribute to future climate change.

Much of Montañez’s climate-related research has focused on reconstructing past climate change that helps to understand the root causes and underlying dynamics of past climate change to gain ‘deep-time’ insight into our climate future.

In a two-year National Academies study titled ‘Understanding Earth’s Deep Past: Lessons for our Climate Future’, lead author Montañez shines a light on the earth’s sensitivity to climate change.

Montañez has dedicated over three decades in the UC system to lead robust research programs, develop and teach courses and participate in extensive department, college, campus and professional service. She has co-edited a number of special journal issues, published in many peer-reviewed journals and won multiple grants. In 2021, Montañez received the UC Davis Teaching Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

In a career spanning three decades, Montañez held numerous positions of leadership and advocacy including serving as the Vice-President and President of The Geological Society of America, as well as Chair of the Board of Earth Sciences and Resources at the National Academy of Sciences. She is also a member of several committees and boards that address environmental issues, such as the Aspen Global Change Institute, Biosphere 2 board, Sustainable Conservation board, National Science Foundation advisory committees for the cross-disciplinary program Paleo Perspectives and Climate Change, among others. 

Montañez believes that her leadership experience at the national level coupled with skills in strategic planning, vision building and consensus-building will serve her well in this position.

Montañez has a B.A. in Geology from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. in Geology from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Montañez joined the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in 1998.

Visit Isabel's Wikipedia page.

Visit Isabel's UC Davis Earth and Planetary Sciences page.