Montanez, Isabel Patricia (earth scientist)

(1960- ) American Sedimentologist, Geochemist

A consequence of modern industrialized society is that the amount of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to increase at an alarming rate. The debate now rages as to whether or not this increase is resulting in global warming and erratic weather patterns and what it will mean for the future. Isabel Montanez is a carbonate petrologist and geochemist, a large part of whose research addresses these issues. By studying ancient carbonate deposits, especially during times of rapid environmental change, she seeks to put our current predicament into geologic perspective. By using stable isotope geochemistry, mainly on carbon, coupled with field study of these limestone and dolomite deposits, Montanez documents changes in the composition of seawa-ter and corresponding atmospheric gases through time. This research is designed to determine whether the atmosphere-ocean system can recover from our current catastrophic changes or not. If it can recover, how long will it take for natural processes to do so? How will extinction rates of plants and animals be affected by these changes? By looking at how the Earth has responded to major changes in atmospheric-oceanic chemistry in the past, Isabel Montanez seeks to set a baseline against which our current situation may be compared. Then these important questions may be addressed.

The other main area of research for Isabel Montanez is the basin-wide migration of pore fluids during burial in sedimentary basins. These fluids carry dissolved solids and can either deposit minerals in the pore spaces of the rocks through which they flow or dissolve even more material. The deposited minerals form a cement and inhibit further fluid flow. This research has a direct bearing on whether a rock unit will serve as a good hydrocarbon reservoir or a good aquifer for groundwater or not. This research is therefore of great interest to both the petroleum industry and the environmental industry alike. Examples of papers by Isabel Montanez include, “Recrystalliza-tion of Dolomite with Time” and “Evolution of the Strontium and Carbon Isotope Composition of Cambrian Oceans.”

Portrait of Isabel Montanez

Portrait of Isabel Montanez

Isabel P. Montanez was born on March 17, 1960, in Geneva, Switzerland. She completed her primary education in Manchester, England, and her secondary education in Philadelphia and Al-toona, Pennsylvania. She attended Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in geology in 1981. Upon graduation, she worked for Everrett and Associates (environmental consultants), Rockville, Mary land, as a research assistant from 1981 to 1983. She also worked as a museum technician for the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, from 1982 to 1983. In 1983, Isabel entered graduate school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University where she worked on carbonate petrology and geochemistry under J. Fred Read. She graduated with a Ph.D. in 1990. She accepted her first faculty position at the University of California at Riverside in 1990 and remained there until 1997. She joined the faculty of the University of California at Davis in 1998 where she is currently a full professor. Isabel Montanez is married to David Osleger, another carbonate sedimentologist at University of California at Davis. They have two sons.

Although Isabel Montanez is still in the early stages of her career, she has already made an impact on the profession. She has published 31 papers in professional journals and volumes. She has earned numerous honors and awards for this research. She received a National Science Foundation-Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship and an American Geological Institute Minority Program Scholarship in 1988. She won two awards from the University of California, a Chancellor’s Research Fellowship in 1993 and an Acknowledgment of Teaching Excellence in 1994. She was awarded a visiting professorship for women from the National Science Foundation in 1996. She won two best paper awards from the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists in 1992 and the J. “Cam” Sproule Memorial Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 1996. Also in 1996, Isabel won the James Lee Wilson Award for Excellence in Sedimentary Geology.

Isabel Montanez’s service to the profession is also outstanding. Between 1990 and 1992, Isabel served as vice chair and chair of the National Carbonate Research Group. She served numerous positions for the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists including vice president of the Pacific Section in 1993 and 1994, councilor for re search activities in 1996 to 1998. She served in several workshops and as a panelist for the National Science Foundation and she was chosen as a distinguished lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists for 2000 to 2001. Montanez is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Sedimentary Research and coeditor for Sedimentology.

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