The 2007 Jean Baptiste Lamarck Medal is awarded to Alessandro Montanari for his many outstanding contributions in the field of stratigraphy and of Earth history, as recorded for example in the Apennine pelagic limestones.
Alessandro Montanari is a remarkable scientist, with a long list of discoveries relating to Earth history. In addition he has built, starting from nothing, an important institute of geological research and teaching that now attracts researchers and students from all over the world. Alessandro Montanari was born in 1954, grew up in Ancona, and obtained his master’s thesis in 1979 from the University of Urbino with a study of the Upper Cretaceous- Paleocene-Eocene Scaglia pelagic limestone. For his PhD thesis at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, he made seminal contributions to the understanding of the cause of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) mass extinction. After postdoctoral work in the US, Montanari moved in 1992 to the village Coldigioco, in the Apennine foothills in Italy, to create a research center (Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco) focused on extracting information from the Apennine pelagic limestones.
Montanari’s contributions to stratigraphy are numerous and important. He made a systematic effort to attach numerical ages to the subdivisions of the Early Tertiary by dating air-fall volcanic crystals in Umbria-Marche pelagic carbonates. His work showed that there had been only one single, large impact at the KT boundary. His team discovered evidence for multiple impact events in the rocks just below the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, later connected with Popigai in Siberia and Chesapeake in the US. He was one of the leaders of the stratigraphic research that led to Massignano, near Ancona, being selected as the global type section for the Eocene- Oligocene boundary. He has studied the stratigraphy of the Late Eocene and the Eocene- Oligocene boundary for more than 20 years and has made very important contributions to this area of research. With Farley and Shoemaker, Montanari pioneered the use of helium isotopic measurements thus documenting a comet shower in the late Eocene.
Subsequently he has been involved in research aimed at establishing the GSSP for the Rupelian-Chattian and base-Tortonian sections. Montanari has done stratigraphic field studies in a number of places outside Italy, most notably in Mexico, where he was part of the team that discovered impact ejecta precisely at the KT boundary in stratigraphic sections only a few hundred km from the Chicxulub crater, thus demonstrating that that crater dates from exactly the time of the KT mass extinction. Until now Montanari has published about 90 papers in international peer-reviewed journals.