David Lea

David Lea IEES Professor

Contact Phone

(805) 893-8665

Office Location

Webb 1114


Paleoclimatology, Paleoceanography, Marine Geochemistry, and Global Climate Change

Faculty in Earth Science Department


  • Ph.D., Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • B.S., Geology, Harvard College


David Lea is Professor in the Department of Earth Science, Affiliate Faculty in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and a member of the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been a faculty member since 1989. He received his B.S. in Geology from Haverford College (PA) in 1984 and his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in 1990 (Thesis Supervisor Prof. Ed Boyle, MIT - member NAS). His research interests include Ice Age climate change, marine geochemistry/carbon cycle, and global climate change. He has published 100 scholarly papers on these topics, including 18 in the high profile journals Science and Nature. Lea has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago and University of Cambridge, UK. His awards include the UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award (2001), a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2002-03), a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship, a Clare Hall Visiting Fellowship (both 2002-03, Cambridge, UK), the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Emiliani Lectureship (2007) -- awarded to "individuals who have made outstanding scientific contributions to our understanding of past oceans and climates" --, a Leopold Leadership Fellowship (2009), a Jefferson Science Fellowship (2010), and a Google Science Communication Fellowship (2011). Lea was elected a Fellow of AAAS in 2012 and AGU in 2013. He developed and chaired UCSB’s 2007 Global Warming-Science and Society Event Series, which drew over 3600 attendees. In 2010-2011, as a Jefferson Science Fellow, Lea served as science advisor in the U.S. Department of State to the Honorable Todd Stern, President Obama’s Special Envoy on Climate Change (SECC), and to the Office of Global Change (EGC).


David Lea's research interests include Ice Age climate change, marine geochemistry/carbon cycle, and global climate change. 


Dr. David Lea is working on various projects as he describes below:
I am working with my colleague Professor Syee Weldeab and post-doc Will Gray on a collaborative NSF grant to study how salinity and other factors effect the efficacy of foraminiferal Mg/Ca as a paleotemperature proxy.

I am working with international colleagues (COMPARE 2013) to compile, harmonize and synthesize paleo-SST data for the tropics during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), which will then be compared to coupled model simulations (see pub. #98).

I am working with colleagues Jeremy Shakun, BC, Lorraine Lisiecki, UCSB and Maureen Raymo, LDEO, to compile and synchronize seawater oxygen isotope composition and SST records of the last 800 kyr to test hypotheses about the time of temperature vs. ice volume change laid out in papers we wrote in the early 2000’s. Jeremy presented the results at Fall AGU 2014, and we've subsequently submitted a paper to EPSL.

I have been working with several modeling groups (Pedro DiNezio, Hawaii; Charles Jackson, Texas; Tony Broccoli, Rutgers) to test paleoclimate data spanning the LGM and subsequent deglaciation against coupled model simulations (also linked to areas B-C).

Masters student Samantha Gibbs and I are investigating a series of cores taken on a cruise to the Galápagos area, KNR195-5. We are focusing our efforts on a site on the Carnegie Platform, with the major effort of developing the isotope and carbonate stratigraphy for giant piston core CDH36, which we estimate spans ~600 kyr, three times longer than previous cores from this site. Records from this site are likely to be important for both surface water and deep-water evolution.


Click here for a full list of publications or see Dr. Lea's Curriculum Vitae.


Earth 4: Oceanography
Earth 105: Earth's Climate Past and Present
Earth 130: Global Warming Science and Society
Earth 266: Chemical Oceanography
ESM 239: Advanced Climate Science for Policy Makers