Diane Pataki
  • Professor, Biology
  • Associate Dean of Student Affairs
  • Associate Professor, Biology

Research Summary

My lab measures the influence of vegetation and soil processes on the physical environment including local climate, pollution, water resources, aesthetics, and human comfort. Our goal is to quantify the environmental costs and benefits of planting, restoring, and managing landscapes in urban areas and at the urban-wildland interface to inform choices about urban and landscape planning and design.


  • B.A., Environmental Science, Barnard College, Columbia University
  • M.S., Ecology, School of the Environment, Duke University
  • Ph.D., Ecology, Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment


Diane Pataki is an ecologist who studies the role of vegetation in the functioning of cities.  She is currently a Professor in the Dept. of Biology at the University of Utah with adjunct appointments in the Dept. of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah and the Dept. of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Ecology Center at Utah State University.  She also serves as Associate Dean for Research in the University of Utah College of Science. Prior to arriving in Utah in 2012, she was on the faculty of the University of California, Irvine for 8 years where she was the founding Director of the Center for Environmental Biology and the Steele Burnand Anza Borrego Desert Research Center.  She received a B.A. in environmental science at Barnard College and an M.S. and Ph.D. at the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment. 

Pataki’s work has spanned the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, the use of stable isotopes to study coupled human-natural processes related to urban CO2 emissions, and the impacts of urban vegetation on local climate, pollution, and hydrology.  She was the lead PI on an NSF Biocomplexity grant that focused on understanding CO2 emissions in Salt Lake City from 2002-2007.  She was also funded by NASA from 1999-2003 to coordinate the Ecosystem Physiology program of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme’s Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystem (IGBP-GCTE) core project.  In 2008 she was given the AGU Macelwane Medal for her contributions to geoscience in these areas.  She followed this work with several NSF, EPA, and USDA funded projects that studied urban land-atmosphere interactions in Los Angeles while she taught at the University of California.

In Utah, Pataki has been a co-PI on an NSF EPSCoR Track I award focused on water sustainability in the Wasatch Front region (where Salt Lake City is located).  She was also the lead PI on an NSF Water Sustainability and Climate grant, a co-PI on the Los Angeles NSF ULTRA-EX project on urban forest ecosystem services, and a co-PI on an NSF macrosystems project studying the ecological homogenization of urban America.  She has served as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation and is Chief Specialty Editor for Urban Ecology at the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Her work is focused on improving our mechanistic understanding of the interactions between vegetation, the physical environment, and urban planning, forestry, and design.