Department of Earth Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences

Emi Ito


208 Pillsbury Hall


Professor and Director, Limnological Research Center 
PhD, 1979, University of Chicago

Research Interests

  • My current research has two related foci; one is centered on the reconstruction of past climate (especially moisture balance) using mainly stable isotope and trace element composition of inorganically formed and biogenic carbonates; the other is aimed to gain a better understanding of processes that "connect" climate to proxy records of climate (such as inorganic carbonates precipitated in lake epilimnion or ostracode calcite shells) preserved in lake sediments. The topic of the latter focus might be called “how lakes see climate”. For example, groundwater may have a significant effect on a lake's hydrological and hydrochemical budget and thus influence the geochemical signature of carbonates formed within the lake. The habitat and the timing of the moulting of ostracodes also affect the geochemistry of the shells because most lakes do not have constant or uniform water temperature or chemistry year round. Research projects combine these process-oriented studies with climate reconstruction based on sediment cores collected from climatically sensitive, semi-arid sites. I like to work collaboratively with other researchers who are experts on hydrogeology, regional climate modeling, diatoms, ostracodes, or pollen so that we, as a group, have several lines of evidence to reconstruct climatic conditions, and I strongly encourage my students to take an equally broad perspective.
  • I am currently collaborating with colleagues at the Israeli Geological Survey and the University of Potsdam (Germany) to reconstruct paleoclimate changes around Lake Tiberias.  Part of the study is an MSc research project of my student.  We are also calibrating the response of the shell chemistry and shell morphology and length of the ostracodes species, Cyprideis torosa, to changes in hydrochemistry.  
  • I am also part of the Dead Sea Deep Drilling Project collaborating with other researchers from Israel, Germany, Switzerland and Japan.
  • Other activities include (1)  leading the NSF OEDG (Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in Geosciences) project with UMN colleagues, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College staff members, and Fond du Lac Reservation Resource Management staff, investigating with middle and high school students how the wild rice (Zizania palustris) lakes have changed in last several hundred years and how these changes affected the abundance of wild rice plants; (2) involvement in EarthCube effort through Paleogeoscience end-user group.

Professional Society Memberships

  • American Geophysical Union
  • Geochemical Society America
  • American Quaternary Association
  • Geological Society of America

Courses Taught

  • Water and Society
  • Climate Change and Human History
  • Isotope Geology
  • Earth and Its Environments


Ph.D. Thesis Completed

  • Juanjuan Xia, PhD, 1996 (co-advised w/Engstrom) Stable-isotope and trace-element composition of ostracode shells and their application to paleoclimatic reconstruction in the northern Great Plains.
  • Mark D Shapley, PhD, 2005 Geochemistry and paleohydrology of groundwater-dominated lakes of the Ovando Valley, Montana.
  • 5 other students co-advised with other faculty

Selected Publications

  • Marco-Barba J, Ito E, Carbonell E and Mesquita-Joanes F (2012) Empirical calibration of shell chemistry of Cyprideis torosa (Jones, 1850) (Crustacea: ostracoda)  Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 93:143-163. DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2012.06.019.
  • van der Meeren T, Ito E, Verschuren D, Almendinger JE, and Martens K (2011) Valve chemistry of Limnocythere inopinata (Ostracoda) in a cold arid environment —Implications for paleolimnological interpretation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 306:116-126. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2011.04.006.
  • van der Meeren T, Verschuren D, Ito E and Martens K (2010) Morphometric techniques allow environmental reconstructions from low-diversity continental ostracode assemblages. Journal of Paleolimnology 44:903-911, DOI 10-1007/s10933-010-9463-z.
  • Zhao C, Yu ZC, Zhao Y, Ito E, Kodama KP and Chen FH (2010) Holocene millennial-scale climate variations documented by multiple lake-level proxies from Hurleg Lake in northwestern China. Journal of Paleolimnology 44:995-1008, DOI 10.1007/s10933-010-9469-6.
  • van der Meeren T, Almendinger JE, Ito E and Martens K (2010) The ecology of ostracodes (Ostracoda, Crustacea) in western Mongolia. Hydrobiologia, 641:253-273. DOI: 10.1007/s10750-010-0089-y
  • Zhao C, Yu ZC, Ito E and Zhao Y (2010) Holocene climate trend, variability, and shift documented by lacustrine stable-isotope record in the northeastern United States.Quaternary Science Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.03.018.
  • Shapley MD, Ito E and Forester FM (2010) Negative correlations between Mg:Ca and total dissolved solids in lakes: False aridity signals and decoupling mechanisms for paleohydrologic proxies. Geology 38: 427-430, doi: 10.1130/G30718.1
  • Zhao C, Yu ZC, Zhao Y and Ito E (2009) Possible orographic and solar controls of Late Holocene centennialscale moisture oscillations in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau.Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 36, L21705, doi:10.1029/2009GL040951.
  • Ito E and Forester RM (2009) Changes in continental ostracode shell chemistry, uncertainty of cause. Hydrobiologia. 620:1-15. DOI: 10.1007/s10750-008-9622-7.
  • Stevens LR, Ito E and Wright HE, Jr. (2008) Variations in effective moisture at Lake Zeribar, Iran during the last glacial period and Holocene, inferred from the d18O values of authigenic calcite. In The palaeoecology of Lake Zetribar and surrounding areas, Western Iran, during the last 48,000 years (eds Wasylikowa K and Witkowski A ). Diatom Monographs Vol. 8, 283-302. ARG Gantner Verlag K.G,
  • Chen FH, Yu ZC, Yang ML, Ito E, Wang SM, Madsen DB, Huang XZ, Zhao Y, Sato T, Birks HJB, Boomer I, Chen JH, An CB and Wünnemann B (2008) Holocene moisture evolution in arid central Asia and its out-of-phase relationship with Asian monsoon history. Quaternary Science Reviews. 27:351-364.
  • Shapley MD, Ito E and Donovan JJ (2009) Holocene hydroclimate inferred from carbonate mineral endogenesis within a groundwater flow-through lake, northern Rocky Mountains, USA. The Holocene: 19:523-535, DOI: 10.1177/0959683609104029.
  • Shapley MD, Ito E and Donovan JJ (2008) Isotopic evolution and climate paleorecords: modeling boundary effects in groundwater-dominated lakes. Journal of Paleolimnology.39: 17-33. DOI 10.1007/s10933-007-9092-3
  • Wang XF, Auler AS, Edwards RL, Cheng H, Ito E, Wang YJ, Kong XG and Solheid M (2007) Millennial-scale precipitation changes in southern Brazil over the past 90,000 years. Geophysical Research Letters 34: L23701, doi:10.1029/2007GL031149.
  • Wang XF, Edwards RL, Auler AS, Cheng H and Ito E (2007) Millennial-Scale Interhemispheric Asymmetry of Low-Latitude Precipitation: Speleothem Evidence and Possible High-Latitude Forcing. In “Ocean Circulation: Mechanisms and Impacts” Geophysical Monograph Series 173, American Geophysical Union. pp 279-294
  • Person MA, Roy P, Ito E, Wright H, Morin P, Gutowski B (WJ), Winter T, Rosenberry D. (2007) Hydrologic response of the Crow Wing Watershed, Minnesota, to mid-Holocene climate change. Geological Society of America Bulletin. 119:363-376.
  • Wang XF, Auler RS, Edwards RL, Cheng H, Ito E, Solheid M (2006) Interhemispheric Anti-phasing of Rainfall during the Last Glacial Period. Quaternary Science Reviews. 25:3391-3403. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2006.02.009
  • Ito E, Wright HE, Jr and Schwalb A (2006) Timing of atmospheric precipitation in the Zagros Mountains inferred from a multi-proxy record from Lake Mirabad, Iran.Quaternary Research 66:494-500.
  • Shapley MD, Ito E, and Donovan JJ, (2005) Endogenic Calcium Carbonate Flux in Groundwater-Controlled Lakes: Implications for Lacustrine Paleoclimate Records.Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 69:2517-2533.
  • Ito E, De Deckker P and Eggins SM (2003) Ostracodes and their shell chemistry: Implications for paleohydrologic and paleoclimatologic applications. In Bridging the Gap: Trends in the Ostracode Biological and Geological Sciences (eds Park, LE and Smith AJ), The Paleontological Society Papers, 9:119-151.
  • Yu Zicheng, Ito E, Engstrom DR and Fritz, SC (2002) A 2100-year decadal resolution trace-element and stable-isotope record from Rice Lake in the glaciated Great Plains.The Holocene. 12:605-617.

Recent Research Support

  • 2007-2011, 2010-2015 Facility Support: National Lacustrine Core Repository and Initial Core Analysis Laboratory (LacCore) NSF-EAR
  • 2011-2012 RAPID: US Contribution to ICDP Dead Sea Deep Drill Core Project (DSDDP) NSF-EAR
  • 2011-2015 The late Quaternary paleohydrology of Lake Kinneret: brine - freshwater interaction.  United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
  • 2009-2014 Collaborative Project: Track 2: Manoomin, investigating the past, present, and future conditions of wild rice lakes on the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation (lead PI) NSF-EAR
  • 2010-2012 Acquisition of SEM-EDX and upgrade of petrographic microscopy to enhance rapid sediment characterization at LacCore, the National Lacustrine Core Facility NSF-EAR
  • 2006-2011 Collaborative Research: CoreWall - Integrated Environment for Interpretation of Geoscientific Data from Sediment and Crystalline Cores NSF-OCE
  • 2006-2010 Acquisition of a New Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer System for Environmental and Paleoclimatic Research NSF-EAR