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James Russell

Associate Professor:
Geological Sciences
Phone: +1 401 863 6330
Phone 2: +1 401 863 3339

I seek to understand the patterns and causes of natural climate variability using paleoclimate records. I am particularly interested in the climate history of the tropics, including intertropical Africa and the El Niño Southern Oscillation system. My work involves the generation of high-resolution paleoclimate reconstructions using lake sediments, and synthesizing those records into regionally-coherent datasets to to test against climate models.


I received my Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of MN in 2004 and then completed a PostDoc at the Limnological Research Center, University of MN. My research focus is in Paleolimnology, especially large African lakes. I have studied the paleoclimatology of Lake Edward, Uganda-Congo; piston cores from Lake Bosumatwi, Ghana; piston cores and seismic data from Lake Tanganyika, Africa, and have developed methods for Paleolimnology analysis.


Tropical regions are a significant source of global atmospheric variability at annual to millennial time-scales, but are poorly understood in terms of their natural range of variability, as well as their sensitivity to global climate forcing. I am interested in the climate history of North America, in particular relationships between changes in solar output, sea surface temperatures, and drought in the Mid-west.

My work involves the generation of high-resolution paleoclimate reconstructions using lake sediments. In this work my group applies a variety of paleolimnological tools, including sedimentological, microfossil, and stable isotopic techniques. These tools may also be applied to lake sediments to investigate human impacts on lakes, biogeochemical processes, and a range of other phenomena.


2005: Best Dissertation in the Biological and Medical Sciences. University of Minnesota.

2000-2003: National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow. University of Minnesota.

1999-2000: Graduate School Fellow, University of Minnesota.


Geologic Society of America
American Geophysical Union
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Society of Limnology and Oceanography


GEOL 0240: Introduction to Earth System History

GEOL 1150: Limnology: The Study of Lakes

GEOL 1240: Stratigraphy and Sedimentation

GEOL 2350: Quarternary Climatology Seminar

GEOL 2920: High-Frequency Paleoclimate Variations and Coupled Modes (w/Y. Huang)

GEOL 2920: Climate Variations

Current Graduate Students:
William Daniels
Satrio Wicaksono

Funded Research

Recent Funding:
NSR-MRI. MRI: Acquisition of a Multi-Collector Inductively-Coupled Mass Spectrometer. Co-PI

NSF-P2C2. "Collaborative Research: Reconstructing millennial-scale trends and variability in western Pacific convection and hydrology from large lakes on Sulawesi, central Indonesia." Lead PI, collaborative with the University of Minnesota.

NOAA-CCDD. "High-frequency variations in the Indian Ocean Dipole during the past millennium reconstructed from East African and Indonesian lake sediment cores." Lead PI, collaborative with University at Albany.

ACS-PRF. The Methylation Index of Branched Tetraethers (MBT) as a paleotemperature proxy in lakes: investigation, calibration, and validation. PI.

NSF-EAR. Abrupt Climate Change during Marine Isotope Stage 3 in Southern Tropical Africa: Multiproxy reconstructions from Lake Tanganyika. PI.

National Geographic Society. Crater lakes in eastern Java, Indonesia: Archives of the History of the El Niño Southern Oscillation? PI.

Web Links

Curriculum Vitae

Download James Russell's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format