Susan R. Zimmerman


Portrait of  Susan R. Zimmerman
  • Title
    Staff Scientist
  • Email
  • Phone
    (925) 422-8462
  • Organization

Research Interests

Lakes record a rich diversity of information about their environments, and thus are useful for reconstructing the history of many terrestrial processes. Geochronology underpins all such records, putting events into sequence, telling about causes and effects, and quantifying the rates at which changes happen. My research interests focus on lake records of past wetness, drought, and environmental change in the arid western U.S., seeking innovative ways to measure time at a resolution that allows paleorecords to be interpreted on human timescales. Current and future work also aims to develop ways to distinguish climatically driven changes in the paleoenvironment from the activities of California’s Indigenous people, and in particular the use of fire as a tool for tending the landscape.


  • GSA
  • AGU
  • Earth Science Women's Network (ESWN)
  • Geochemical Society
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Ph.D., Earth Sciences, Columbia University, 2006

B.S., Geology (summa cum laude), Dickinson College,1998

Ali, G. A. H., Lin, K., Hemming, S.R., Cox, S.E., Ruprecht, P., Zimmerman, S.R.H., Stine, S., Wang, X., 2022. Emergence of wet conditions in the Mono Basin of the Western U. S. coincident with inception of the Last Glaciation. GSA Bulletin, v134, p 2267-2279, doi: 10.1130/B36084.1.

Obrist-Farner, J., M. Brenner, J.R. Stone, L. Perez, M. Wojewodka, T. Bauersachs, A. Eckert, M. Locmelis, J. H. Curtis, S. R. H. Zimmerman, A. Correa-Metrio, L. Schwark, E. Duarte, A. Schwalb, P. G. Echeverria Galindo, and E. Niewerth, 2022. New estimates for the magnitude of the sea-level jump during the 8.2-ka event. Geology, v50 (1) p 86-90, doi: 10.1130/G49296.1.

Streib, L., Stone, J., Lyon, E., Quang, H., Yeager, K., Zimmerman, S., McGlue, M., 2021. Anthropogenic climate change has altered lake state in the Sierra Nevada (California, USA). Global Change Biology, doi: 10.111/gcb.15843.

Sahajpal, R., N.G. Hemming, A. A. Rouff, S. R. Hemming, S. Zimmerman, R. Sahajpal, Thermodynamic evaporation and freshwater mixing models to test salinity proxies for late Pleistocene lake levels, Mono Lake, CA, 2021. GSA Special Paper 536, From Saline to Freshwater: The Diversity of Western Lakes in Space and Time; Starratt, S.W. and Rosen, M. R., eds., doi: 10.1130/2021.2536(20).

Tunno, I., Zimmerman, S.R.H., Brown, T.A., Hassel, C.A., 2021. An improved method for extracting, sorting and AMS dating of pollen concentrates from lake sediment. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Paleoecology doi: 10.3389/fevo.2021.668676.

Rosen, M.R., Reidy, L., Starratt, S., Zimmerman, S., 2021. Middle Holocene hydrologic changes catalyzed by river avulsion in Big Soda Lake, Nevada, USA. In Rosen, M.R., Finkelstein, D., Park Boush, L., and Pla-Plueyo, S. (eds.) Limnogeology: Progress, Challenges and Opportunities: A Tribute to Beth Gierlowski-Kordesch, Syntheses in Limnogeology No. 2, Springer, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-66576-0_10.

Zimmerman, S. R., S. R. Hemming, S. Starratt, 2020. Holocene sedimentary architecture and paleoclimate variability at Mono Lake, CA. GSA Special Paper 536, From Saline to Freshwater: The Diversity of Western Lakes in Space and Time; Starratt, S.W. and Rosen, M. R., eds., doi:10.1130/2020.2536(19).

Zimmerman, S. R. H. and D. Wahl, 2020. Holocene paleoclimate change in the western United States: The importance of chronology in discerning patterns and drivers. Quat. Sci. Rev., v. 246, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2020106487.

Lyon, E., M. McGlue, A. Erhardt, S. Kim, J. Stone, S. Zimmerman, 2020. Late Holocene hydroclimate changes in the eastern Sierra Nevada revealed by a 4600-year paleoproduction record from June Lake, CA. Quat. Sci. Rev., v. 242, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106432.

Bonfils, C. J. W., B. D. Santer, J. C. Fyfe, K. Marvel, T. J. Phillips, S. R. H. Zimmerman, 2020. Human influence on joint changes in temperature, rainfall and continental aridity. Nature Climate Change, doi: 10.1038/s41558-020-0821-1.

Hodelka, B. N., M. M McGlue, S. Zimmerman, G. Ali, I. Tunno, Paleoproduction and environmental change at Mono Lake (eastern Sierra Nevada) during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, 2020. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 543, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.109565.

Lyon, E.C., M. M. McGlue, S. L. Kim, E. W. Woolery, J. R. Stone, S. R. H. Zimmerman, 2019. Sublacustrine geomorphology and modern sedimentation in a glacial scour basin, June Lake, eastern Sierra Nevada, USA. Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 89 (10), p. 919-934.

Zimmerman, S. R. H., T. A. Brown, C. Hassel, J. Heck, 2019. Testing pollen sorted by flow cytometry as the basis for high-resolution lacustrine chronologies. Radiocarbon, v. 61 n. 1, p 359-374.

Hidy, A. J., T. A. Brown, S. J. Tumey, S. Zimmerman, N. Gharibyan, M. Frank, G. Bench, 2017. A new 7Be AMS capability established at CAMS and the potential for large datasets. Nuclear Instruments and Materials-B, v. 414, 126-132.

Cvijanovic, I., B.D. Santer, C. Bonfils, D. D. Lucas, J.C.H. Chiang, S. Zimmerman, 2017. Seasonally ice-free Arctic favors dry California. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01907-4.

Antinao, J.-L., E. V. McDonald, E. J. Rhodes, N. Brown, W. Barrera, J.C. Gosse, and S. Zimmerman, 2016. Late Pleistocene-Holocene alluvial stratigraphy of southern Baja California, Mexico. Quat. Sci. Rev. v146, p 161-181.

Noble, P.J., G. I. Ball, S. H. Zimmerman, J. Maloney, S. B. Smith, G. Kent, K.D. Adams, R. E. Karlin, and N. Driscoll, 2016. Holocene paleoclimate history of Fallen Leaf Lake, CA, from geochemistry and sedimentology of unusually well-dated sediment cores. Quat. Sci. Rev, v 131 193-210.

Mensing, S. A., I. Tunno, L. Sagnotti, F. Florindo, P. Noble, C. Archer, S. Zimmerman, F.-J. Pavon-Carrasco, G. Cifani, S. Passigli, and G. Piovesan, 2015. 2700 years of Mediterranean environmental change in central Italy: A synthesis of sedimentary and cultural records to interpret past impacts of climate on society. Quat. Sci. Rev. v. 116, pp 72-94.

Crawford, J. N., S. A. Mensing, F. K. Lake, S. R.H. Zimmerman, 2015. Late Holocene fire and vegetation reconstruction from the western Klamath Mountains, California, USA: A multi-disciplinary approach for examining potential human land use impacts. The Holocene, DOI:10.1177/0959683615584205.

Bhattacharya, T., R. Byrne, H. Bohnel, K. Wogau, U. Kienel, B. L. Ingram, S. Zimmerman, 2015. Cultural implications of late Holocene climate change in the Cuenca Oriental, Mexico, Proc. Nat’l. Acad. Sci., v112 n6, 1693-1698. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1405653112.

Kirby, M.E., S.J. Feakins, C.A. Hiner, J. Fantozzi, S.R.H. Zimmerman, T. Dingemans, and S. A. Mensing, 2014. Tropical Pacific forcing of late-Holocene hydrologic variability in the coastal southwest United States.  Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 102, pp 27-38.

Zimmerman, S.R.H., E. Steponaitis**, S.R. Hemming, and P. Zermeño, 2012. Potential for accurate and precise radiocarbon ages in deglacial-age lacustrine carbonates. Quaternary Geochronology, v13, pp81-91.

Kirby, M.E., S.R. Zimmerman, W.P. Patterson, J.J. Rivera, 2012. A 9170-Year record of centennial-to-multi centennial scale pluvial events from coastal southwest North America: A role for atmospheric rivers. Quaternary Science Reviews, v46 pp57-65.

Sahajpal, R., S. Zimmerman, S. Datta, N.G. Hemming, and S.R. Hemming, 2011.Assessing Li and other leachable geochemical proxies for paleo-salinity in lake sediments from the Mono Basin, CA (USA). Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, v75 n24 7855-7863.

Zimmerman, S.R.H., S.R. Hemming, N.G. Hemming, P.B. Tomascak, and C. Pearl, 2011. High-resolution chemostratigraphic record of late Pleistocene lake-level variability, Mono Lake, CA. GSA Bulletin, v123 n11/12; 2320-2334.

Zimmerman, S.R., C. Pearl, S.R. Hemming, K. Tamulonis**, N.G. Hemming, S.Y. Searle**, 2011. Freshwater control of ice-rafted debris in the last glacial period at Mono Lake, California, USA. Quaternary Research, v 76; 264-271.

Zimmerman, S.H., S.R. Hemming, D.V. Kent, and S.Y. Searle**, 2006. Revised chronology for late Pleistocene Mono Lake sediments based on paleointensity correlation to the global reference curve. Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 252; 94-106.

  • LLNL PLS Directorate SPOT Award for External Review poster, August 2010
  • LLNL PLS Directorate SPOT Award for Post-doctoral Symposium Poster, June 2009
  • Comer Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow (2006-2007)
  • AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award, Paleomagnetics (2004)
  • GSA Limnogeology Division Kerry Kelts Award (2004)
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2000-2004)
  • Dickinson College Dept. of Geology Honors for B.S. thesis (1998)