Continental ostracode occurrences reflect salinity, solute composition, temperature, flow conditions, and other environmental properties of the water they inhabit. Their occurrences also reflect the variability of many of these environmental parameters. Environmental tolerance indices (ETIs) offer a new way to express the nature of an ostracode's environment. As defined herein, ETIs range in value from zero to one, and may be calculated for continuous and binary variables. For continuous variables such as salinity, the ETI is the ratio of the range of values of salinity tolerated by an ostracode to the total range of salinity values from a representative database. In this investigation, the database of continuous variables consists of information from 341 sites located throughout the United States. Binary ETIs indicate whether an environmental variable such as flowing water affects ostracode presence or absence. The binary database consists of information from 784 sites primarily from Illinois, USA. ETIs were developed in this investigation to interpret paleohydrological changes implied by fossil ostracode successions. ETI profiles may be cast in terms of a weighted average, or on presence/absence. The profiles express ostracode tolerance of environmental parameters such as salinity or currents. Tolerance of a wide range of values is taken to indicate shallow water because shallow environments are conducive to thermal variability, short-term water residence, and the development of currents from wind-driven waves.