University of Alaska Southeast

UAS Researchers to Measure Mercury in Glacier Bay

Juneau, Alaska
Date of Press Release: June 14, 2007

Prominent mercury researcher Dr. Daniel Engstrom is teaming with University of Alaska Southeast Professor of geochemistry Sonia Nagorski on a UAS-led research project to measure mercury within the watersheds of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The National Park Service funded research is part of UAS contribution to the International Polar Year effort to gain knowledge about Earth's Polar Regions.

Dr. Engstrom is the Director of the St. Croix Watershed Research Station in Minnesota. His research centers on long-term environmental change, particularly the effects of human activities on water quality, atmospheric chemistry, and biogeochemical processes on a global scale. Dr. Engstrom’s studies bring him to diverse regions, such as Southeast and Arctic Alaska, New England, Newfoundland, and Florida to measure changes in the amount of atmospheric mercury that has accumulated on the earth’s surface over time.

The commercial fishing and tourism industries rely on Alaska’s image as a pristine refuge. While Alaska is an insignificant contributor of pollutants, global sources are on the rise. Mounting evidence suggests that pollutants, such as mercury and DDT, are spreading globally in the earth’s atmosphere and are being deposited and possibly concentrated in Alaska’s waters.

China’s rapid modernization and economic growth is being largely powered by coal, which emits high levels of mercury into the atmosphere. How much of that mercury is deposited in Southeast Alaska is still unknown. Drs. Engstrom and Nagorski will lead a team of researchers to determine the extent to which mercury and other contaminants have found their way into the watersheds of Southeast Alaska.

The research team will be sampling water, fish, sediment, and invertebrates in at least a dozen streams in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve during the week of June 18th. The team also hopes to determine which landscapes are most sensitive to the pollutants. This research will contribute to a better understanding of the impact contaminants play in intertidal and marine ecosystems.

Other members of the scientific team include John Hudson, a Juneau-based aquatic ecologist, John DeWild of the US Geological Survey’s Wisconsin District Mercury lab, Eran Hood, UAS Assistant Professor of Hydrology, and Nick Schlosstein, a UAS environmental science student.

Contacts:

UAS Professor of Geochemistry Sonia Nagorski

University of Alaska Southeast

(907) 796-6580

Kevin Myers

University of Alaska Southeast

(907) 796-6530