Mercury pollution is widespread and knows no borders. Since its inception, BRI has been a leader in research designed to understand the exposure and effects of mercury in ecosystems. Mercury concentrations in fish and wildlife in the United States and across the globe are known to routinely exceed human and wildlife health thresholds.
At present, scientists must rely on limited information to understand and quantify the critical linkages among mercury emissions, deposition, environmental response, and potential wildlife and human health concerns.
BRI is investigating mercury concentrations and associated effects in many species of fish and wildlife around the world. Areas of greater concern, known as biological mercury hotspots, are typically related to aquatic and wetland ecosystems. BRI discovered that the biomagnification of methylmercury in invertivores (e.g., bats and songbirds) is just as great and problematic as in piscivores (e.g., otters and loons).
For an overview booklet about our Center for Mercury Studies, click here.
Mercury policy development, implementation, and associated monitoring rely on accurate and neutral science to improve certainty. The Center for Mercury Studies strives to meet these scientific requirements through its leading work on the topics and projects below.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Major highlights of the Convention include a ban on new mercury mines and the phase-out of existing ones, control measures on air emissions, and regulations for artisanal and small-scale gold mining. BRI is helping countries meet the requirements of the convention through assisting with Minamata Initial Assessments and mercury inventories, reducing mercury use in ASGM practices, and evaluating effectiveness through global mercury biomonitoring.
Mercury Connections is BRI's series of synthesis projects that bring together environmental and biotic mercury data from across North America to better understand spatial and temporal trends in mercury accumulation and deposition. Since 2005, we have conducted four Mercury Connections syntheses, including in Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada, the Great Lakes Region, Western North America, and New York State. Each Mercury Connections synthesis has culminated in a series of scientific publications, as well as a Mercury Connections report, used to inform decision makers and regulators in the critical process of developing and regulating policy.
Sampling broadly throughout the landscape helps biologists identify “hotspots” of contaminant exposure, and sampling annually helps us determine if contaminant levels are changing over time. Such information has proven pivotal in guiding policy decisions to regulate pollutants. Many BRI studies on taxonomic groups and ecosystems include a mercury component:
While BRI is focused on compiling and generating new scientific data, contributing to global mercury policy and communicating technical information to decision makers and others are critical components of our approach and philosophy.
BRI’s Wildlife Mercury Lab can analyze tissues, such as feather, fur, blood, muscle, liver, talon tips, fish, eggs, and human hair using its Direct Mercury Analyzer for total mercury.
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