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Center for Mercury Studies
Center for Mercury Studies

Mercury: Understanding and Addressing
a Global Threat

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 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.

Studies of Mercury Exposure and Effects in Taxa

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 those scientific requirements in the following ways:

The Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Minamata Convention on Mercury

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 projects related to this Convention include:

Global Mercury Observation System (GMOS)

Global Mercury Observation System (GMOS)

The primary goal of the Global Mercury Observation System (GMOS) is the establishment of a worldwide observation system by integrating ground-based monitoring sites, ad-hoc oceanographic cruise campaigns, and lower stratospheric and tropospheric studies, which can provide concentration data for mercury and its compounds in air and precipitation, as well as in marine ecosystems. This five-year project (2010-15) involves more than 20 institutions from around the globe.

Learn more about our project, Mercury Exposure in Lower Trophic Level Organisms in the Mediterranean Sea - GMOS/Fenice Cruise Campaign

Mercury Connections

Mercury Connections

Mercury Connections provides a model that fosters research collaboration among distinguished scientists across various disciplines and regions, as well as land-use managers, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions. The research, however, is only part of the story. BRI is also committed to bringing our scientific findings to the forefront of public awareness. The Mercury Connections reports are an important and necessary tool for decision makers and regulators in the critical process of developing and regulating policy.

Mercury Studies - BRI Taxonomic Programs

Mercury Studies - BRI Taxonomic Programs

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 include a mercury component:

Mercury Studies - Other BRI Programs

Mercury Studies - Other BRI Programs

Many of our programs that conduct research on ecosystems and ecological issues also include mercury studies. Current projects range from studying the biomagnification and bioaccumulation of mercury in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and how mercury contamination in wildlife potentially poses human health threats. Learn more about these programs:

Policy Outreach

Policy Outreach

While BRI is focused on compiling and generating new scientific data, communicating technical information to decision makers and others is a critical component of our approach and philosophy.

Mercury Air Transport and Fate Research Partnership Group

In partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), BRI is assisting in the process of developing a global mercury monitoring system, and was engaged in the deliberations for an internationally binding treaty for monitoring mercury as a global pollutant. Click here for BRI’s Scientific Communication Series: Mercury in the Global Environment.

Mercury Legislation in the United States
BRI is dedicated to providing sound scientific information to policymakers, helping to inform critical decisions regarding environmental health and integrity.

Government and Agency Briefings
The Ecological Society of America, in partnership with BRI, the Great Lakes Commission, and the Northeast-Midwest Institute, cosponsored a Congressional briefing entitled: “Mercury and Air Pollution Impacts on Ecosystems: Policy-Relevant Highlights from New Scientific Studies.”information.

BRI Scientific Reports

As BRI works with various clients on projects to examine mercury in specific ecosystems, we generate reports detailing our work and findings. To obtain a specific report, or details on our work, please contact BRI directly or use our Multimedia Library.

Laboratory Capabilities

LABORATORY CAPABILITIES

BRI’s Wildlife Mercury Lab can analyze tissues, such as feather, fur, blood, muscle, liver, talon tips, fish, and eggs, using its two Direct Mercury Analyzers for total mercury. 

Learn More >

 
Photo Credits: Header photo © Pavel Aleynikov-iStock. Study subjects: Northern Waterthrush © Ken Archer; Leach's Storm Petrel © Creative Commons-dmore10; Merlin © Ken Wright; Yellow-billed Loon © BRI-Carrie Gray; Yellow perch © Creative Commons-Andy Camper; Northern long-eared bat © Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International (www.batcon.org). BRI Lab © BRI.
Biodiversity Research Institute