Mercury in Western North America

Mercury Cycling, Bioaccumulation, and Risk Across Western North America:
A Landscape Scale Synthesis Linking Long-Term Datasets

Rock Creek Lake
Rock Creek Lake, located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.
Photo © Flickr-Bill Gracey.

Project Summary and Goals

In collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, BRI will lead a tri-national synthesis of mercury cycling and bioaccumulation throughout western North America in order to quantify the influence of land use, habitat, and climatological factors on mercury risk. With public land comprising more than 60 percent of the total surface area in the region, this knowledge is critical for more effectively managing resources to reduce mercury impacts.

The success of BRI’s efforts to assess environmental mercury deposition in the northeastern United States and Canada (2001-05), and then in the Great Lakes region (2008-11), has led to a new initiative for North America that will include mercury studies in the western regions of the U.S. and Canada, as well as in parts of Mexico.

This initiative will begin a holistic synthesis of the spatiotemporal patterns of mercury in abiotic and biotic resources across the region from data collected over the past few decades. The work will also include a formal analysis of factors driving mercury methylation and accumulation and its resulting risks.

BRI is coordinating an interdisciplinary international team of scientists and policy experts to accomplish these goals across such an expansive area. While the main focus will address large landscape questions, we will also examine the exposure and effects of mercury on fish and wildlife.

Geographical focus of the Mercury Cycling, Bioaccumulation, And Risk Across Western North America:  A Landscape Scale Synthesis Linking Long-Term Datasets Project
From the data synthesis, researchers will explore the linkages between mercury
cycling and land use, biogeochemistry, climate, human health and public policy.

Geographic Focus

The tri-national project, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico, will encompass the largest mercury synthesis undertaken to date by BRI.

Principal Investigators

Project Updates

The WNAMS Organizing Team hosted an information and discussion webinar on April 10, 2013. Click here to view a pdf of the webinar. Please contact David Buck, Ph.D. if you have any questions.

February 2013 Newsletter
April 2012 Newsletter

News and Project Links

Mercury Connections Western North America was featured in the Brooks Rand Labs newsletter.

Proposed Project Timeline

The scope of the project is expected to take about three to four years to complete; the primary results of this initiative will then be documented in a number of scientific papers. These papers will be published in a special issue of at least one journal to provide a comprehensive overview of the sources, cycling, and impacts of mercury in the western region of North America.

October 2011 — A preliminary meeting to determine the scope of the project was held in Golden, Colorado in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Park Service (thanks to a generous grant from National Park Service's Air Division office).

September 2012 — First USGS Powell Center Meeting by invitation only, Fort Collins, Colorado.

November 2012 — Webinar for State and Provincial representatives and contacts representing state environmental and health departments.

February 2013 — Mercury data accumulation complete.

April 2013 — Data organization and standardization complete.

September 15-20, 2013 — Second USGS Powell Center Meeting (by invitation only), Fort Collins, Colorado. Data analysis and conference quality presentations for each manuscript.

March or April 2014 — A third USGS Powell Center Meeting. Draft manuscripts completed and initial integration of synthesis results.

September 2014 — Final manuscripts distributed among participants for integration.

November 2014 — Manuscripts submitted to scientific journals.

November 9-13, 2014 — Special session at SETAC North America (Vancouver, B.C.).

July 2015 — Special session at 12th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant.

2012 Project Workshop at USGS Powell Center

During the week of September 10, 2012, 29 scientists gathered at the John Wesley Powell Center in Fort Collins, Colorado to synthesize, summarize, and analyze mercury data from across western North America. The meeting also presented researchers the opportunity to address complex questions related to mercury fate and transport in the western ecosystems. The larger group was divided into three subgroups (Fish and Wildlife, Biogeochemistry, and Sources) to allow researchers to address specific questions related to their expertise. From the meeting, 26 high priority manuscripts were identified and outlined, and each was assigned a lead author.

A complete summary of the project workshop, detailing the daily discussions, the questions guiding the synthesis, and the tentatively proposed manuscript titles, can be found in the summary document.

Members of the Powell Center meeting and the additional working participants can find more information and updates on the progress on the MyUSGS WNAMS home page. Weekly updates and announcements will be shared through the WNAMS site.

For more information about this project and how to participate contact: David Buck, Ph.D.