Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scientists Study Mercury Pollution With Dragonfly Larvae

The Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation (ALSC) recently completed collections of dragonfly larvae in acid rain sensitive Adirondack surface waters in a new study of mercury pollution.

ALSC staff assisted Dr. Sarah Nelson of the University of Maine Mitchell Center and School of Forest Resources, and collaborators at the SERC Institute, Maine Sea Grant, the USGS Mercury Research Lab, and Dartmouth College, who have been developing the concept of using dragonfly larvae as bio-sentinels for mercury concentrations in northeast lakes and streams. Dragonfly larvae or immature dragonflies live in the water for the first year or years of their lives.
“This project easily fit our mission as an organization,” says James Dukett, Program Manager for the ALSC. “We were happy to participate, and look forward to Dr. Nelson’s mercury analysis of dragonfly larvae.”

The project will study dragonfly larvae mercury and lake water mercury in a statistical set of lakes across the Northeast (New England states plus New York).

“Our work has been using dragonfly larvae as bio-sentinels – to help us understand which types of watersheds and waterbodies seem to have greater mercury,” Nelson said. “The work will help us understand if we can model mercury sensitivity in lakes and their food webs, and if dragonfly larvae are good indicators of that sensitivity.”

Mercury is a natural element but is found in elevated levels locally, largely due to fossil fuel emissions in the mid-west. Mercury travels far in the atmosphere and often lands in remote locations worldwide far from it’s source.

The lakes that were sampled are part of the ALSC’s Adirondack Long-Term Monitoring program, which receives support from the New York State Energy Research Development Authority, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The ALSC is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with headquarters in Ray Brook, New York. The ALSC has collected, analyzed, prepared data, and worked with the scientific community for over 25 years on projects related to monitoring the conditions in the natural ecosystems of the Adirondack Park and New York State.

The data collected and analyzed by the ALSC has and continues to be utilized as a sources for the development of State and Federal emission control policies and air transport regulations.

Photo: Sam Edmonds of University of Maine sampling at a remote Adirondack pond (courtesy Jennifer McKay, UMaine).

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3 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    I wonder why dragon fly larvae would be better than just looking at fish? I suppose mercury is metabolized differently in these organisms. Just curious what the advantage might be. One is that you will find them in streams where fish are harder to come by.

  2. Stephen Diehl says:

    Has the study group considered using dragonfly exuviae as well?

  3. Joey says:

    Where does the actual mercury consist? where exactly in the body?