Student Research Projects

Mercury Analysis of Oyster Tissue, Sediment, and Water Samples from an Urban Sub-Estuary

Student Melinda Hopper
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Chemistry
Course CHEM 480


This study was conducted to monitor a local body of water and to determine the effect of oysters on water quality. The purpose is to determine whether oyster restoration can help the quality of the water and whether this site is an ideal location for restoration. Water, oyster, and sediment samples were collected over a year long period at 4 different sites. Oyster and sediment samples were dried and acid digested. Each sample was run through an ICP-MS to identify the toxic metals found within them. High concentrations of lead, mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals were some of the main components. After the preliminary data was collected from the ICP-MS, samples were then run through a CV-AFS to get a more accurste mercury concentration. The water contained very low levels of mercury due to the tidal influence. However, the sediments and oyster tissue contained high concentrations of many of them, showing the effects of bioaccumulation. The oysters from the controlled farm contained the highest mercury concentrations. It also shows the value of the oysters as filters for the system, removing toxins and nutrients from the ecosystem.