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Student Research Projects

Is Mercury Deposition on Quercus virginiana Correlated to Sea Spray Deposition?

Student Sherie Coleman, '17
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course EES 270: Environmental Chemistry


Atmospheric deposition is the most significant contributor of mercury on land and the oceans. Industrial age anthropogenic processes have doubled mercury concentrations affecting many ecosystems (UNEP, 2015). Mercury (Hg) can be transported over long distances and then transformed into methylmercury, which is bioaccumulated in the food chain and is a neurotoxin (Huang, 2015). Sea Spray Aerosol (SSA), which deposits on leaves, is thought to adsorb atmospheric Hg(g), thus increasing Hg deposition on leaf surfaces. To test this hypothesis, we measured the concentration of Hg and SSA on Quercus virginiana leaves located 160, 237 and 310 meters from the Chesapeake Bay. Analysis did not support our expectation since the highest mercury levels were obtained from the tree furthest from the ocean. Uneven impacts from other Hg sources of differences in exposure and airflow may have caused the observed differences in Hg deposition.