Science News

Live Blog from Arctic Ocean Researchers Analyzing Mercury Pathways

Researchers investigating mercury levels in the Arctic Ocean are posting live updates to the ResearchGate blog during multi-ship operation this summer. Readers are invited to take part in their journey as they analyze how mercury gets into the ocean, and how it turns into its most toxic form, methyl mercury.

The Arctic Ocean is the most rapidly changing region of our planet due to recent global warming. These climate-induced changes will change the biogeochemical cycling and therefore the distribution of many trace metals, including mercury. Mercury threatens wildlife and human health across the Arctic region. Though much is known about the source and dynamics of mercury in the atmosphere, the cause for the high mercury levels in arctic animals remains uncertain. This is mainly because observations on mercury dynamics in the waters of the Arctic Ocean are sparse – something the teams want to change.

The researchers are part of the international GEOTRACES programme. Their goal is to better understand the fate of key trace elements and isotopes in the ocean and their role in our changing environment. Three vessels are part of this trip: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy has embarked on the weekend, starting out from the Pacific and Bering Strait. The German research vessel (RV) Polarstern will leave port on August 17 from Tromsø, Norway. The Canadian CCGD Amundsen has already shipped on July 10 and was to enter the Arctic Ocean from the Labrador Sea through the Arctic Archipelago, but has since made a detour to Hudson Bay.

Meet the team and learn more about the project here.

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