Live blog: Mercury in the Arctic Ocean

We’re excited to feature a group of ResearchGate members investigating mercury levels in the Arctic Ocean this summer.

The three mercury teams will post updates to our blog during their multi-ship operation. 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 (click on the links to track their location): 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 CCGS 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 (read more about it on the GEOTRACES blog).

Blogging for you from way up North:


From RV Healy (US):


Carl Lamborg is an assistant professor at the University of Santa Cruz, California.

Chad Hammerschmidt is an associate professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Wright State University, Ohio. Alison Agather is a graduate student at the same department.

Katlin Bowman is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Santa Cruz, Californa. She’ll also be blogging at Huffington Post about the trip. Check out her first entry on why it’s so important we learn more about Arctic mercury. 

From RV Polarstern (Germany):


Lars-Eric Heimbürger is a chemical oceanographer at the University of Bremen, Germany. We’ve previously covered how Lars-Eric discussed the best measuring process with peers on the network to prepare for the trip.

 From CCGS Amundsen (Canada):


Feiyue Wang is professor in the environmental chemistry and biochemistry group at the University of Manitoba, Canada.

Kanthleen Munson is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Earth Observation Science at the University of Manitoba, Canada.

Ashley Elliott, Kang Wang, Wen Xu and are graduate students at the University of Manitoba, Canada. 

From the lab:


Amina Schartup is a research fellow at Harvard University’s school of public health. She’s trying to understand the chemical and biological processes that regulate the fate of contaminants we release into the environment.

Anne Soerensen is a postdoctoral research fellow at the department of environmental science and analytical chemistry at the University of Stockholm. 

Look out for live updates from the Arctic soon, and until then, ship ahoy!

Feature image courtesy of Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center