Biogeochemical Cycling

July 1 - July 12
SSEP 2013
"What's a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking
through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know
what's going on."
Researchers
Monique Barksdale
Susanna Barrett
Emily Cai
Madeline Chen
Ioanna Denis
Emma Dong
Asia Kanwal
Rhea Khilnani
Angela Montero
Chandler Palmer
Anna Ren
Avra Saslow
Simone Tucker
Elinor Weissberg
Nicole Wilkinson
-Jacques Yves Cousteau
T.A.
Clare Jacobson
Professor
Dr. Merritt
picture heerreeee :3
Hg
Mercury is a toxic natural occurring
substance in the environment. There is one
form of mercury that is extremely dangerous
called methylmercury. It is formed by
anaerobic bacteria and bioaccumulates
through the food chain to the fish and in the
end are eaten by people.
Why
Avery
Brook?
The watershed
provides a
significant amount
of drinking water for
the city of
Northampton
What We Did
Sediment
Beaver pond cores
Trees
Leaf, soil and bark
samples from coniferous
and deciduous trees
Aquatic Insects
Dobsonfly, Dragonfly
larvae and leeches
(big&small)
Terrestrial Insects
Moth, ant, beetle,
slug, and snail
Finding the Mercury Concentration
PCR
Polymerase chain reaction is a
reaction using heat changes and
enzymes to copy certain parts of
a DNA strand in order to test for
the existence of a specific gene.
PCR was used to isolate the dsr
gene, found exclusively in sulfur
reducing bacteria. Three of the
four samples that were tested
using the PCR showed sulfur
reducing bacteria (core samples
1, 3, and 4). This is important
because the sulfur reducing
bacteria methylates mercury,
which bioaccumulates in
organisms.
Trees
Bark: crushed samples of tree bark
Soil: sampled from the organic
layer near tree roots
Leaves: shredded
samples of tree leaves
Trees are among the first in the food chain, therefore they may provide insight on
environmental mercury levels
Sampled Trees
Yellow Birch
Betula
alleghaniensis
Sugar Maple
Acer saccharum
American Beech
Fagus grandifolia
American
Basswood
Tilia americana
Norway Spruce
Picea abies
Eastern Hemlock
Tsuga canadensis
bark
Mercury Concentrations in Tree Bark
m
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c
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0.0220ppm
0.149ppm
0.224ppm
0.00308ppm
0.193ppm
leaves
Mercury Concentrations in Tree Leaves
0.0371ppm
0.0426ppm
0.0790ppm
0.0446ppm 0.0385ppm
4.760ppm
Mercury Concentrations in Tree Leaves
m
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c
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leaves
0.0371ppm
0.0426ppm
0.0790ppm
0.0446ppm
0.0385ppm
soil
Mercury Concentrations in Soil Under Trees
m
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c
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p
p
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0.449ppm
0.373ppm
0.0204ppm
0.171ppm
0.370ppm
Soil vs. Bark vs. Leaf Mercury Concentrations
soil bark leaf
m
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c
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Some sulfur-reducing bacteria that exist in
the soil, along with little sunlight, can
account for high mercury concentrations.
Atmospheric mercury may be
caught by leaves but typically slides
off of their smooth surfaces.
Atmospheric mercury can get caught on
rough bark, but this mercury is not
methylated.
As mercury absorbed in the soil
travels up the tree and is stored,
the level of mercury concentration
decreases.
Terrestrial insects
● We hypothesized that lifespan and eating habits would
have an affect on mercury concentration
● Seven different terrestrial insect species were collected
Garden Snail Eyed Hawk Moth
Our Insect Samples
Agreeable Tiger Moth - Spilosoma congrua
Eyed-Hawk Moth - Smerinthus ocellatus
Dog Tick - Dermacentor variabilis
Black Beetle - Pterostichus melanarius
Black Ants - Monomorium minimum
Garden Snail - Helix aspersa
Slug - Arion distinctus
American Dog Tick
Agreeable Tiger Moth
Lifespan and Mercury
Concentrations
Lifespan (Years) Mercury Concentrations (ppm)
Snail (2.5 years) Black Ants
Dog Tick (2 years) Black Beetle
Slug (1.5 years) Snail (guts)
Eyed Hawk Moth (1.5 year) Agreeable Tiger Moth
Agreeable Tiger Moth (1 year) Slug
Black Beetle (0.6 year) Snail (foot)
Black Ants (0.25 year) Eyed-Hawk Moth
Dog Tick
MOST
LEAST
Conclusion
It appears that the higher up the food chain the insect
is, the higher the mercury concentration.
From our insect sampling, it seems that life span does
not affect the mercury concentration
Because insects are near the bottom of the food chain,
it is expected for there to be so little mercury in them.
However, insects are safe to eat!
Aquatic Insects
Our Group collected samples of 3 kinds of aquatic insects!
Leeches Macrobdella decora: A type of freshwater leech that
lives in lakes, marshes, and slow moving streams. They are
bloodsucking parasites that mostly feed off the blood of
newts, frogs, turtles, and mammals.
Dobsonfly Larvae: Feeds on small insects and is eaten by the
dragonfly
Dragonfly Larvae: The highest place on the food chain of all
our samples and as they mature they feed very intensely.
They eat many insects including dobsonfly larvae.
Dragonfly
Leeches
Hypothesis
Our hypothesis was that the dragonfly would
have the most mercury because it is the
highest on the food chain and therefore would
have collected more followed by the dobsonfly.
We were unsure of what the leeches mercury
levels would be.
?
Our Results!
Bioaccumulation in Fish
We followed the same steps as for our other
samples but instead tested many different kinds
and sizes of fish.
We assumed that the results would also show
that larger and older fish who were high on the
food chain would have more mercury.
Shrimp
Swordfish
Cod
Catfish
Canned Albacore
Canned Tuna
Tuna
Drum
Our Results
Take Away
● Before buying or eating fish, you should be
aware of your state's or country's fish
advisories
● If you are a growing child or a woman of
fertile age, especially pregnant women, do
not eat fish that have a high mercury
concentration
Thank you for listening!