THE MICROBIAL ECOLOGY LAB studies the biogeochemistry of mercury.

Mercury is a global pollutant. Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuel combustion and mining activities have emitted mercury into the atmosphere. Mercury is released into aquatic ecosystems as a result industrial processes like chorine, plastics and munitions production. As the only metal that is liquid at room temperature, mercury has been widely used in switches and thermometers.

In the aquatic environment, microorganisms can transform mercury into methylmercury. This form of the metal accumulates in food webs and causes significant risk to top predators – including humans – worldwide.

SERC's microbial ecology lab seeks to understand the microbial methylation process in ecosystems. We study where methylmercury is produced, under what conditions and by which microorganisms. We use this information to design effective controls for mercury pollution in the environment.


Long-term mercury monitoring at SERC


Studies of methylmercury production
in Chesapeake Bay



Dr. Cynthia Gilmour/ SeniorScientist

Smithsonian Environmental
Research Center

PO Box 28
Edgewater, Maryland 21037
Phone: 443-482-2498
Fax: 443-482-2380
Email:gilmourc@si.edu
Curriculum Vitae



METAALICUS: A whole-watershed Hg amendment study at the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario


Research on mercury biogeochemistry in the Florida Everglades