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Peter Minchella - Microbial Ecology

Colgate University, New York

Microbial Activity in Kirkpatrick Marsh: Links to Methylmercury Production

Mercury methylation transforms inorganic mercury into a bio-accumulating neurotoxin.  Sulfate-reducing bacteria, which thrive in tidal-influenced salt marshes, are a key microorganism in the methylation process.  Bulk microbial activity and sulfide concentration profiles were examined in Kirkpatrick Marsh in an effort to determine areas with high potential for mercury methylation.  A study site in the upper marsh yielded high bulk microbial activity that corresponded with increasing sulfate concentrations indicating high potential for methylmercury production.  Last minute data regarding pore water methylmercury indicated the upper marsh site had relatively high concentrations, thus signifying bulk microbial activity and sulfide profiles may act as and indication or potential for methylmercury production.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduates