Assessing the Toxic Effects of Mercury Transfer From Aquatic to Terrestrial Ecosystems in the Peruvian Amazon


My Tinker Grant funded a preliminary study into the movement of mercury from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems, downstream of gold mining operations in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. I collected adult aquatic insects and arachnids to test for the presence of mercury in impacted (previously mined) and non-impacted sites. The objective of this study was to establish differences in mercury concentrations between impacted and unimpacted sites and to identify multiple lakes and streams where I could sample in future field seasons. My experience was fruitful thanks to a collaboration with local NGOs in Peru and I would highly recommend that researchers working in similar areas reach out and find local partners prior to conducting their research. After my preliminary field research, I feel I have a better sense of the logistical challenges and potential setbacks that I will likely encounter when I return for the next field season. I think this trip provided invaluable experience that will facilitate the completion of my dissertation research. The results of my pilot study have both an immediate importance for me in deciding where to sample next year and also for the local research institute that I am partnering with. The transfer of mercury from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems is not well understood and the pathway of transfer from insects to spiders has not yet been established in this area. The institute I am working with is trying to remediate and reforest mining-impacted areas, thus the results of my study will help them better understand which areas are contaminated with mercury.

Jimena Diaz Leiva
Publication date: 
August 18, 2017
Publication type: 
Student Research