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The Use of Mercury Isotope Systematics to Fingerprint and Quantify the Cycling of Anthropogenic and Natural sources of Mercury at the Earth¿s Surface.


We propose to use mercury isotope ratios analysis as a tool to investigate natural and anthropogenic emissions of mercury into the environment. Similar to the profound insights that carbon and oxygen isotope systematics have brought to climate research, we aim to use variations in mercury isotopic compositions to fingerprint natural and anthropogenic sources, quantify isotope fractionation processes and provide new constraints on models of mercury cycling. With the recent development of multi-collector indu ctively coupled plasma mass spectrometry we have the ability to obtain the high precision necessary in constraining the isotopic dimension of mercury models. Three globally important anthropogenic mercury sources will be studied: i) the contribution of fos sil fuel burning and waste incineration to urban and regional environments, ii) the contribution of mercury, released during gold mining and deforestation in the Amazon basin, to the local and global mercury cycle and iii) the contribution of zinc smelter mine tailings at a former industrial site to the seasonal Hg flux into the Lot-Garonne-Gironde river system. Long-range transport of fluvial and atmospheric mercury has caused severe health impacts far away from the original emission point source. It is in the European and global communities¿ interest to better understand these adverse effects and if necessary coordinate and improve global environmental policies. The training objectives of the proposal are to let the researcher make the transition from PhD to all-round researcher in the field of environmental geochemistry. This transition involves developing a novel method for MIR analysis, applying the method to better understand global mercury cycling, gaining supervising experience and laying the collabor ative basis for post-fellowship research projects. For the EU this research theme offers an opportunity to support a socially relevant and urgently needed investigation at the frontier of isotope geosciences.

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