Dragonfly Mercury Monitoring

Citizen Science at Work

This community engagement effort puts mercury research into the hands of local high school students to educate them about mercury in our world and the importance of clear, data-based scientific research and communication to mitigate mercury risks. We work with science classrooms in high schools across New Hampshire and Vermont in an adaptation of a program initially designed by the Schoodic Education Research Center (SERC) and Dr. Sarah Nelson at the University of Maine. Participating students collect samples, ask relevant research questions, analyze data, and present their results. Current and past participants for the Dragonfly Project include Pelham High School (Pelham, NH), Gorham High School (Gorham, NH), Stevens High School (Claremont, NH), Rivendell Academy (Orford, NH), Woodstock High School (Woodstock, VT), Hartford High School (Hartford, VT), and Mascoma Valley Regional High School (Canaan, NH). Dartmouth SRP is also an Academic Partner for the National Park Service Dragonfly Mercury Project, a collaboration between the Park Service, the US Geological Survey and the Appalachian Mountain Club, which similarly evolved from the Acadia Learning Program.

Project 2 researchers work directly with local school classrooms, leading class sessions about the mercury cycle, risks to wildlife and people, and local and global sources of mercury. Students collect their own dragonfly larvae samples which are processed and sent to the Trace Element Analysis Laboratory at Dartmouth. Dragonfly larvae are thought to be good representatives of methylmercury biomagnification in local ecosystems, as they are predatory and do not move between water bodies. Dragonfly Larvae as Biosentinels of Hg Bioaccumulation in Northeastern and Adirondack Lakes: Relationships to Abiotic Factors. Once the samples are analyzed for mercury concentration, the students use the results to examine trends in their data and generate their own conclusions about the fate of mercury in their local streams. The project culminates in January with a poster session where students present their findings to teachers and families. January 2020 poster session information. More detailed information on this work is provided in this poster.  

Please contact Kate Buckman (Kate.L.Buckman@dartmouth.edu) if you are interested in bringing this project into your classroom.