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Mercury and Methyl-Mercury Movement in the Lake Champlain Basin

Study area:
Lake Champlain Basin, Vermont and New York

Project Summary:

The objective of this project is to establish the role of land use and high-flow events in the mobility of mercury (Hg) and methyl-mercury (MeHg) in the Lake Champlain Basin. This research will lead to a scientific journal article of both regional and international interest. Topics include: (1) A Hg and MeHg mass balance for the Lake Champlain basin; (2) Hg methylation potential as a function of upstream land use and hydrologic landscape position; (3) Hg and MeHg dynamics during high-flow events; and (4) Controls on Hg and MeHg transfers from the drainage basin to the Lake. This study combines a synoptic-survey mass-balance approach with targeted intensive watershed investigations of Hg and Me-Hg cycling.

This investigation has encompassed 5 years and will include 5 activities: (1) synoptic sampling of tributary stream sediments; (2) synoptic snowmelt surveys of tributary stream waters; (3) a three-year fixed-site monitoring program for major tributary stream waters; (4) intensive watershed investigations for targeted land uses/land covers; and (5) limited in-lake sampling of littoral waters and sediments. In year 1 (2001), we conducted a one-time sediment survey and a one-time spring snowmelt high-flow stream survey, and selected long-term stream monitoring sites. In year 2, we implemented the fixed-site monitoring program for major inflow tributaries and the outflow from the Lake. In year 3, additional major inflow tributaries were sampled as well as locations within the lake. In 2004, data began to be analyzed. In 2005, data analysis was completed and a draft journal paper prepared.

Project duration:
2000 - 2005

Lake Champlain Basin Program

Project chief:
James Shanley

Contact information:
Project number:


Dennis, I.F., Clair, T.A., Driscoll, C.T., Kamman, Neil, Chalmers, Ann, Shanley, J.B., Norton, S.A., and Kahl, Steve, 2005, Distribution patterns of mercury in lakes and rivers of northeastern North America: Ecotoxicology, v. 14, p. 113-124.

Shanley, J.B., Donlon, A.F., Scherbatsky, Timothy, and Keeler, G.J., 1999, Mercury cycling and transport in the Lake Champlain Basin, in T.O. Manley, and P.L. Manley, eds., Lake Champlain in transition: From research toward restoration: American Geophysical Union, Water Science and Application, v. 1, p. 277-299.

Shanley, J.B., Kamman , N.C. , Clair, T.A., and Chalmers, Ann, 2004, Physical controls on total and methylmercury concentrations in streams and lakes of the northeastern USA : Ecotoxicology, v. 14, p. 125-134.

Shanley, J.B., and Chalmers, A.T., 2012, Streamwater fluxes of total mercury and methylmercury into and out of Lake Champlain: Environmental Pollution, 161 (2012), p. 311-320. Available online 10 August 2011 [DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2011.07.006].

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
New Hampshire/Vermont Office, USGS, 331 Commerce Way, Pembroke, NH 03275, USA
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Last Updated January 8, 2013
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