Atmospheric Mercury Measurements

I was going through some photos on my computer this weekend and realized that some of you might be interested in hearing a little bit about my husband’s work.  He is currently working on a project with several other scientists from around the world focused on advancing the technology for measuring atmospheric mercury.  I decided to take a break from my typical ramblings to share some pictures of his work.  These pictures are from one of his trips to Boulder this fall where he spent most of his days working from an aircraft.  He was measuring atmospheric mercury over the southwestern U.S. with an advanced measurement system developed by his collegues at the University of Washington.  The instrument detects elemental mercury by cold vapor atomic fluorescence.

It is configured to provide high-time resolution measurements of oxidized mercury compounds.  Due to their relatively high solubility and chemical reactivity, these compounds readily deposit to Earth’s surface, and oxidized mercury deposition is thought to be the primary mechanism for mercury contamination in ecosystemes throughout the globe.  At present, the distribution of oxidized mercury in the atmosphere, including the primary chemical forms, is poorly understood.  As a result, large uncertainties exist in our understanding of how mercury cycles throught the environment.  The UW instrument, named the DOHgS (Dual channel Oxidized Hg System) was first tested aboard the NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) C-130 and is now being further tested in Reno, NV.  Here are some shots from his Boulder trip.

And the view:

The mercury instrument is his most recent work.  Let me know if you’re interested in hearing about some of the other instruments he’s worked on/built.  I would be happy to direct you to one of his papers 🙂 .  This project especially excited me because of my interest in environmental medicine, specifically heavy metal toxicology.  So far, its been a great opportunity for me to get a more well rounded understanding of mercury toxicology.

A special thanks to my husband for all of his input, edits and of course the photos!!  (All taken with a cell phone camera.)  Happy Monday everyone.