“Melting glaciers as a source of mercury and other trace metals do high elevation ecosystems in the Wind River Range, Wyoming”
Greg Carling, Dept. of Geological Sciences
1. Evaluation of Academic Objectives
The purpose of this project is to evaluate the chemistry of proglacial streams in the Wind River Range of Wyoming to develop baseline criteria of mercury and other trace metal concentrations in glacial meltwater. Specific objectives include: 1) quantify fluxes of mercury and other trace elements in glacier melt and 2) evaluate relative contributions of trace elements from glacier melt, groundwater, snowmelt, and water-rock interactions.
Through our field work during summer 2015 we were successfully able to collect a sufficient number of water samples from glaciers in the Wind River Range to be able to address this objectives. This was a major field effort that took months of planning and two weeks of very demanding field work. We are still completing laboratory work and compiling the results, but I expect to complete a manuscript with multiple student authors by the end of 2016. Our preliminary results indicate that we will be able to meet the academic objectives outlined in the proposal.
2. Evaluation of Mentoring Environment
This project allowed for an excellent mentoring environment because of the amount of field work involved to collect water samples in the Wind River Range. I spent two full weeks in the field with five undergraduate students during August 2015. This provided an excellent opportunity to get to know each of the students personally and train them in geology field work and water sampling. Three of these students have since started in the graduate program in our department, and one other student will likely start in the graduate program in Fall 2016. The field experience they gained through this project will help them tremendously as they begin field work for their master’s thesis projects.
I also spent a significant amount of time in the laboratory with several undergraduate students to prepare for the field work and analyze samples after returning from the field. This work included troubleshooting analytical procedures and interpreting results. This experience will benefit each of these students as they continue into graduate school and into their careers. Further, as I continue to work with these students on papers and conference presentations, they will be able to see a project through from the beginning to the end. This process is invaluable training for completing a thesis project.
3. List of Students and Academic Deliverables
Students who participated in this project include:
- Michelle Meadows (BS 2014; MS expected 2017)
- Eric Johnson (BS 2014; MS expected 2017)
- Hannah Checketts (BS 2015; MS expected 2017)
- Brian Packer (BS 2015; MS expected 2017)
- Kimberly Sowards (BS 2015; MS expected 2017)
- Colin Hale (BS expected 2016)
- Cameron Harrison (BS expected 2016)
- Brandon Rogers (BS expected 2017)
- Benjamin Barton (BS expected 2017)
This project helped provide valuable field and laboratory experience for Hannah Checketts, Brian Packer, and Kimberly Sowards, who are graduate students in geology. This experience is invaluable preparation for their master’s thesis work. Colin Hale also gained valuable experience working on this project and will likely enter the geology graduate program this fall.
At least two publications and multiple conference presentations will come out of this project. One paper is in preparation for publication in the top-tier journal Environmental Research Letters that will include Cameron Harrison as a co-author, and another paper is in preparation for the top-tier Journal of Hydrology that will include Hannah Checketts, Brian Packer, Kimberly Sowards, Colin Hale, Brandon Rogers, and Benjamin Barton as co-authors. Conference presentations from this project include:
- Harrison, C., Carling, G.T., 2014. Melting glaciers: A source of mercury and other trace elements to high elevation ecosystems at Grand Teton National Park? BYU CPMS Student Research Conference.
- Harrison, C., Carling, G.T., 2014. Melting glaciers: A source of mercury and other trace elements to high elevation ecosystems at Grand Teton National Park? Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research.
- Carling, G.T., Fernandez, D.P., and Tingey, D.G., 2014. Trace elements in glacial meltwater at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Contributions from atmospheric deposition and other sources. Abstract H13K-1236, AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
- Carling, G.T., Tingey, D.G., Fernandez, D.P., Packer, B.N., and Selck, B.J., 2015. Trace metals in glacial meltwater and proglacial streams at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Contributions from atmospheric deposition and other sources. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 47(4):5.
- Barton, B., Packer, B., Carling, G.T., 2016. Mercury contributions from glacier melt in the Wind River Range, Wyoming. BYU CPMS Student Research Conference.
4. Results and Findings of the Project
Because we only recently completed the field work for this project in August 2015, the lab results from our samples have not all been completed yet. Preliminary results show that mercury concentrations are highest in snowmelt samples and lowest in proglacial streams, indicating that glacier melt is a significant source of mercury to downstream ecosystems (as hypothesized). We will continue to investigate mercury concentrations, trace metal concentrations, field parameters, and isotopic data as we develop papers from this project.
5. Description of How Budget was Spent
This project had a total budget of $20,000. Expenses are outlined in the table below:
|Undergraduate wages||Wages for Brian Packer, Hannah Checketts, and Colin Hale||$6150|
|Supplies||Supplies for field work; laboratory analyses||$10,150|
|Travel||Field work van rental and food; conference travel for Brian Packer||$3,700|