Modern Day Gold Rush Turns Pristine Rainforests into Heavily Polluted Mercury Sinks

February 3, 2022
Jacqueline Gerson

Scientists record the highest levels of atmospheric mercury pollution in the world in a pristine patch of the Peruvian Amazon. A team of researchers led by Jacqueline Gerson, who completed her research as part of her Ph.D. at Duke, and Emily Bernhardt (Professor of Biology) contributed to this finding by providing the first measurements of terrestrial inputs, storage and impact of atmospheric mercury to forests and measurements of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury. Gerson also examined the patterns in mercury deposition in forested and deforested areas near Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining. 

Gerson emphasized that the the goal of this study is to highlight that the issues are far vaster than water pollution, and that we need to work with local communities to come up with ways for miners to have a sustainable livelihood and protect indigenous communities from being poisoned through air and water.

The funding for Gerson’s research has been provided—among others—by Duke Center for International&Global Studies/DUCIGS's Graduate Awards for Research & Training and by the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies at Duke University.

Read the article on Duke Today here.

Read more about Dr. Gerson and her research here.