July 18, 2019

The World As Our Classroom LOCAL: Twin State Mercury Project

The World As Our Classroom LOCAL: Twin State Mercury Project DATE: 12-24-2014

December 24, 2015- A new series for Hartford School District, The World As Our Classroom, will report on teacher-lead excursions into our local and global communities where students test their in-school learning in real-world applications.

For the first in this series, mark your calendars for an opportunity to partake in this phenomena firsthand: The Mercury Project Poster Session is Friday, January 9, 7pm-9pm at the Top of the Hop/Alumni Hall in Hanover, NH!

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 1.52.48 PM.png

Hartford High School is participating for its second year in the Twin State Mercury Project: In direct support of professors’ research at both Dartmouth College and University of Maine, students at Hartford, Woodstock and Claremont high schools gather mosquito nymphs from local watersheds. They take the larvae back to school labs and test for mercury concentration levels in these lowly-food-chain specimens. Their data is then passed along to the professors who synthesize the results and gain a better understanding of mercury levels in our surrounding environments concerned with bioaccumulation. If mercury levels are rising, that will, in turn, be an indicator to worry about humans’ ingestion of mercury through biomagnification. Scientists worry about rising mercury levels in our food sources due to associated negative health effects.

bioaccum v biomag.png

The poster session is a classic opportunity for scientists to share their most recent research with their colleagues. Meghan Wilson, Hartford High’s teacher-leader of the Mercury Project is thrilled to give her students the opportunity to experience a scientist’s process, from research to poster session, and provides parents with excellent information at the beginning of this semester-long project (see below).

We hope that you’re able to join our students as they share their findings and partake in this exciting, participatory-science, using the world as their laboratory!

-Alexis Nelson

Meghan Wilson’s Family Information Sheet:  Twin State Mercury Project

This school year your student will participate in the Twin State Mercury Project as a part of his/her science class.  This is the 5th consecutive year of this project and we’re excited to have you on-board! Please read below to learn more about the goals of the project, the expectations for student involvement, and information on the final presentation.

The Twin State Mercury Project: An Introduction

The goals for this project are to build an appreciation for the stewardship of our national parks while developing science research skills, critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to work collaboratively in our students.   

Starting with the 2010-2011 school year, science classes from Woodstock Union High School (WUHS) and Stevens High School (SHS) joined together to monitor mercury in our local watersheds using dragonfly nymphs as bio-sentinels of mercury contamination.  In 2013-14 Hartford High School (HHS) joined the project.  WUHS collects samples in partnership with the National Park Service at the Pogue in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, SHS monitors the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, and HHS samples the White River Watershed.    

The collaborative effort from all schools comes through support and resources from the National Park Foundation, Dr. Celia Chen’s Lab at Dartmouth College, the Dartmouth Trace Element Analysis Lab, University of Maine’s George Mitchell Center, and Acadia National Park's Schoodic Education and Research Center/Acadia Learning Center.

The Schedule for the Mercury Project

September:  Collect samples and send to Dartmouth for analysis

October-November: Develop testable questions, conduct background research

Mid-November: Receive data from Dartmouth, begin data analysis and conclusion development

December: Create posters on project, due on December 17th so we can print them off and practice with them after Winter Break!

January: Poster session at Dartmouth College (January 9th with a snow date of January 21st) 7-9 pm, Top of the Hop - bus transport available.

What is a Poster Session?

A poster session is a common way for scientists to share the results of their research to the public.  At a poster session, students share the results of their work with people attending the event.  Our poster session will have an audience that includes parents, teachers, graduate students, professors and community members.  The evening begins with a series of speakers, including a keynote speaker that is an expert in the field.  After the speaker, students stand by their posters, ready to answer any question asked about their topic.  We hope parents will actively be involved in the question asking.  Below are some questions you can ask:

1. Why did you pick this research question?

2. What did you learn about stewardship and service learning?

3. What do your data sets represent?

4. How much confidence do you have in your conclusion?

5. Why is your research important to the scientific community and to you?

6. What would consider the most satisfying or most challenging part of the project?

Why do we study Mercury?

From the Acadia Learning Center’s Participatory Science Website:

“In the northeastern US, mercury is found at levels of concern in many parts of the environment: lakes, streams, soils, biota – like fish – and even people. Our project… investigates mercury concentrations in these subjects and looks for good indicators of mercury status. We are currently studying mercury in dragonfly larvae, other aquatic invertebrates, earthworms, soils, fish, and people. On this project teachers and students from around New England work with Dr. Sarah Nelson from University of Maine’s George Mitchell Center.  Dr. Nelson is using student dragonfly data to examine large-scale patterns in mercury concentrations, while students have been looking at local differences in mercury concentrations- and factors affecting those differences.”

Bioaccumulation vs. Biomagnification - a poem by Lindsey
For bioaccumulation let's look at the word accumulate,
It is what would have happened to that fish upon your plate
As the fish consumed mercury it built up over time,
And soon the fish's bloodstream was filled with silvery slime.
Biomagnification sounds like magnifying glasses,
And it is when the mercury through each organism passes.
When a big fish eats a little fish to the big fish the mercury flows,
And this is how the concentration grows.