Scientist standing waist-deep in a lake, examining the contents of a dipnet
Scientist looking for dragonfly larvae on Lake Harvey.

© Sean Bailey

Mercury emissions to the atmosphere come from both natural and human sources. Once in the air, mercury can travel great distances and is deposited on land and in water by way of rain, snow, and dust particles. In the environment, mercury undergoes a complex transformation to become methylmercury, which is toxic to all forms of life.

There are also many things we do in the course of a day that contribute to the contamination of lakes and streams. Every-day chemicals such as medications, insect repellent, and personal care products that go down the sink drain are known as contaminants of emerging concern.

Long-term Monitoring

Our contaminants monitoring program has evolved from tracking six different contaminants using tissues of indicator species (bald eagle nestlings and fish), to focusing on mercury in dragonfly larvae. In this, we are part of a nationwide monitoring program coordinated by the NPS Air Resources Division. We are also monitoring contaminants of emerging concern in water samples.

Our partner:

NPS Air Resources Division, Dragonfly Mercury Project

Learn More

Briefs provide a one- or two-page overview of the latest findings and what they mean. Monitoring reports are in-depth technical reports that include data analyses and possibly management recommendations.


Source: Data Store Saved Search 387. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Monitoring Reports

Source: Data Store Saved Search 420. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Monitoring Protocol

VanderMeulen, D. D., B. Route, J. Wiener, R. Haro, K. Rolfhus, M. Sandheinrich, S. J. Nelson, A. Klemmer, C. Eagles-Smith, and J. Willacker. 2018. Protocol for monitoring mercury in dragonfly larvae and fish (version 1.0): Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network. Natural Resource Report NPS/GLKN/NRR—2018/1726. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.


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      Last updated: September 29, 2018