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​Find past newsletter articles, press releases, and other media showcasing local agriculture, placed-based education, and conservation of natural resources in Sullivan County.

Dragonflies and Mercury

Vesselina Alteva, the Environmental Science teacher at Stevens High School, brought 18 students out to Marshall Pond last month to collect dragonfly nymphs with Dartmouth faculty, Dr. Kate Buckman, who studies toxic metals through the Superfund Research Program. Kate has been studying the mercury levels in dragonflies for over 10 years and leads high school students in the Upper Valley in this citizen science project. Citizen science involves public participation in scientific research usually under the direction of or in collaboration with professional scientists. It is a terrific tool for both educators and scientists. These high school students are able to make important contributions to the field of science through their engagement in projects. Participating students collect samples, ask relevant research questions, analyze data, and present their results. Researchers work directly with local school classrooms, leading class sessions about the mercury cycle, risks to wildlife and people, and local and global sources of mercury. Students collect their own dragonfly larvae samples which are processed and sent to the Trace Element Analysis Laboratory at Dartmouth. Dragonfly larvae are thought to be good representatives of methylmercury biomagnification in local ecosystems, as they are predatory and do not move between water bodies. Once the samples are analyzed for mercury concentration, the students use the results to examine trends in their data and generate their own conclusions about the fate of mercury in their local streams. The project culminates in January with a poster session where students present their findings to teachers and families. ( While collecting dragonfly nymphs, the students were fully engaged and having a good time. They found other aquatic creatures too including damselflies, caddisflies, diving beetles, and leeches. Some of the students had waders, so they could walk right into the pond to reach a bit further from shore. Most remained dry, but one walked a little too deep and ended up with water in the waders! That was a chilly surprise. The students definitely seemed full of joy as they explored the pond ecosystem and the diversity of life that call it home.


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