Biogeochemistry of Global COntaminants

- Research Group -

We study how biogeochemical processes affect the fate, transport and food-web bioaccumulation of trace metals and organic chemicals in aquatic ecosystems. We develop and apply models at a variety of scales ranging from ecosystems (e.g., the Gulf of Maine, the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans) to global applications to characterize how changes in climate and emissions affect human and ecological health, and the potential impacts of regulatory actions. We measure chemical concentrations and reaction rates in environmental samples (natural waters, sediments and aquatic biota) and humans (hair, blood) to parameterize and evaluate our models.


- Below are a selection of figures from our recent papers -

Environmental Health Perspectives

Environmental Science & Technology

Environmental Health

Environmental Science & Technology

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

Environmental Science & Technology

Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Environmental Research


Featured Paper

E.M. Sunderland, M.Li, K. Bullard. 2018. Decadal changes in edible supply of seafood and methylmercury exposure in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives. 125(1):  DOI:10.1289/EHP2644.


Read Harvard News Story here.



Methylmercury is a potent neurotoxicant that bioaccumulates in aquatic food webs. This paper shows the majority of methylmercury exposure in the United States is from fisheries harvests from the global oceans, with almost 40% from various species of tuna.  Over the last decade, methylmercury exposures have reflected changes in the preferences of U.S. fish consumers toward foods like shrimp and fresh tuna in sushi lunch boxes. Climate change is also affecting the origin and supply of certain species in the U.S. commercial seafood market such as Cod and anchovy/sardines. Image to the left courtesy of Leah Burrows, Harvard SEAS.


Sunderland Lab

Group Administrator: Brenda Mathieu

Address: 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138

E-mail:  bmathieu [at]

Phone: +1 (617) 496-5745

Fax: +1 (617) 495-4551