Our field and lab research focuses on understanding relationships between environmental properties (e.g., DOC, temperature, productivity) and chemical speciation/bioavailabilty of trace metals and organic compounds. We measure reaction rates and concentrations in environmental samples that can be used to parameterize and evaluate our modeling simulations. We are ramping up our in-house analytical capacity to measure a suite of contaminants using HPLC-MS/MS and ICP-MS.
We use environmental models to investigate the broader spatial and temporal implications of relationships measured in the field and to synthesize multi-disciplinary research. Our models vary in complexity from relatively simple geochemical box models to advanced 3-D simulations of atmospheric (GEOS-Chem) and ocean circulation (MITgcm, FVCOM) driven by assimilated meteorological data. We are also developing models for bioaccumulation of contaminants in marine food webs.
We use food-frequency questionnaires (FFQs) and probabilistic exposure simulations integrated with pharmacokinetic (PK) models to estimate human exposures to contaminants. We also measure human biomarkers of exposure (hair, blood). We work closely with environmental epidemiologists looking at dose-response relationships to quantify present risks and link this information with environmental models to help anticipate public health impacts of climate change and regulations.
- OVERVIEW OF CURRENT PROJECTS -
Lab/Field Based Projects
Our work is developing and evaluating global simulations for compounds of interest in the oceans within the MITgcm with ecology (Darwin model). We are using these simulations to better understand the relationship between global production of these chemicals and accumulation in food-web and ultimately human exposure. We use the GEOS-Chem model to simulate atmpospheric inputs to aquatic and terrestrial systems.
Ongoing Projects and People:
Support: NSF Office of Polar Programs, UBC Nereus Project, Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund , Nunatsiavut Government
We are interested in the global biogeochemical cycles of environmental contaminants (mainly Hg, Se, PFASs) and the impacts of human activities on accumulation in marine ecosystems. Hg has been released in large quantities from mining and fuel combustion and continues to cycle in the environment over long-timescales. Some of the Hg naturally present in aquatic ecosystems is converted into methylmercury (MeHg), the only form to bioaccumulate in food webs. A main focus of our research program is understanding how human activities have contributed to Hg enrichment in marine systems. A related question is how ecosystem characteristics such as DOC composition, organic enrichment, phytoplankton community composition affect MeHg production, bioavailability, and accumulation in marine food webs.
Ongoing Projects and People:
Support: NSF Chemical Oceanography, Nunatsiavut Government, Smith Family Foundation
We have a number of projects that are characterizing contaminant exposures using dietary surveys and probabilistic exposure simulations linked to PBPK models. We work closely with environmental epidemiologists in the School of Public Health to understand the public health impacts of changes in environmental releases of toxicants.
We are particularly interested in PFASs and MeHg because of their strong association with suppressed immune function and neurocognitive development, respectively, in children. We are collaborating with researchers in the U.S., Faroe Islands, and Labrador to better understand how changes in ocean bioegochemistry and trends in chemical production are affecting children's health.
Projects and People:
Support: NIH-NSF Oceans and Human Health Program, U.S. EPA, Harvard NIEHS Center, Gelfond Fund
- Research Sponsors -
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Group Administrator: Brenda Mathieu
Address: 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138
E-mail: bmathieu [at] seas.harvard.edu
Phone: +1 (617) 496-5745
Fax: +1 (617) 495-4551