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 use a variety of instruments in our lab including HPLC-MS/MS, ICP-MS, and MC-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 statistical tools and relatively simple geochemical box models to global 3-D simulations of atmospheric and ocean circulation and ecology. We also model bioaccumulation of contaminants in aquatic food webs and collaborate with fisheries scientists to link our models to aquatic life.
We use food-frequency questionnaires (FFQs) and probabilistic exposure simulations integrated with toxicokinetic (TK) 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.
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EMISSIONS & ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY
We are investigating releases of mercury, poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and methane to the environment on both local and global scales.
D.G. Streets, H.M. Horowitz, Z. Lu, L. Levin, C.P. Thackray, E.M. Sunderland. 2019. Global and regional trends in mercury emissions and concentrations, 2010-2015. Atmospheric Environment. 201: 417-427.
A. Saiz-Lopez, S.P. Sitkiewicz, D. Roca-Sanjuán, J.M. Oliva-Enrich, J.Z Dávalos, R. Notario, M. Jiskra, Y. Xu, F. Wang, C.P. Thackray, E.M. Sunderland, D.J. Jacob, O. Travnikov, C.A. Cuevas, A.U. Acuña, D. Rivero, J. Plane, D.E. Kinnison, J.E. Sonke. 2019. Photoreduction of gaseous oxidized mercury changes global atmospheric mercury speciation, transport and deposition. Nature Communications. 9, 4796.
We are examining how biogeochemical characteristics of surface water, groundwater and marine ecosytems influence the persistence, transformation and mobility of heavy metals and organic chemicals. This provides insights into the effects of future climate driven changes on chemical exposures and risks.
PCBs as benchmark compounds for understanding the impacts of climate change on cycling of neutral hydrophobic persistent organic pollutants in the global and Arctic oceans (Charlotte Wagner)
Mercury cycling in coastal and shelf regions of the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean (Ben Geyman, Pauline Beziat, Amina Schartup (now at NSF))
Carbon controls on methylmercury production in flooded ecosystems (Linjun Yao, Prentiss Balcom)
C.C. Wagner, H.M. Amos, C.P. Thackray, Y. Zhang, E.W. Lundgren, G. Forget, C.L. Friedman, N.E. Selin, R. Lohmann, E.M. Sunderland. 2019. A global 3-D ocean model for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): Benchmark compounds for understanding the impacts of global change on neutral persistent organic pollutants. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 33, 469-481.
X. Zhang, Y. Zhang, C. Dassuncao, R. Lohmann, E.M. Sunderland. 2017. North Atlantic deep water formation inhibits high Arctic contamination by continental perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) discharges. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 31(8): 1332-1343.
We are interested in how ecosystem changes are affecting chemical accumulation in aquatic food webs and wildlife. We study factors affecting chemical accumulation in fish, marine mammals, and birds using field samples and modeling.
Food web accumulation of PFASs in marine food webs (Jennifer Sun)
M. Perkins, O.P. Lane, D.C. Evers, A. Sauer, N.J. O’Driscoll, S.T. Edmunds, J.C. Haelin, J. Trimble, E.M. Sunderland. Historical patterns of mercury exposure for North American songbirds. Ecotoxicology. In review.
J.D. Ewald*, J.L. Kirk, M. Li, E.M. Sunderland. 2019. Organ-specific differences in mercury speciation and accumulation in juvenile and adult ringed seals (Phoca hispida). Science of the Total Environment. 650(2):2013-2020.
A.T. Schartup, A. Qureshi, C. Dassuncao, C.P. Thackray, G. Harding, E.M. Sunderland. 2018. A model for uptake and trophic transfer of methylmercury by marine plankton. Environmental Science & Technology. 52(2):654-662.
HUMAN EXPOSURES AND RISKS
We use chemical biomarkers in human tissues (blood, hair, nails) and exposure modeling based on measured concentrations in environmental samples to predict risks to human health associated with environmental contaminants.
Meta-analysis of factors affecting dietary exposures to methyl mercury (Marie Perkins)
Health costs of heavy metal exposure from coal-fired utilities in India (Prentiss Balcom, Aaron Spect, collaborator: Asif Qureshi - IIT)
X.C. Hu, J. Liddie, X. Zhang, A.K. Tokranov, P. Grandjean, J.E. Hart, F. Laden, Q. Sun, L.W.Y. Yeung, E.M. Sunderland. 2018. Tap water contributions to plasma concentrations of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in a nationwide prospective cohort of U.S. women. Environmental Health Perspectives. In review.
R.S.D. Calder, S. Bromage, E.M. Sunderland. 2019. Risk tradeoffs associated with methylmercury exposures from traditional foods and food consumption advisories for Labrador Inuit. Environmental Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.09.005.
E.M. Sunderland, M. Li, K.T. Bullard. 2018. Decadal changes in edible supply of seafood and methylmercury exposure in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives. 126(1): 017006.
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