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Exploring the isotopic dimension of the global mercury cycle (MERCURY ISOTOPES)
Start date: Dec 1, 2010, End date: Nov 30, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Mass-independent fractionation (MIF) of isotopes in terrestrial geochemical processes was first observed in 1983 for oxygen and in 2000 for sulfur isotopes. Recently mercury (Hg) was added to this shortlist when isotopic anomalies were observed for Hg s two odd isotopes, 199Hg and 201Hg in biological tissues. The objective of the MERCURY ISOTOPES project is to take Hg MIF beyond the initial discovery, and use it to address major outstanding scientific questions of societal and philosophical interest. Similar to the profound insights that carbon and oxygen isotope systematics have brought to climate research, we propose to use variations in Hg isotopic compositions to fingerprint natural and anthropogenic sources, quantify isotope fractionation processes, and provide new constraints on models of mercury cycling.The MERCURY ISOTOPES project centres on the use of mercury MIF to understand global Hg dynamics at different time scales, from the Pleistocene to modern times. Three main themes will be investigated: 1. the modern Hg cycle focusing on Asian urban-industrial emissions related to coal burning, 2. recent atmospheric Hg deposition in the Arctic, recent Arctic Ocean Hg records from archived biological tissues, and post-glacial Hg deposition from 10,000 yr old ombrotrophic peat records along a mid-latitude sub-Arctic gradient. 3 Continuous atmospheric Hg speciation and isotopic monitoring at the Pic du Midi Observatory (Pyrenees).By tapping information from the isotopic dimension of Hg cycling, including revolutionary mass-independent effects, I expect a maximum scientific impact while supporting a socially relevant and urgently needed investigation at the frontier of isotope geosciences.
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