Outstanding Poster Award for Zheng and Lin

Undergraduate Students win Outstanding Poster Award at a National Conference

November 09, 2017

Zheng Lin Poster

Third-year undergraduate students Belle Zheng and Wendy Lin presented a poster at the National Atmospheric Deposition Program annual meeting in San Diego on 11/1/17 and won the outstanding undergraduate poster award and a $300 honorarium. The title of their poster is “Testing coastal Lichen as a bioindicator of atmospheric total mercury and monomethylmercury in Central California”. Wendy and Belle have been working in the mercury analysis lab (Peter Weiss-Penzias PI) in the Department of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology since the spring of 2017, when they won a $1500 award from the Gunderson Foundation to conduct this research.

The goal of their research is to look for spatial patterns in monomethylmercury concentrations in lichen, which could give clues about the sources and atmospheric transport processes of monomethylmercury. Lichen are unique terrestrial organisms that form stable mutualistic associations between fungi, algae and cyanobacteria. Lichen have been used as bioindicators of air pollution because they are able to accumulate airborne pollutants and heavy metals, such as mercury, in their thalli (vegetative tissue).

The preliminary results of Wendy and Belle’s study show that lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii) collected at the seashore in Santa Cruz County contained on average 22% monomethylmercury as a percentage of total mercury, whereas lace lichen collected 60 km inland in the Diablo Range in Santa Clara County contained on average 2% monomethylmercury as a percentage of total mercury. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that methylated mercury compounds are being emitted from the coastal ocean and incorporated into coastal fog, and that terrestrial biota on the coast contain higher a proportion of methylated mercury in their tissues relative to the their inland counterparts.