The Dragonfly Mercury Project

The Dragonfly Mercury Project

Me and a coworker promoting the Dragonfly Mercury Project.

My main responsibility at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is the Dragonfly Mercury Project. This project is an ongoing study to assess the levels of mercury in our natural parks. Over the past seven years, more than 90 NPS units and 3,000 citizen scientists have contributed to this project. At Glen Canyon, I get to take citizen scientists out into the park to sample dragonfly larvae. We collect and identify the larvae, which we then ship off to the University of Maine and USGS for lab analyses. It is fun and exciting for me to be a part of a larger project. I also love that this study relies on engaging citizen scientists in the work and spreading the message of conservation.

Exploring possible dragonfly sampling sites along the Colorado River— this spot is right underneath Horseshoe Bend!

During the first few weeks of my internship, I have been scouting possible sites for sampling, sending out recruitment emails, and promoting the project in the community. I have gotten to boat on Lake Powell and the Colorado River, host a booth at the Page Summer Rec Fest, and attend a Springs Ecosystem Workshop in Flagstaff. I get to hike outdoors, camp under the stars, and travel to new cities all because of this project. Even though my work does take me out into the field quite a bit, it also requires me to be in the office organizing materials and sending emails. I definitely have a greater appreciation for supervisors and managers who spend every day talking to people, organizing groups, and making sure everything goes smoothly.

The biggest dragonfly larvae we found— 51mm! Most were around 20mm, but this one was about the size of my pinky finger.

My coworker and I have already gone through the sampling process at a couple canyons to familiarize ourselves with the task. It is one thing to understand how to do it yourself; it is another thing entirely to be able to communicate to kids how to do it. Our next steps include recruiting more volunteers to help out with collecting dragonfly larvae. Many people have already expressed interest, including Girl Scouts, Native Conservation Corps, and local families. I love preserving our natural resources, but I love engaging the community in this process even more. I am looking forward to teaching children and adults about how dragonflies can reveal how much mercury is in our watersheds. It is so powerful to be able to get people outdoors and appreciate nature so that they are moved to protect it.

1 Comment
  • Fabiane
    Posted at 21:31h, 20 June

    I had no idea you could use the larva to check for mercury level, that’s great.
    Good luck with the little ones, they are so fun and a hand full.