Dragonfly Mercury Project

The Dragonfly Mercury Project connects people to parks and provides baseline data to better understand the spatial distribution of mercury contamination in national parks.

Citizen scientists in national parks from Alaska to Florida and Maine to Colorado are participating in the project.

Mercury is a toxic pollutant that can harm human and wildlife health, threatening the natural resources the National Park Service is charged with protecting. The main source of human-caused mercury in remote national park environments is atmospheric deposition from coal-burning power plants. The larval stage of the dragonfly lives in the water, and individuals are collected from river or lake bottoms with nets. Dragonflies spend most of their life in the larval form and eventually morph to the fast-flying aerial predator in the adult phase. Dragonflies may be a sentinel to mercury pollution—telling us whether any mercury in the environment is in a form that is available to animals and plants. This project is testing the efficacy of using dragonfly larvae as sentinels.

The project is a partnership between the Air Resources Division of the National Park Service (NPS), US Geological Survey, University of Maine, and other partners.  It developed from a project in Maine piloted and developed through Schoodic Institute’s Acadia Learning partnership.  Schoodic Institute is working with the partners to provide education and training materials for field leaders and citizen scientists in the project.

These training videos are intended as visual supports to the written protocol (available here).

Dragonfly Mercury Project Introduction:

Preparing to Sample with Citizen Scientists:

Collecting Dragonfly Larvae for Mercury Analysis:

Collecting Water Samples for Mercury Analysis:

Collecting Sediment Samples for Mercury Analysis:

For more information about the project see:


Video narratives are available here:

Collecting dragonfly larvae for mercury analysis-video narration

Collecting water samples for mercury analysis-video narration

Collecting sediment samples for mercury analysis-video narration