Dragonfly Mercury Project

The view that I have seen nearly everyday for the past two weeks. Along the banks of the southernmost end of New River Gorge lies Camp Brookstone; where I have been contributing to the education program the national park runs there. I have seen turtles diving below the surface of the water, to feed I assume, water snakes lounging on the rocks, and a family of canadian geese swimming with their young. There are also some rapids here which makes it a great spot for kayakers and rafter alike. Unfortunately I have not been lucky in catching any fish in this area of the New River.

Camp Brookside was originally a summer camp opened by the rail lines that operated in the area in the earlier part of the 20th century; the camp was a place for the children of rail and mine workers to experience the natural beauty of the area and get some clean air. New River Gorge now operates the camp and uses it mainly as a place to teach children about water ecology. A couple programs I will be taking more of a leadership role in are the Dragonfly Mercury Project and Vernal Pool Identification.

To the right are a group of kids from another local summer camp who came to Camp Brookside for a day and took part in the Dragonfly Mercury Project. The project is a nationwide survey of dragonfly larvae that is sent into labs to be tested for the amount of mercury in their systems. Dragonflies are a good subject for these kinds of tests because the larvae live in water for years, so if there is an elevated amount of mercury in the water dragonflies would be a great indicator. According to a few of the scientists in resource management at the park the mercury levels are very “middle of the road”. Considering the area was a coal and logging hotspot for decades I think this is pretty good. There is always room for improvement however.

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