Utah State University Collaborating with Slovenia to Measure Atmospheric Oxidized Mercury
By Marcus Jensen |
VERNAL, Utah — Utah State University Uintah Basin researchers have been working together with researchers in Slovenia to better assess atmospheric oxidized mercury measurements. The researchers collaborated to compare data as well as methods, with each trying to learn from the other.
USU researcher Seth Lyman, research associate professor in the College of Science at USU Uintah Basin and director of the Bingham Research Center, along with graduate student Tyler Elgiar, visited the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia to compare notes and to work together to further each others’ research. The USU team was in Slovenia from Jan. 6-14, 2023.
“The research team there is involved in atmospheric mercury research that is similar to what we do,” Lyman said. “But they are using different methods. We wanted to compare their methods, which are completely different from ours, and make sure we were all getting the same answers. The goal was to make sure that our instrumentation is working when compared against completely different way of checking it than we normally use. We were excited to accept the invitation and to collaborate with other scientists involved in similar research.”
The Slovenian research team is now using the Bingham Research Center’s custom-built mercury calibrator, which is allowing their team of researchers to intercompare methods. This is the only automated calibrator in the world for ambient levels of oxidized mercury compounds.
“One goal we have in mind is to determine the stability of our calibrator at different locations around the world,” Elgiar said. “If we get the same results in Slovenia that we have achieved in other places– including the lab in Vernal and our recent deployment at Storm Peak, Colorado– then it will be a success.”
The ultimate goal is for both parties to improve their methods to better and more accurately measure oxidized mercury levels in the atmosphere and assess how these levels can affect human health and inform government policy.
“Bringing new and different perspectives to the table is a great way to solve problems and come up with new ideas,” Elgiar said. “One goal of ours was simply to learn from each other.”
Lyman and Elgiar expect to have the results of the collaboration in the coming weeks. Elgiar plans to put the results into his master’s thesis and also in a published paper, which he hopes to finish this summer.
Elgiar really enjoyed the experience. The team got to tour the Slovenian facility, which included a nuclear reactor. He especially enjoyed learning about the diverse research the team was working on.
“It was really exciting to get a tour of their facilities and see all of the interesting mercury research that took place there,” he said. “Not only are they involved in atmospheric mercury research, but also biological mercury research. It was really neat to see all of the diversity in their research. Everyone that we met was very kind and inviting. It was a really great experience.”
While no plans are definitive at this juncture, Lyman and the Bingham Research Center plan to continue to collaborate with the Slovenian scientists.
“In the scientific world, you can’t be an expert on everything,” Lyman said. “It is good to collaborate because you get more heads on the same problem. Our collaborators at the Jozef Stefan Institute have a lot of experience and skill. This partnership will help us do our work better going forward.”
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