Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Using Stable Isotopes and Mercury as Tracers of Paleoenvironmental Change in the Gulf of Alaska

Event Name/Location

2006 Ocean Sciences Meeting, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 20-24, 2006

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Contaminant and organic biogeochemistry, Isotopic composition and chemistry, Marine systems, Paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, Food webs and trophodynamics


In this paper we present new proxy data bearing on Holocene paleoenvironmental change in the Gulf of Alaska region. The analysis of marine faunal frequencies in archaeological deposits, combined with paired studies of the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios and mercury (Hg) and methylmercury (MeHg) values in the bone collagen of Holocene-era sea otter (Enhydra lutris) remains, sheds light on changes in the marine system which may reflect wider changes in the North Pacific and Arctic climate systems. Preliminary data indicate that incidences of increased mercury in sea otters also correspond to increased δ15N levels. These results may have resulted from the otters foraging at a higher trophic level, such as fish, and making them more susceptible to mercury contamination. We are exploring the connection betweens food web length, ocean production and mercury bioaccumulation and consider the implication of such research for understanding human/ marine environment interactions in the past, present and future, especially in light of projected global change scenarios.


Eos Trans. AGU, 87(36), Ocean Sci. Meet. Suppl.

Additional Comments

Identifier OS42E-04

This document is currently not available here.