News and Media Mentions

BBC Program Spotlights ORNL Mercury Research

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) recently featured ORNL mercury research as part of its series on Pollution Solutions: Reversing the Effects of Pollution. SFA accomplishments—including discovery of the two-gene cluster responsible for microbial mercury methylation—were highlighted, along with other mercury-focused research within ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division, such as fish-sample collection to assess methylmercury bioaccumulation in the food web.

Senior Scientist Eric Pierce noted the potentially far-reaching effects of basic research to understand the biochemical mechanisms of methylmercury production. “The knowledge . . . as well as the technology that we develop out of these various projects solves mercury problems not only here, but really globally,” he said. "The work that we're doing provides knowledge for mercury challenges worldwide."

The BBC video, titled Episode 6: Fishing for Mercury, can be viewed here.
[last aired Feb 14, 2016]

  • News Release: Newly Identified Microbial Process Could Reduce Toxic Methylmercury Levels
    A team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has identified a novel microbial process that can break down toxic methylmercury in the environment, a fundamental scientific discovery that could potentially reduce mercury toxicity levels and support health and risk assessments. (ORNL Research Highlight, May 31, 2017) Also reported by ChemEurope, June 1, 2017;, May 31, 2017; News Medical Life Sciences, June 1, 2017; and others.
    Related video
  • Feature: A Lifetime of Learning: Eric Pierce. ORNL Research Highlight (March 27, 2017)
  • News Release: Methylmercury Sleuths Armed with New Spotlight— DOE Office of Science (January 23, 2017)
  • Baohua Gu
    Baohua Gu
  • Baohua Gu was elected a 2016 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his distinguished contributions to molecular-scale mechanisms that control cycling of natural organic matter, contaminants, and toxic metals and for technology innovations to remediate contaminants in the environment. Dr. Gu received this honor at the February AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston. News Release: Seven ORNL Researchers Elected AAAS Fellows, ORNL News (November 22, 2016)
  • Unraveling the Mystery of Methylmercury, Earthzine (October 1, 2016)
  • News Release: New ORNL Tool Probes for Genes Linked to Toxic Methylmercury. ORNL News (July 18, 2016). Also reported by Science Daily and EurekAlert! AAAS (July 2016)
  • Baohua Gu has been selected by the Geological Society of America (GSA) Council as a GSA Fellow, an honor bestowed annually in recognition of distinguished contributions to the geosciences. Baohua was chosen for seminal work on elucidating key molecular-scale mechanisms that govern biogeochemical cycling of contaminants, trace metals, and natural organic matter that have made significant contributions to our understanding of soil organic and metal cycling in terrestrial ecosystems and contaminated sites.
  • Mercury Science Focus Area (SFA) Annual Report: July 2015-June 2016 PDF
  • ORNL scientists solve the mystery of mercury. ORNL Review 49(1):16-17 (2016).
  • BBC series "Horizon" spotlights ORNL mercury research view (Feb 14, 2016)
  • First Quarterly Report, October-December 2015 PDF
  • Session led by SFA researchers at the 2015 International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) (June 14, 2015)
  • Staff award: Baohua Gu received the 2014 UT-Battelle Researcher of the Year Award for sustained, significant contributions to advancing fundamental knowledge of the biogeochemical cycling of metals, other pollutants, and carbon in the environment and for related technological achievements. Dr. Gu also received the Excellent in Review Award from the editor and associate editors of Environmental Science and Technology. This award recognizes significant contributions made to Environmental Science and Technology by reviewers for 2014.
  • Ricassi
    Ami Riscassi
    (Image: AGU)
  • Dr. Ami Riscassi selected as the 2014 recipient of the Subaru Outstanding Woman in Science Award. Geological Society of America (May 09, 2014)
  • ORNL researchers attend and exhibit at 2013 ICMGP, July 28 - August 2, 2013. 11th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (May 23, 2013)
  • Joint news release from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center on the confirmation of novel methylators greatly expanding the phylogenetic and environmental diversity of methylating organisms (Sept. 12, 2013)
  • Toxic methylmercury-producing microbes more widespread than realized. (Sept. 12, 2013)
  • ORNL research reveals new challenges for mercury cleanup. Oak Ridge Today (Aug. 05, 2013)
  • Knoxville News Sentinel article on a Friends of Oak Ridge National Laboratory presentation given by Liyuan Liang, Alex Johs, and Jerry Parks (June 11, 2013)
  • European Commission in a Science for Environmental Policy report (Apr. 25, 2013)
  • Microbes, Mercury, and Risk. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science (Mar. 25, 2013) (link expired)
  • Invited presentation about ORNL advances in mercury research at the East Tennessee Economic Council in Oak Ridge by Jeremy Smith, Jerry Parks, and Alex Johs (Mar. 1, 2013)
  • Science podcast in which Liyuan Liang discusses how bacteria methylate mercury. (Feb. 08, 2013)
  • F1000Prime Article Recommendation,  “The Genetic Basis for Bacterial Mercury Methylation” (Feb. 7, 2013)
  • Knoxville News Sentinel article on the discovery of the hgcA and hgcB genes (Feb. 7, 2013) (link expired)
  • ORNL-led team hails breakthrough in mercury research; could have global implications. Knoxville News Sentinel (Feb. 07, 2013) (link expired)
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory news release on the discovery of the two-gene cluster in bacteria responsible for mercury methylation that was published in Science. (Feb. 7, 2013)
  • ORNL scientists solve mercury mystery, Science reports. ORNL News Release (Feb. 07, 2013) (link expired)
  • Wrap-up on mercury project. Knoxville News Sentinel blog (Jan. 02, 2012) (link expired)
  • ORNL research could advance understanding of mercury, Y-12 impacts. Knoxville News Sentinel (Dec. 20, 2011) (link expired)
  • Cold War component remains messy, potentially dangerous and hugely expensive. Knoxville News Sentinel (Dec. 18, 2011) (link expired)
  • Bacterial genome may hold answers to mercury mystery. Science Daily (Apr. 10, 2011)
  • Dissolved natural organic matter plays a dual role in mercury cycling and could influence methylmercury production. ORNL News Release (Jan. 11, 2011) (link expired)
  • UT and ORNL researchers fighting mercury contamination in waterways. WBIR Video (link expired)

The ORNL Mercury SFA is sponsored by the Subsurface Biogeochemical Research (SBR) program within the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research.