Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon on Aquatic Ecosystem Biodiversity (2019-2020)

This Bass Connections project sought to understand the impacts of artisanal, or small-scale, gold mining (ASGM) on aquatic ecology (beyond the singular issue of mercury contamination) and to communicate these impacts with policymakers and local communities.

Team members engaged in training sessions on the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients, forest ecology and tropical hydrology. They then designed a research strategy for environmental data collection and travel to the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon to collect environmental samples.

eDNA is a new tool that allows for the assessment of all organisms present in a water sample based on their DNA. This team expanded on the eDNA sample collection piloted by the 2018-2019 project team. The analysis of these samples was be paired with remote sensing tools that allow for an assessment of changes in river productivity over time. Team members found that high contamination of mercury from ASGM in Peruvian water and soil can persist for centuries.


Spring 2019 – Spring 2020

Team Outputs

Jacqueline R. Gerson, Simon N. Topp. Claudia M. Vega, John R. Gardner, Xiao Yang, Luis E. Fernandez, Emily S. Bernhardt, Tamlin M. Pavelsky. 2020. "Artificial Lake Expansion Amplifies Mercury Pollution from Gold Mining." Science Advances 6(48).

Mercury Pollution in the Amazon (Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase 2020)

History Repeats Itself: Mercury Pollution from Historic and Modern Gold Rushes (poster by Arianna Agostini, Rand Alotaibi, Arabella Chen, Annie Lee, Fernanda Machicao, Melissa Marchese, Jacqueline Gerson, Jasmine Parham, Austin Wadle, Emily Bernhardt)



The Things We Do for Cochas: Camping 101

First Impressions of the Peruvian Amazon

See earlier related team, Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon (2018-2019).

This Team in the News

Gold Rush, Mercury Legacy: Small-scale Mining for Gold Has Produced Long-lasting Toxic Pollution, from 1860s California to Modern Peru

Image: Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon, courtesy of Jacqueline Gerson, Kelsey Lansdale and Melissa Marchese

Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon.

Team Leaders

/graduate Team Members

  • Jacqueline Gerson, Ecology-PHD
  • Jasmine Parham, Biology - PHD
  • Austin Wadle, Civil & Environmental Engg-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Arianna Agostini
  • Rand Alotaibi, Earth & Ocean Sciences (BS)
  • Arabella Chen
  • Anne Lee
  • Fernanda Machicao
  • Melissa Marchese, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB), Global Health (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Ernesto Ortiz, Duke Global Health Institute
  • William Pan, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Elizabeth Anderson, Florida International University
  • Asociacion para la Conservacion de la Cuenca Amazonica
  • Centro de Estudios, Investigaciones, y Servicios en Salud Publica (CENSAP)
  • Center for Amazonian Science and Innovation (CINCIA)
  • Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana (IIAP)
  • Joseph Craine, Jonah Ventures
  • Luis Fernandez, Wake Forest University, Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA)
  • Noah Fierer, Wake Forest University
  • Tamlin Pavelsku, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Miles Silman, Wake Forest University
  • Claudia Vega, Wake Forest University, Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA)