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Dr. Bhaskar Receives NSF Grant To Study Mercury Pollution

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a Research Initiation Award (RIA) to Dr. Maruthi Sridhar Balaji Bhaskar of Department of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences at Texas Southern University to support his proposed research on “Spatial and Temporal Modeling of Mercury Fate and Dynamics in Tennessee watersheds.” The goal of the project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the landscape factors on mercury loading and distribution in the East Tennessee Watersheds of the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR). The team of graduate and undergraduate students from TSU, led by Dr. Bhaskar (PI) will collaborate with scientists at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) to understand the trends of mercury contamination and bioaccumulation in the fish of East Tennessee. Over the past several decades, substantial environmental and ecological changes have occurred in selected east Tennessee streams in the southeastern United States that has received historical pollutant discharges from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12 NSC). One of the largest contaminant released was mercury, a significant environmental pollutant due to its persistence in the environment, ability to bioaccumulate in food chains, and its known hazards to both human and wildlife. The transformation, bioaccumulation and health effects of mercury are subjects of intensive investigation. The project will enhance the research experience and training of undergraduate and graduate students at TSU. The project will provide financial support for undergraduate and graduate students at TSU, train them in state-of-the-art geospatial techniques and enhance collaboration and internship opportunities with national lab such as ORNL. Dr. Bhaskar has an ongoing collaboration and served as a Visiting Faculty during summers of 2013 and 2014 at ORNLs’ Environmental Division as a result of two successful Visiting Faculty Grant awards. The Visiting Faculty Grants are awarded by DOE to university faculty to collaborate with DOE laboratory research staff on research projects of mutual interest.