May 2012—story by Jenny Morgan, photo courtesy of Anna Martini
Nearly ten years ago, Associate Professor of Geology Anna Martini took a group of students to the Connecticut River for what Martini thought would be a typical classroom assignment. They set out to investigate the deposition of inorganic mercury from Mount Tom, the coal-fired power plant situated between Holyoke and Easthampton, Massachusetts. After collecting both lichan from trees and sediment from a small lake along the river, the class analyzed their samples and found strikingly high amounts of mercury in both— and what began as a simple classroom experiment quickly became Martini’s newest area of research. Almost a decade later, the project has transformed into a multifaceted, interdisciplinary endeavor that involves both scholars and community stakeholders.