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Water, Wisconsin, and the Mercury Cycle

By University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Audio-only podcasts produced by the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute. This entertaining science documentary series is intended for general audiences and features high production values. The first episode explains why people have used mercury, documenting the history of humanity's understanding of this intriguing metal. The second episode shows how water has shaped the environment and culture of Wisconsin, and details the hydrological cycle in Wisconsin. The third and fourth episodes are consecutive parts of an engaging non-narrative presentation that vividly relates the challenges of mercury research from the 1960s to the present, told firsthand by the scientists who have been directly involved in the work. In the fifth episode, the mercury scientists continue to tell the story, in this case a quick overview of a critical large-scale mercury research project. The sixth episode features USGS scientist David Krabbenhoft detailing problematic aspects of the mercury cycle that impact the implementation of large-scale ecological restoration. For the seventh in stallment, noted author and conservationist Curt Meine delivers an eloquent essay challenging foundational concepts of water, urging respect for this valuable resource while confirming its rightful place in humanity’s moral and ethical sphere. New for 2014, are episodes eight and nine - in the eighth podcast research scientist David Krabbenhoft reveals the hitherto unsuspected role that the thermocline and zooplankton play in methylizing mercury in the deep oceans; the series closes, for now, with an update on encouraging developments in mercury policy, both national and international, that hold out hope for reduced mercury levels in the atmosphere. David also shares news about the surprisingly beneficial effect that fracking in the United States has apparently had on levels of measurable mercury in America's air.