Classroom Activities and Printable Activity Sheets
Mercury and People
To help people make healthy choices about fish consumption, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) issues advisories about sportfish (fish you catch). These tell people which fish to avoid and how to reduce exposure to contaminants in the fish they do eat. By following this advice, people can still get the health benefits of eating fish while minimizing the risks.
Fish from fresh waters are more likely to be contaminated than fish from remote marine waters because many fresh waters are close to human activities and contamination sources. Anglers often eat fish from a limited number of water bodies as they tend to fish in favorite locations repeatedly. When these locations contain fish with higher contaminant levels, the people who eat them-both anglers and those with whom they share their catch-have higher exposures.
Explore the DOH's Fish Advisory webpage with your students to help them understand DOH's health advisories. Information on the website details how to safely consume fish caught in the wild in New York State and provides a link to the booklet, Health Advice on Eating Sportfish and Game. It also contains information about eating fish and shellfish purchased in restaurants and markets.
Mercury Bioaccumulation Tag
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a simulation game which helps students better understand how mercury moves through an aquatic food chain. Students assume the roles of zooplankton, small fish, large fish and birds of prey while playing a modified game of tag. Questions and answers to prompt discussion are provided for the leader. Mercury Bioaccumulation Tag is fully described on this PDF from the EPA's website.
Learn about Loons
Common loons are a familiar site on Adirondack lakes and are found in other areas of the state. Their diet is mostly fish. Loons in the Adirondacks have been found to have elevated levels of mercury, which affects their reproduction success. As a class, work together to learn about the common loon: what it looks like, where it lives (habitat and range) and what it eats. When researching what loons eat, use the information to create likely food chains and food webs that include loons, and discuss how mercury might enter their food supply. A summary of findings from a recently released study about loons and mercury in the Adirondacks can be found on the Adirondack Daily Enterprise's website at Loons = mercury victims.
Mercury: It's Everywhere teacher supplement (PDF) 83 KB