10th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference

The Sierra Fund had a diverse presence at the 10th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference (BDSC), held September 10-12 at the Sacramento Convention Center. This year we were pleased to present our work to address mercury contamination from the Sierra to the sea in the oral, poster and art programs offered at the event. The conference theme “Our Estuary at an Intersection” focused on the management of a Bay-Delta ecosystem at geographic, ecological, economic and cultural crossroads, providing the ideal platform for TSF to spotlight the need for watershed-wide collaboration in addressing the persistence of legacy mercury, a remnant of the 19th century Gold Rush.

Science Director Dr. Carrie Monohan gave a well-received oral talk on the “Climate Change and Water Quality” track, discussing TSF’s progress to refine and implement our Headwater Mercury Source Reduction (HMSR) Strategy over the last two years. The HMSR strategy is a multi-disciplinary approach to reducing mercury contamination at four strategic targets in California’s headwaters: hydraulic mines and mine features, mercury-contaminated sediment in reservoirs, mercury exposure and mercury and forest management. We first debuted this strategy at the 2016 BDSC with a cluster of five scientific posters.

Environmental Scientist Nick Graham co-authored three scientific posters spotlighting research taking place in the delta, which were the result of his work with the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) California Water Science Center based in Sacramento. TSF has long partnered with USGS on pilot projects to reduce mercury contamination in the headwaters, including the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park hydraulic mine site and Nevada Irrigation District’s effort to remove mercury-contaminated sediment from Combie Reservoir.

Finally, Program Manager Alex Keeble-Toll teamed up with her brother, artist Graham Keeble of Graham Keeble Sculpture to produce a multi-media, three-dimensional piece incorporating sculptural and cartographic components with the most persistent and pervasive evidence of legacy mining impacts: watershed-wide data on fish tissue mercury levels. Embodiment of the upper watershed utilized place-based materials including wood salvaged from tree die-offs and scrap metal reclaimed from a hydraulic mine terrace. These elements were woven into a map and a story challenging the notion of compartmentalization and boundaries with respect to addressing contamination in the headwaters and the Delta independently.