Africa at Noon for April 12, 2017

“Contamination of Subsistence Fisheries in Tropical Africa by Neurotoxic Metals: Health Risks and Sources of Mercury”

Peter Mcintyre
Associate Professor of Zoology
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Sarah Janssen
Graduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Ryan Lepak
Graduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Time and Location

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI


Our team will discuss our new findings on mercury concentrations and isotope ratios in food fish harvested in Gabon, Rep. Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya, and place these statistics in a global context.  Concentrations are extraordinarily high in Central African rivers, moderate in Lake Victoria, and low in Lake Tanganyika.  Health impacts are difficult to predict, but concentrations are high enough to compromise cognitive capacities in children who eat fish regularly from our Central African sites.  State-of-the-art mercury isotope analysis provides some insight into sources of this contaminant, some of which may be natural.


Peter Mcintyre studies the ecology, evolution, and conservation of aquatic ecosystems.  Work in his group mixes field studies with large-scale spatial analyses and date syntheses.  Focusing on fish and invertebrates, they try to understand the interface between animals and ecosystems in the context of human activities—what happens to rivers and lakes when their animal diversity is reduced, and what happens to animals when the chemistry and structure of their home ecosystem is altered.  Their research in the Great Lakes regions of North America and Africa, Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and elsewhere is yielding insights into basic biology as well as opportunities to improve environmental management.