Dr. Daniel R. Engstrom, Director Emeritus/Senior Scientist
Adjunct Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, and Water Resources Science Program University of Minnesota
My research centers on the use of lake sediment records to understand long-term environmental change, particularly the effects of human activities on water quality, atmospheric chemistry, and biogeochemical processes on a global scale. I’m particularly interested in approaches that quantify the magnitude and rates of change and establish mechanistic linkages to modern-day systems.
Atmospheric mercury deposition and cycling
Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic pollutant that is carried atmospherically to remote lakes and landscapes where it is biologically concentrated through the food chain to levels in game fish that are potentially harmful to humans and fish-eating wildlife. Concentrations in aquatic systems have increased greatly over the last two centuries due to human-related emissions from industrial uses and fossil fuel combustion. My research on mercury has focused on (1) the use of lake sediments to quantify global changes in Hg deposition, and (2) the experimental manipulation of precipitation chemistry to explore synergistic effects of sulfate on mercury methylation and cycling.
Contaminant and sediment loading in the upper Mississippi River
Many of the world’s great rivers have been highly impacted by excess nutrients, suspended sediments, and toxic pollutants from human activities in their watersheds. Understanding the magnitude of these changes, their timing, and likely causes is critical to developing sound management strategies for their remediation. Our work on the upper Mississippi River is focused on quantifying the historical flux of these contaminants from sediment cores, tracing sediment sources through geochemical fingerprinting, and evaluating the dual effects of climate and land-use change on increased river flows and watershed erosion.
Boreal lakes and climate change
Multiple lines of evidence suggest that boreal lake ecosystems are changing rapidly, with unprecedented appearances of potentially toxic cyanobacterial blooms, significant shifts in algal communities, increased watershed inputs of dissolved solids, and increased carbon burial in lake sediments. Given the lack of local human impact on most boreal lakes, climate change is the most likely driver of these ecological shifts. We are currently working on this problem in several national parks in the western Great Lakes region, principally Isle Royale and Voyageurs, using a combination of lake-sediment records, long-term monitoring, and watershed and lake-thermal models to explain the varied response of lakes to a warming climate and the drivers and processes involved.
Harmful algal blooms in Minnesota
Harmful algal blooms (HABs), especially those caused by toxin-producing blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), significantly reduce the recreational and ecological value of lakes. They negatively impact water quality, degrade fisheries, and are a health concern for humans and domesticated animals. Yet, little information is available on historical trends in blooms or the present-day composition of algae associated with bloom formation and toxin production. This team research effort is aimed at three key questions regarding the occurrence, composition, and causes of HABs: (1) when do they occur, in which type of lakes, and which species and toxins are present; (2) are they increasing in Minnesota, and if so, in which lakes; and (3) what are the main environmental factors causing bloom formation and toxin production?
Representative Publications (2012-2016)
(for a complete listing see Google Scholar)
Bunting, L., P.R. Leavitt, G.L. Simpson, B. Wissel, K.R. Laird, B.F. Cumming, A. St. Amand, and D.R. Engstrom. 2016. Increased variability and sudden ecosystem state change in Lake Winnipeg, Canada, caused by 20th century agriculture. Limnology and Oceanography doi: 10.1002/lno.10355.
Strickman, R.J.S., R.R. Fulthorpe, J.K. Coleman Wasik, D.R. Engstrom, and C.P.J. Mitchell. 2016. Experimental sulfate amendment alters peatland bacterial community structure. Science of the Total Environment doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.189.
Johnson, N.W., C.P.J. Mitchell, D.R. Engstrom, L.T. Bailey, J.K. Coleman Wasik, and M.E. Berndt. 2016. Methylmercury production in a chronically sulfate-impacted sub-boreal wetland. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts doi: 10.1039/C6EM00138.
Engstrom, D.R., H.H. Birks, and R.W. Battarbee. 2016. In Memoriam: Herbert Edgar Wright, Jr. Journal of Paleolimnology doi: 10.1007/s10933-016-9885-3:1-6.
Drevnick, P.E., C.A. Cooke, D. Barraza, J.M. Blais, K.H. Coale, B.F. Cumming, C.J. Curtis, B. Das, W.F. Donahue, C.A. Eagles-Smith, D.R. Engstrom, W.F. Fitzgerald, C.V. Furl, J.E. Gray, R.I. Hall, T.A. Jackson, K.R. Laird, W.L. Lockhart, R.W. Macdonald, M.A. Mast, C. Mathieu, D.C.G. Muir, P.M. Outridge, S.A. Reinemann, S.E. Rothenberg, A.C. Ruiz-Fernández, V.L. St. Louis, R.D. Sanders, H. Sanei, E.K. Skierszkan, P.C. Van Metre, T.J. Veverica, J.A. Wiklund, and B.B. Wolfe. 2016. Spatiotemporal patterns of mercury accumulation in lake sediments of western North America. Science of the Total Environment doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.167.
Hobbs, W.O., B.M. Lafrancois, R. Stottlemyer, D. Toczydlowski, D.R. Engstrom, M.B.Edlund, J.E. Almendinger, K.E. Strock, D. VanderMeulen, J.E. Elias, and J.E. Saros. 2016. Nitrogen deposition to lakes in national parks of the western Great Lakes region: Isotopic signatures, watershed retention, and algal shifts. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 30:514-533.
Stevenson, M.A., S. McGowan, N.J. Anderson, R.H. Foy, P.R. Leavitt, Y.R.McElarney, D.R. Engstrom, and S. Pla-Rabés. 2015. Impacts of forestry planting on primary production in upland lakes from north-west Ireland. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/gcb.13194.
Kerrigan J.F., D.R. Engstrom, D. Yee, C. Sueper, P.R. Erickson, M. Grandbois, K. McNeill, and W.A. Arnold. 2015. Quantification of hydroxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (OH-BDEs), triclosan, and related compounds in freshwater and coastal systems. PLoS ONE 10: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138805
Coleman Wasik, J.K., D.R. Engstrom, C.P.J. Mitchell, E.B. Swain, B.A. Monson, S.J. Balogh, J.D. Jeremiason, B.A. Branfireun, R.K. Kolka, and J.E. Almendinger. 2015. The effects of hydrologic fluctuation and sulfate regeneration on mercury cycling in an experimental peatland. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 120: doi:10.1002/2015JG002993.
Dietz, R.D., D.R. Engstrom, and N.J. Anderson. 2015. Patterns and drivers of change in organic carbon burial across a diverse landscape: Insights from 116 Minnesota lakes. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 29: 708–727.
Heathcote, A.J., N.J. Anderson, Y.T. Prairie, D.R. Engstrom, and P.A. del Giorgio. 2015. Large increases in carbon burial in northern lakes during the Anthropocene. Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10016.
Heathcote, A.J., J.M. Ramstack Hobbs, N.J. Anderson, P. Frings, D.R. Engstrom, J.A. Downing. 2015. Diatom floristic change and lake paleoproduction as evidence of recent eutrophication in shallow lakes of the Midwestern USA. Journal of Paleolimnology 53: 17-34.
Smith, V.H., W.K. Dodds, K.E. Havens, D.R. Engstrom, H.W. Paerl, B. Moss, and G.E. Likens. 2014. Comment: cultural eutrophication of natural lakes in the United States is real and widespread. Limnology and Oceanography 59: 2217-2225.
Engstrom, D.R., W.F. Fitzgerald, C.A. Cooke, C.H. Lamborg, P.E. Drevnick, E.B. Swain, S.J. Balogh, and P.H. Balcom. 2014. Atmospheric Hg emissions from preindustrial gold and silver extraction in the Americas: a reevaluation from lake-sediment archives. Environmental Science & Technology 48: 6533-6543.
McLauchlan, K.K., P.E. Higuera, D.G. Gavin, S.S. Perakis, M.C. Mack, H. Alexander, J. Battles, F. Biondi, B. Buma, D. Colombaroli, S.K. Enders, D.R. Engstrom, F.S. Hu, J.R. Marlon, J. Marshall, M. McGlone, J.L. Morris, L.E. Nave, B. Shuman, E.A.H. Smithwick, D.H. Urrego, D.A. Wardle, C.J. Williams, and J.J. Williams. 2014. Reconstructing disturbances and their biogeochemical consequences over multiple timescales. BioScience. doi:10.1093/biosci/bit017.
Wigdahl, C.R., J.E. Saros, S.C. Fritz, J.R. Stone, and D.R. Engstrom. 2014. The influence of basin morphometry on the regional coherence of patterns of diatom-inferred salinity in lakes of the northern Great Plains (USA). The Holocene doi: 10.1177/0959683614523154
Nagorski, S.A., D.R. Engstrom, J.P. Hudson, D.P. Krabbenhoft, E. Hood., J.F. DeWild, and G.R. Aiken. 2014. Spatial distribution of mercury in southeastern Alaskan streams influenced by glaciers, wetlands, and salmon. Environmental Pollution 184: 62-72.
Fitzgerald, W.F., C.R. Hammerschmidt, D.R. Engstrom, P.H. Balcom, C.H. Lamborg, and C-M. Tseng. 2014. Mercury in the Alaskan Arctic in J.E. Hobbie and G.W. Kling, editors, Alaska's Changing Arctic: Ecological Consequences for Tundra, Streams, and Lakes. Oxford University Press.
Anderson, N.J., R.D. Dietz, and D.R. Engstrom. 2013. Land-use change, not climate, controls organic carbon burial in lakes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280: 20131278.
Hobbs, W.O., D.R. Engstrom, S.P. Schottler, K.D. Zimmer, and J.B. Cotner. 2013. Estimating modern carbon burial rates in lakes using a single sediment sample. Limnology and Oceanography Methods 11: 316-326.
McLauchlan, K.K., J.J. Williams, and D.R. Engstrom. 2013. Nutrient cycling in the palaeorecord: fluxes from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems. The Holocene 23: 1635-1643.
Blumentritt, D.J., D.R. Engstrom, and S.J. Balogh. 2013 A novel repeat-coring approach to reconstruct recent sediment, phosphorus, and mercury loading from the upper Mississippi River to Lake Pepin, USA. Journal of Paleolimnology DOI 10.1007/s10933-013-9724-8.
Cooke, C.A., H. Hintelmann, J.J. Ague, R. Burger, H. Biester, Sachs, J.P., and D.R. Engstrom. 2013. Use and legacy of mercury in the Andes. Environmental Science & Technology DOI 10.1021/es3048027.
Schottler, S.P., J. Ulrich, P. Belmont, R. Moore, J.W. Lauer, D.R. Engstrom, and J.E. Almendinger. 2013. Twentieth century agricultural drainage creates more erosive rivers. Hydrological Processes 28: 1951-1961.
Anger, C.T., C. Sueper, D.J. Blumentritt, K. McNeill, D.R. Engstrom, and W.A. Arnold. 2013. Quantification of triclosan, chlorinated triclosan derivatives, and their dioxin photoproducts in lacustrine sediment cores. Environmental Science & Technology DOI 10.1021/es3045289
Lamborg, C.H., D.R. Engstrom, W.F. Fitzgerald, and P.H. Balcom. 2013. Apportioning global and non-global components of mercury deposition through 210Pb indexing. Science of the Total Environment 448: 132-140.
Engstrom, D.R. and N.L. Rose. 2013. A whole-basin, mass-balance approach to paleolimnology. Journal of Paleolimnology 49: 333-347.
Saros, J.E., J.R. Stone, G.T. Pederson, K.E.H. Slemmons, T. Spanbauer, A. Schleip, D. Cahl, C.E. Williamson, and D.R. Engstrom. 2012. Climate-induced changes in lake ecosystem structure inferred from coupled neo- and paleoecological approaches. Ecology 93: 2155-2164.
Coleman Wasik, J.K., C.P.J. Mitchell, D.R. Engstrom, E.B. Swain, B.A. Monson, S.J. Balogh, J.D. Jeremiason, B.A. Branfireun, S.L. Eggert, R.K. Kolka, and J.E. Almendinger. 2012. Methylmercury declines in a boreal peatland when experimental sulfate depostion decreases. Environmental Science & Technology 46: 6663-6671
Anderson, N.J., R.H. Foy, D.R. Engstrom, B. Rippey and F. Alamgir. 2012. Climate forcing of diatom productivity in a lowland, eutrophic lake: White Lough revisited. Freshwater Biology 57: 2030-2043.
Drevnick, P.E, D.R. Engstrom, C.T. Driscoll, E.B. Swain, S.J. Balogh, N.C. Kamman, D.T. Long, D.G.C. Muir, M.J. Parsons, K.R. Rolfhus, and R. Rossmann. 2012. Spatial and temporal patterns of mercury accumulation in sediment records from across the Great Lakes Region. Environmental Pollution 161:252-260.
Triplett, L.D., D.R. Engstrom, and D.J. Conley. 2012. Changes in amorphous silica sequestration with eutrophication of riverine impoundments. Biogeochemistry 108:413–427.