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Dr. Daniel R. Engstrom

Dr. Daniel R. Engstrom, Director

Adjunct Professor, Geology & Geophysics, and Water Resource Science - University of Minnesota

Ph.D., University of Minnesota (Ecology), 1983
M.S., University of Minnesota (Zoology), 1975
B.A., University of Minnesota (Zoology), 1971

Phone: 651-433-5953 ext. 11
email: or

Research Interests

Dr. Daniel R. Engstrom

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 the use of lake sediments to quantify the magnitude of the problem both throughout Minnesota and in the far corners of the Globe (Arctic Alaska, New England, Antarctica, Florida). Current research projects include studies of mercury cycling in Arctic lakes (NSF funding), quantification of mercury sources across North America (USEPA funding), and experimental manipulation of precipitation chemistry to stimulate mercury methylation in boreal wetlands (USEPA and Great Lakes Commission funding).

Nutrient inputs and sedimentation in large rivers

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 team has developed methods for quantifying the historical flux of these contaminants in the St. Croix and upper Mississippi basins from multiple sediment cores taken from their natural impoundments at Lake St. Croix and Lake Pepin. Through radiometric dating (210Pb, 137Cs, 14C), sediment geochemistry, and fossil diatoms, we have quantified order of magnitude changes in phosphorus loading, sedimentation, and heavy metal accumulation since the onset of regional European settlement. (Funding by the MN Pollution Control Agency and the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services)

Sediment sources in agricultural watersheds

Agricultural land use is a major cause of high turbidity and sedimentation in the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries. Determining the relative importance of field erosion versus stream channel erosion as contributors to this problem is a major research initiative here at the Station and one that is at the center of current efforts to reduce sediment loads to these rivers. We are working on new techniques for sediment fingerprinting using atmospherically deposited radionuclides as tracers for sediment source. The approach involves using lakes, surrounding by agricultural fields with no river/stream inputs, as reference systems to record the integrated fingerprint of field erosion only. This fingerprint is then compared with the sediments in depositional sites (reservoirs, backwaters) on the various tributaries and ultimately with the sediments in Lake Pepin, which acts as the final integrator of streambank and field erosion for more than half of Minnesota. (Funding by the MN Pollution Control Agency and USEPA).

Natural evolution of lakes and landscapes

This research explores the biogeochemical evolution of lakes resulting from the biotic colonization of a recently deglaciated landscape at Glacier Bay, Alaska. Glacier Bay has served as a natural laboratory for classic studies of primary terrestrial succession for almost a century, but parallel work on lake systems has never before been accomplished, either here or elsewhere in the world. Catastrophic ice recession at Glacier Bay has created a chronosequence of lakes of different ages, which we use to investigate directly the environmental forces controlling the direction and rates of limnological change. Our findings challenge the long-standing ecological paradigm that lakes become nutrient enriched as they age and its familiar corollary that cultural eutrophication is simply an acceleration of the aging process. (Funding by the NSF)

Representative Publications

(for a complete listing see Google Scholar)

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

Engstrom, D.R. and N.L. Rose. 2013. A whole-basin, mass-balance approach to paleolimnology. Journal of Paleolimnology DOI 10.1007/s10933-012-9675-5.

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.A. 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. Biogeochemistry108:413–427.

Blaauw, M., B. van Geel, I. Kristen, B. Plessen, A. Lyaruu, D.R. Engstrom, J. van der Plicht, and D. Verschuren. 2011. High-resolution 14C dating of a 25,000-year lake-sediment record from equatorial East Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 30:3043-3059.

Belmont, P., K.B. Gran, S.P. Schottler, P.R. Wilcock, S.S. Day, C. Jennings, J.W. Lauer, E. Viparelli, J.K. Willenbring, D.R. Engstrom, and G. Parker. 2011. Large shift in source of fine sediment in the upper Mississippi River. Environmental Science & Technology 45:8804-8810.

Morellón, M., B. Valero-Garcés, P. González-Sampériz, T. Vegas-Vilarrúbia, E. Rubio, M. Rieradevall, A. Delgado-Huertas, P. Mata, Ó. Romero, D.R. Engstrom, M. López-Vincente, A. Navas, and J. Soto. 2011. Climate changes and human activities recorded in the sediments of Lake Estanya (NE Spain) during the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age. Journal of Paleolimnology 46: 423-452.

Shinneman, A.L.C., D.M. Bennett, S.C. Fritz, J. Schmieder, D.R. Engstrom, A. Efting, and J. Holz. 2010. Inferring lake depth using diatom assemblages in the shallow, seasonally variable lakes of the Nebraska Sand Hills (USA): calibration, validation, and application of a 69-lake training set. Journal of Paleolimnology 44: 443-464.

Yang, H., D.R. Engstrom, and N.L. Rose. 2010. Recent changes in atmospheric mercury deposition in the sediments of remote equatorial lakes in the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda. Environmental Science & Technology 44: 6570-6577.

McGlynn, G., A.W. Mackay, N.L. Rose, R.G. Taylor, M.J. Leng, and D.R. Engstrom. 2010. Palaeolimnological evidence of environmental change over the last 400 years in the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda. Hydrobiologia 648: 109-122.

Balogh, S.J., L.D. Triplett, D.R. Engstrom, and Y.H. Nollet. 2010. Historical trace metal loading to a large river recorded in the sediments of Lake St. Croix, USA. Journal of Paleolimnology 44: 517-530.

Drevnick, P.E., A.L.C. Shinneman, C.H. Lamborg, D.R. Engstrom, M.H. Bothner, and J.T. Oris. 2010. Mercury flux to sediments of Lake Tahoe, California–Nevada. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 210: 399-407.

Bookman, R., C.T. Driscoll, S.W. Effler, and D.R. Engstrom. 2010. Anthropogenic impacts recorded in recent sediments from Otisco Lake, New York, USA. Journal of Paleolimnology 43: 449-462.

Engstrom, D.R. 2009. A tale of two rivers. Journal of Paleolimnology 41: 541-543.

Engstrom, D.R., J.E. Almendinger, and J.A. Wolin. 2009. Historical changes in sediment and phosphorus loading to the upper Mississippi River: mass-balance reconstructions from the sediments of Lake Pepin. Journal of Paleolimnology 41: 563-588.

Balogh, S.J., D.R. Engstrom, J.E. Almendinger, C. McDermott, J. Hu, Y.H. Nollet, M. L. Meyer, and D. K. Johnson. 2009. A sediment record of trace metal loadings in the upper Mississippi River. Journal of Paleolimnology 41: 623-639.

Edlund M.B., D.R. Engstrom, L.D. Triplett, B. Moraska Lafrancois, P.R. Leavitt. 2009. Twentieth century eutrophication of the St. Croix River (Minnesota-Wisconsin, USA) reconstructed from the sediments of its natural impoundment. Journal of Paleolimnology 41: 641-657.

Triplett, L.D., D.R. Engstrom, and M.B. Edlund. 2009. A whole-basin stratigraphic record of sediment and phosphorus loading to the St. Croix River, USA. Journal of Paleolimnology 41: 659-677.

James, R.T., M.J. Chimney, B. Sharfstein, D.R. Engstrom, S.P. Schottler, T. East, and K.-R. Jin. 2008. Hurricane effects on a shallow lake ecosystem, Lake Okeechobee, Florida (USA). Archiv für Hydrobiologie 172: 273-287.

Bookman, R., C.T. Driscoll, D.R. Engstrom, and S.W. Effler. 2008. Local to regional emission sources affecting mercury fluxes to New York lakes. Atmospheric Environment 42: 6088-6097.

Triplett, L.D., D.R. Engstrom, D.J. Conley, and S.M. Schellhaass. 2008. Silica fluxes and trapping in two contrasting natural impoundments of the upper Mississippi River. Biogeochemistry 87: 217-230.

Kröpelin, S., D. Verschuren, A.-M. Lézine, H. Eggermont, C. Cocquyt, P. Francus, J.-P. Cazet, M. Fagot, B. Rumes, J.M. Russell, F. Darius, D.J. Conley, M. Schuster, H. von Suchodoletz, and D.R. Engstrom. 2008 Climate-driven ecosystem succession in the Sahara: the past 6000 years. Science 320: 765-768.

Drevnick, P.E., D.E. Canfield, P.R. Gorski, A. L.C. Shinneman, D.R. Engstrom, D.C.G. Muir, G.R. Smith, P.J. Garrison, L.B. Cleckner, J.P. Hurley, R.B. Noble, R.R. Otter, and J.T. Oris. 2007. Deposition and cycling of sulfur controls mercury accumulation in Isle Royale fish. Environmental Science & Technology 41: 7266-7272.

Engstrom, D.R., E.B. Swain, and S.J. Balogh. 2007. History of mercury inputs to Minnesota lakes: influences of watershed disturbance and localized atmospheric deposition. Limnology and Oceanography 52: 2467-2483.

Engstrom, D.R. 2007. Fish respond when the mercury rises. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 16394-16395.

Biester, H., R. Bindler, A. Martinez-Cortizas, and D.R. Engstrom. 2007. Modeling the past atmospheric deposition of mercury using natural archives. Environmental Science & Technology 41: 4851-4860.

Milner, A.M., C.L. Fastie, F.S. Chapin, D.R. Engstrom, and L.C. Sharman. 2007. Interactions and linkages among ecosystems during landscape evolution. Bioscience 57: 327-247.

Lindberg, S.E., O.R. Bullock, R. Ebinghaus, D.R. Engstrom, X. Feng, W.F. Fitzgerald, N. Pirrone, E.M. Prestbo, and C. Seigneur. 2007. A synthesis of progress and uncertainties in attributing the sources of mercury in deposition. Ambio 36: 19-32.