The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) for the 15th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) has reviewed nominations for the Kathryn R. Mahaffey Lifetime Achievement Award in Mercury Research. This award was established in 2011 to celebrate and recognize selected individuals who have made extraordinary lifetime achievements in mercury research, mentoring, and/or contributions to governmental policy and public outreach.
Dr. Kathryn R. Mahaffey passed away in 2009. Her career embodied all that this award is meant to honor: scholarly research on global mercury issues that met the highest scientific standards, greatly enhanced understanding of mercury as a pollutant, and support of public health protection globally. Dr. Mahaffey was a prolific writer, including the scientific literature, but also understood the importance of dissemination of her work to the broader global community of non-governmental organizations, regulators and the general public.The SSC is proud to announce that the recipient of the 6rd Kathryn R. Mahaffey Lifetime Achievement Award in Mercury Research is Professor Robert Mason.
Dr. Robert (Rob) Mason has been a professor of Marine Sciences, with a joint appointment in Chemistry, at the University of Connecticut (UConn) since 2005. Prior to his current position he was a faculty member at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, part of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies, from 1994 to 2005. After graduating from UConn in 1991 with a PhD in Marine Sciences, under Dr. Bill Fitzgerald, he completed a post-doc at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts working with Drs. Francois Morel and Harry Hemond. Rob completed his undergraduate training in Analytical Chemistry in Durban, South Africa (RSA) and his MS at the University of Cape Town in 1983. Besides his academic studies and achievements, he has worked in research and development and for the Sea Fisheries Research Institute in Cape Town, RSA, studying oil pollution, and also completed 2 years as a program officer for the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
Rob has authored and co-authored over 230 scientific papers and book chapters, with over 27,485 citations with an H-index of 85 (Google Scholar). His four highest cited papers have more than 1000 citations each. He has co-edited four books and edited 6 special issues of journals focusing on large research activities, such as multi-investigator ocean cruises and conferences. He published the book Trace Metals in Aquatic Systems. Rob and his research group have presented papers at more than 400 national and international meetings, and he has been invited to present his research at institutions globally. Rob has attended all the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) conferences, except the first conference in Sweden when he was denied a visa due to the cultural boycott against South Africans that was in place due to the continuation of apartheid. He has been a ICMGP plenary speaker on two occasions (Minamata in 2004 and Nova Scotia in 2011). He has been on the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) for a number of the ICMGP conferences, and was an Executive Committee Member for the 2017 conference in Providence, Rhode Island, and is for the 2022 virtual meeting. He has been on the organizing committee and a SSC member for other international conferences, including the International Conference on Heavy Metals in the Environment (ICHMET), where he was a plenary speaker in 2018, and the International Estuarine Biogeochemistry Symposium (IEBS), which he hosted in 2004. He has chaired sessions at most of the ICMGP meetings and at the other conferences that he has attended.
His mentoring activities have resulted in 13 PhD and 8 MS theses, where he has been the major advisor, and he has been a committee member for many other graduate students. Eighty percent of his graduate students have been women and, besides the USA, his students have come from Africa and Asia. He has been an external examiner for PhD students in Canada, Europe and South Africa. He has also mentored more than 10 post-docs and visiting scientists from around the world, including Fulbright Scholars and students/post-docs from Europe and Asia. He has also had many high school and undergraduate students working in his laboratories over the years. He has taught classes throughout his career, and has always incorporated his research into his teaching. He expects to continue to teach classes in Chemical Oceanography, Trace Metals and Isotopes and Environmental Chemistry in the future.
He has collaborated extensively with scientists from around the world and has been involved in synthesis and other activities through national and international organizations including the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), and other UN organizations, and their partnership programs, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), and the Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollutants (HTAP) initiative. He has been actively involved in communicating science to policy makers both in the USA and globally. He has been involved in many activities as a science advisor to federal, state and local organizations and industry related to contaminated sites and/or the impacts of human activities on local waters and biota, and subsequently humans and wildlife, and in their remediation.
Rob’s research has been funded by numerous federal and state agencies, as well as from non-governmental organizations, with the majority of his funding from the NSF (30 grants). He has been part of long-term studies, such as the METAALICUS Project, the GEOTRACES Program and studies on mercury in coastal environments in collaboration with colleagues at Dartmouth College. He has collaborated extensively with scientists in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. His research has taken him to the far corners of the Earth, including remote regions of the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. He has participated in 9 open ocean cruises during his career, and been chief scientist on more than one occasion, and has been involved in many coastal cruises and terrestrial studies. He has conducted research in Southern Africa and was also a Fulbright Scholar doing studies in West Africa related to artisanal gold mining (ASGM) impacts on the environment.
Rob recently participated in a research cruise in the Arctic Ocean and his post-doc was involved in another cruise around Iceland in 2021. He expects to continue his open ocean studies going forward, and hopes to remain involved in the GEOTRACES program. He is continuing with studies of Hg interactions in coastal waters, and the relationship between Hg cycling and transformation and those of other elements, such as selenium. He is currently the major advisor/co-advisor of 5 PhD students and is actively involved in their research, and is also actively writing papers based on prior studies. There are many papers still to be written and he is also currently involved in synthesis efforts as part of the current AMAP mercury synthesis. He expects to remain active in research, teaching, consulting and related activities for several years as there are too many good ideas to pursue to stop right now!
On the behalf of the mercury scientific community, the Scientific Steering Committee of the 15th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, cordially congratulate Professor Mason for receiving the LAA Award.