Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism

Department or School/College

School of Journalism

Committee Chair

Denise Dowling

Commitee Members

Jule Banville, Craig Stafford, Matthew Frank


mercury, mining, osprey, bioaccumulation, biomagnification, Philipsburg


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


In December 2008, when Montana's great Clark Fork River tested its historic banks for the first time in 100 years, a crowd of hundreds gathered to watch the removal of Milltown Dam at the confluence of the river with the Big Blackfoot. After a century of pollution from Butte's copper mines, the river was undergoing the nation's largest­yet restoration project, the Upper Clark Fork River Superfund Complex.

But in a windowless laboratory a mile away, University of Montana chemist Heiko Langner had troubling news. Toxic methylmercury flowed through the river at concentrations of concern, undetected and undermining the project. It didn't come from Butte, but from a mysterious source closer to Langner's Missoula lab. This story follows Langner's journey as he searches for the surprising source of the toxin, and his struggle to get it cleaned up.



© Copyright 2014 Kindra McQuillan