Derek Wright

Dr. Derek Wright

Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Environmental Science
Crawford Hall
Lake Superior State University
650 W. Easterday Ave.
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783

B.S. Lake Superior State University

Ph.D. Rutgers University
Area of Specialty:

Environmental Chemistry
Trace Metal Biogeochemistry
Aquatic Chemistry of Freshwater and Marine systems

Research Interests and Opportunities:

My current research interests are primarily focused on the biogeochemical cycling and biological uptake of trace metals, in particular mercury.  Mercury is emitted to the atmosphere from anthropogenic activities such as the combustion of coal and municipal waste, where it can subsequently be deposited locally, or enter the global atmospheric mercury pool depending on its chemical form. Once mercury makes its way into aquatic systems, it can be transformed to methylmercury, the form that accumulates to potentially dangerous levels in fish. I am interested in investigating various aspects of the mercury cycle, including: 1) enhanced local deposition near emissions sources, 2) the effects of scavenging by vegetation on mercury deposition, and 3) the factors that contribute to enhanced bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of mercury in aquatic food webs.

 I am also interested in the role of organic ligands such as thiols in controlling the speciation (and therefore bioavailability) of metals in aquatic systems. Thiols are organic compounds that contain the sulfhydryl (-SH) functional group, and may be important in complexing potentially toxic metals such as Hg and Zn in aquatic systems.  I am currently in the initial phase of developing an in house HPLC method for the determination of nM quantities of thiols in environmental samples, based on previously published work. Once developed, I hope to apply this method to investigating the controls on thiol distributions a variety of systems, including both freshwater and marine environments.

 In addition to the above areas, my research interests include the impact of environmental contaminants on ecological and human health, and the effects of nutrient loading (N and P) on aquatic systems.

 Opportunities for senior thesis research exist in each of these areas contact me to discuss potential projects.


 Medina M., A. Chatziefthimiou, N.S. Bloom, G.W. Luther III, D.D. Wright, J.R. Reinfelder, C. Vetriani, and T. Barkay. 2009. Interactions of chemosynthetic bacteria with mercury at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Limnology and Oceanography 54:41-49.

 Wright D.D., T.K. Frazer, and J.R. Reinfelder. Trace metal bioaccumulation and trophic transfer in the Hudson River buoyant plume. (in preparation).

 Reinfelder J.R., and D.D. Wright. Production, oxidation, and volatilization of dissolved gaseous mercury in the Hudson River buoyant plume. (in preparation).