By Jack Guen-Murray
On July 25-29, 2016, I attended the 5th Asia-Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network’s (APMMN) meeting and workshop in Bangkok, Thailand. At a working level, my mission to Bangkok was to facilitate the APMMN meeting and provide logistical support to the workshop at the Environmental Research and Technology Center. The primary goal of my mission was to aid in the strengthening and expansion of the network. My name is Jack Guen-Murray and I work on International Environmental Partnership (IEP) and Greater China programs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs. Outside of my work at EPA, I am a graduate student at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, where I study the nexus of environment, trade/economic development and politics in Asia. The conference was particularly interesting for me as it provided the opportunity to gain ground-level experience in international environmental development.
As it was my first mission, or my ‘maiden voyage,’ as described by my colleagues–I was excited to meet the delegates and have an active role in the construction of the network. APMMN is a network of organizations that have agreed to work together to harmonize air and rainwater mercury monitoring. In 2014, APMMN was launched by EPA and Environmental Protection Administration of Taiwan. Currently, there are 16 nations that participate in the network.
The U.S. delegation consisted of myself (left), David Gay of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (center), and David Schmeltz (right) of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation (right), and Mark Olsen (not pictured). Both David Gay and David Schmeltz have been instrumental in the establishment and development of the network.
After the Opening Ceremony and individual presentations on the statuses of mercury monitoring in member countries, APMMN delegates were taken to Thailand’s Environment Research and Training Center (ERTC), an environmental research facility on the outskirts of Bangkok. At ERTC, we learned about different methods of wet deposition mercury monitoring and analysis. I am not a scientist by trade, however I now have a better sense of what is required to effectively monitor mercury. The presentations were delivered by the Thai and Japanese scientists in a way that lay-observers like myself could grasp.
APMMN delegates, a combination of researchers and policymakers, were given various demonstrations on how wet deposition mercury samples are collected at ERTC. The amiable cooperation of the group and the genuine interest of each delegate in positively impacting the environment in their respective countries stood out tremendously during this engagement. Observing the harmony that international environmental work can produce makes me hopeful for the success of our program and future programs.
At ERTC, an APMMN delegate observed a mobile ambient mercury monitoring and research station. The mobile monitoring station allows researchers to collect data from unlimited locations. This expanded capability enables researchers to draw a clearer picture of the sources of mercury emissions. After learning about monitoring technology and observing rain water collection training at ERTC, I now have a better understanding of what it will take to establish an effective regional network.
The 5th APMMN meeting was a success for the network. New relationships were created, knowledge was shared and the network expanded. We at EPA are eager to improve upon the existing accomplishments of the network. We sincerely thank our Thai hosts and participating nations for working to see the network to maturity. With increasing interest in joining APMMN from various countries in Asia and beyond, I am hopeful that the network will grow past what has been envisioned.
About the author: John “Jack” Guen-Murray is currently in graduate school at George Washington University. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China and is a graduate of Lake Forest College in Illinois. Jack works on the Asia-Pacific team in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs.