Mercury, Suspended by Abby Sunde

Mercury, Suspended

Hollow core kiln-cast glass, plaster, and mirroring solution on sand

Abby Sunde, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In Collaboration with Geoff Siemering, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mercury, Suspended explores the recent research conducted by Geoff Siemering in which he participated with the National Geographic funded Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition in Peru in 2022. This research was conducted to determine the impact of deforestation and artisanal small-scale gold mining impacts on aquatic ecosystems in the Tambopata National Park area of the Peruvian Amazon Madre de Dios region. Due to these unauthorized mining activities, the mercury used in these operations has accumulated within mining ponds throughout the region, and Siemering’s research sought to understand how mercury behavior differs in these aquatic ecosystems as they age.

While mercury at the soil surface can eventually evaporate, once mercury enters a body of water it often cycles within that ecosystem with ongoing negative impacts to the local flora and fauna. Mercury, Suspended depicts this mercury contamination suspended within the water and considers the permeance and lingering impacts of those contaminants within aquatic ecosystems tied to these mining pond waters and sediments.


Abby Sunde is a visual artist currently residing in Madison, WI. She graduated from University of MN – Morris with a BA in Biology & Environmental Sciences and pursued a career in the sciences before transitioning to community non-profit work and recently returning to school at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to study studio glass and 2D work. Her current practice resides in the intersection of personal agency within society and her own experiences and identity.

Follow her work on instagram: @abby_sunde

ABOUT THE Water Partner

Geoff Siemering’s work focuses on investigating the behavior of a wide range of contaminants in soil, water, and sediment as well as human health risk assessment to inform the development of environmental regulation. Previously studied contaminants include: pesticides (aquatic and terrestrial), potential toxic metals (lead, uranium, and chromium), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrate, and radionuclides. The research that inspired this artwork is a National Geographic-funded collaboration with scientists from Duke University, the University of Southern California, the University of Arizona, Columbia University, and Centro de Innovación Científica Amazónica investigated mercury contamination of the Peruvian Amazon ecosystem from artisanal small-scale gold mining.