A partnership of federal and state agencies, tribes, industry, and scientists from academic research and environmental organizations is establishing a national, policy-relevant mercury monitoring network, called MercNet, to address key questions concerning changes in anthropogenic mercury emissions and deposition, associated linkages to ecosystem effects, and recovery from mercury contamination. This network would quantify mercury in the atmosphere, land, water, and biota in terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal ecosystems to provide a national scientific capability for evaluating the benefits and effectiveness of emission controls. Program development began with two workshops, convened to establish network goals, to select key indicators for monitoring, to propose a geographic network of monitoring sites, and to design a monitoring plan. MercNet relies strongly on multi-institutional partnerships to secure the capabilities and comprehensive data that are needed to develop, calibrate, and refine predictive mercury models and to guide effective management. Ongoing collaborative efforts include the: (1) development of regional multi-media databases on mercury in the Laurentian Great Lakes, northeastern United States, and eastern Canada; (2) syntheses and reporting of these data for the scientific and policy communities; and (3) evaluation of potential monitoring sites. The MercNet approach could be applied to the development of other monitoring programs, such as emerging efforts to monitor and assess global mercury emission controls. ?? 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA).