In the present study, specimens of the invasive clam, Corbicula fluminea, were collected above and below possible sources of potentially toxic trace elements (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Pb, and Zn) in the Altamaha River system (Georgia, USA). Bioaccumulation of these elements was quantified, along with environmental (water and sediment) concentrations. Hierarchical linear models were used to account for variability in tissue concentrations related to environmental (site water chemistry and sediment characteristics) and individual (growth metrics) variables while identifying the strongest relations between these variables and trace element accumulation. The present study found significantly elevated concentrations of Cd, Cu, and Hg downstream of the outfall of kaolin-processing facilities, Zn downstream of a tire cording facility, and Cr downstream of both a nuclear power plant and a paper pulp mill. Models of the present study indicated that variation in trace element accumulation was linked to distance upstream from the estuary, dissolved oxygen, percentage of silt and clay in the sediment, elemental concentrations in sediment, shell length, and bivalve condition index. By explicitly modeling environmental variability, the Hierarchical linear modeling procedure allowed the identification of sites showing increased accumulation of trace elements that may have been caused by human activity. Hierarchical linear modeling is a useful tool for accounting for environmental and individual sources of variation in bioaccumulation studies. ?? 2009 SETAC.