This study describes the synthesis and characterization of thiol-grafted chitosan beads for use as mercury (Hg) adsorbents. Chitosan flakes were dissolved and formed into spherical beads using a phase inversion technique, then crosslinked to improve their porosity and chemical stability. Cysteine was grafted onto the beads in order to improve the adsorption affinity of Hg to the beads. The beads possessed an average diameter of 3.2 mm, porosity of 0.9, specific surface area of approximately 100 m2/g, average pore size of approximately 120 angstroms, and specific gravity of 2.0. Equilibrium and kinetic uptake experiments were conducted to study the uptake of Hg by the beads. The adsorption capacity was approximately 8.0 mmol-Hg/g-dry beads at pH 7, and decreased with decreasing pH. Hg adsorption kinetics was modeled as radial pore diffusion into a spherical bead with nonlinear adsorption. Use of the nonlinear Freundlich isotherm in the diffusion equation allowed modeling of the uptake kinetics with a single tortuosity factor of 1.5 +/- 0.3 as the fitting parameter for all initial Hg concentrations, chitosan loadings, and agitation rates. At agitation rates of 50 and 75 rpm, where uptake rate was reduced significantly due to the boundary layer effect, the mass transfer coefficient at the outside boundary was also used as a fitting parameter to model the kinetic data. At agitation rates higher than 150 rpm, pore diffusion was the rate-limiting step. The beads exhibited a high initial uptake rate followed by a slower uptake rate suggesting pore diffusion as the rate-determining step especially at high agitation rates. Higher uptake rates observed in this study compared to those in a previous study of chitosan-based crab shells indicate that dissolution and gel formation increase the porosity and pore accessibility of chitosan.