SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  8 November 2012
Volume 13 Issue 11

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Canadian Oil Sands Special Symposium to Convene in Long Beach

Richard A. Frank, University of Guelph and Jonathan W. Martin, University of Alberta

sand deposits
Natural oil sand deposit exposed to weathering processes by Athabasca River (photo credit: Rick Frank)

The Lower Athabasca Region of Alberta, Canada, contains the world’s third largest proven oil reserve in the form of bitumen, a highly biodegraded and viscous form of petroleum. This resource, commonly termed “oil-sands” or “tar-sands,” depending on one’s stance, has fueled the rapid expansion of an oil sands industry in Alberta. The large scale of development and the unique processes used to mine, extract and upgrade the bitumen have led to many questions regarding potential impacts on surrounding ecosystems and human health. Owing to its greenhouse gas emissions, a dependence on water and the growing need to reclaim vast tracts of land and large tailings ponds, the sustainability of the industry has been called into question. Furthermore, agencies that were responsible for monitoring cumulative impacts of the industry have been openly accused of doing too little, leading to much recent uproar from the general public, as well as from politicians in Canada and abroad. In response, Canada and Alberta have begun to institute a new world-class monitoring system and many research programs are addressing the most pressing research questions on environmental toxicology and chemistry of the oil sands industry.

sand deposits
Aerial view of oil sands surface mining development (photo credit: Rick Frank)

SETAC North America has hosted oil sands sessions since 2008. This year, on Wednesday, 14 November, Canadian Oil Sands returns as a full-day Special Symposium in Long Beach in Room 104B. The multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary nature of the presentations will provide an excellent arena for SETAC attendees to follow the most recent burning questions and advances in this diverse scientific field.

sand deposits
Oily residue at water surface after sediment sampling on Ells River (tributary of Athabasca River); caused by natural bitumen in sediment (Photo credit: Rick Frank)

The theme for the current SETAC meeting is “Catching the Next Wave: Advancing Science Through Innovation and Collaboration,” and the presentations in this session from multidisciplinary groups of chemists, biologists, toxicologists, engineers, academics and government researchers will exemplify the true spirit of a SETAC conference. Without a doubt, the platform and poster topics are expected to command keen interest, especially given recent media and political attention that has focused on the development of Canada’s oil sands or on pipelines carrying bitumen into the US.

We hope you will choose to join us for this timely special symposium!

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