Regional Spotlight: SETAC North America’s Pacific Northwest Chapter
Maggie Dutch, Pacific Northwest Chapter Co-secretary
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) Chapter of SETAC North America hosted their very successful 22nd annual regional chapter meeting in Spokane, Washington, in April. The number of registrations (102) was the second highest in the past five years, of which 47 were students, 12 were affiliated with academia, 13 with government and 30 with industry. Nine sponsors (including two sustaining corporate sponsors) contributed over $4,000 of funding to support program printing, student travel funds, a welcome reception, refreshments and student presentation awards. One member also contributed $1,000, joining as a sustaining individual sponsor!
The meeting theme was mining toxicity, a topic relevant to the industrial legacy of eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and Montana. The meeting included a tour of historic mining sites with discussion on remediation. The tour was organized and hosted by Ed Moreen, USEPA and Roger Thomas, Tetra Tech. Tour participants observed many aspects of mining-related environmental issues. North Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel pointed out several deceased snow geese, which were associated with mining-related lead. Contaminated areas, including sites that were once a contributor of elevated blood lead levels in local communities, but which have undergone remediation including capping or removal of waste, were observed. A water treatment plant that treats mining waste was also visited and the various stages of remediation were observed.
PNWSETAC chapter members listening to speaker on mine waste tour.
The keynote speaker was Earl Liverman, USEPA, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who gave a fascinating lunchtime discussion of his work conducting remediation of contaminated regional mining sites. Amanda Carew, a master’s degree graduate from the University of Victoria, gave an outstanding, four-hour short course, providing participants with An Overview of ‘Omics’ Technology. Amanda expertly guided participants through the intricacies of transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. These include, respectively, the study of changes induced in the transcription of mRNA, the translation and production of proteins and the metabolism and production of metabolites at the cellular level induced by environmental changes and pressures to which a test organism is exposed. Amanda meticulously explained the “workflow” of each method, including exposure design and execution, details of the tools used for each, chemical processing and data analysis.
Mine wastewater flocculation.
Platform sessions covered a variety of interesting topics, including relationships between road runoff and pre-spawn mortality in Coho salmon; petroleum hydrocarbon risk assessment; use of Corexit in Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup; management, fate and toxicology of mercury; Puget Sound sediment indicators; exposure-response curve hypothesis testing; dose-response model fitting, use of the toxicological model STELLA; contaminant modeling in Puget Sound; ecoimmunology and disease biology; RNA-SEQ ecotoxicology; amphibian gene expression; and impacts of mining on the environment. Thirteen posters covered similarly diverse topics.
We had a strong showing of students at the conference, both as attendees (46% were students) and as presenters (8 posters and 9 platforms). Topics ranged from modeling to DNA expression to developing and applying analytical methods. The students are investigating toxicants such as oil dispersants, nanomaterials, mercury, pharmaceuticals and pesticides.
Best Platform Presentations
Ph.D.: Allyson Jackson, Oregon State University, Mercury Bioaccumulation in Songbirds: Using Findings from Eastern U.S. for Western Studies.
M.Sc.: Lorraine Brown, Simon Fraser University, Effects of Ibuprofen Exposure on Underyearling Rainbow Trout and Caenorhabditis elegans—Exploring the Utility of RNA-SEQ in Ecotoxicology.
Undergraduate: Daniel Lybbert, Lewis-Clark State College, A ‘Spaghetti Junction’? Combining Ecoimmunology & Disease Biology for Immunotoxicology’s Sake.
Runner-up Undergraduate: Trey Saddler, Salish Kootenai College, Assessment of Methylmercury Exposure in Women of Childbearing Age on the Flathead Reservation, MT, USA.
Best Poster Presentations
Graduate: Lindsay DuGas, Simon Fraser University, The Effects of Current-Use Pesticides on Early Developmental Success, Timing and Growth to the Hatch Stage of Sockeye Salmon (Onchorhynchus nerka).
Undergraduate: Julie Fix, Western Washington University, Investigation of Biochemical Responses of Lichens to Air Pollutants Originating from Trains in Northwestern Washington.
The 2014 PNWSETAC annual meeting, to be held 24–26 April, will focus on urban stormwater issues, low-impact development, impacts of urban contaminants on freshwater ecosystems and Puget Sound, and urban estuary restoration. The meeting will be hosted at three venues including, the University of Washington, Tacoma; the Center for Urban Waters, Tacoma; and Washington State University, Puyallup. Hands-on workshops and a short course will be hosted on Thursday at WSU-Puyallup and the Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma, with the Thursday evening reception at WSU-Puyallup. Platform sessions will be held on Friday and Saturday at the UW Tacoma campus. Our Friday evening dinner will be held at one of the many great restaurants in Tacoma or at the Pt. Defiance Zoo! Additionally, the 2014 conference may be extended to include a Saturday afternoon session, including presentations from the Urban Clean Water Technology Innovation Partnership Zone of Tacoma. This collaboration of business, research, education and local government leaders was created to develop globally competitive, research-based urban clean water technologies and businesses in the Tacoma-Pierce County area.
Looking ahead, PNW-SETAC members will be active in a Toxo Talks graduate student symposium at Simon Frasier University in British Columbia in October and the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle from 30 April–2 May. Further information can be found on our chapter’s website.
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