SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  7 November 2013
Volume 14 Issue 11

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Report on the 2013 SETAC Australasia Conference

SETAC Melbourne Organising Committee

SETAC Australasia Melbourne Conference 2013

The opening ceremony kicked off on Tuesday morning, 1 October, and following a few words from Vin Pettigrove (Chair) and Dayanthi Nugegoda (Co-chair and SETAC Australasia President), Cheryl Batagol, the Chair(wo)man of the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority gave an informative presentation on the current challenges of effective pollution management, which set the scene for this year’s conference theme, “Multidisciplinary approaches to managing environmental pollution.” The theme aimed to encompass a broad and diverse mix of session topics that would be relevant to ecotoxicologists, environmental toxicologists and environmental chemists.

The first plenary was delivered by Paul Worsfold, titled “Space and time: The final frontiers for trace element biogeochemistry in aquatic systems,” and provided an excellent overview of novel and emerging flow injection techniques for quantifying trace elements in marine samples. The rest of the day showcased a wide variety of presentations, more than three concurrent sessions including aquatic ecotoxicology, mixtures and multiple stressors, environmental chemistry, water and sediment quality guidelines, environmental-omics and human and mammalian toxicology and risk assessment. This was followed by an afternoon poster session, then the SETAC Australasia annual general meeting and a student networking function. Despite that very busy first day, delegates continued on late into the night with further informal networking and socialising by way of a pub crawl and trivia activity, taking in some of the interesting history and culture behind some of Carlton’s iconic local pubs.

Urs von Gunten showing off his CAPIM football

The second day of the conference started with a plenary presentation by Urs von Gunten, titled “Micropollutant abatement in urban water management: From reaction kinetics to toxicological assessment.” His talk detailed the need for better treatment technologies to ensure adequate removal of micropollutants from water and was a very fitting start to the "What’s In Our Water?" symposium, which took place alongside the SETAC Australasia sessions on Wednesday. The day was again filled with a diverse mix of presentations and poster spotlights (5-minute snapshot presentations) on topics ranging from pollution in urban environments to bioanalytical tools for risk assessment and multidisciplinary sampling approaches. In the afternoon, John Stark delivered another excellent plenary presentation. He spoke about urban stormwater pollution and discussed some of the various biological and molecular techniques that are currently being utilised to characterise impacts from stormwater, in a presentation titled “Weathering the storm: Ecotoxicology of urban runoff.”

The conference dinner was held on Wednesday night at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground. Delegates were treated to pre-dinner drinks in the Melbourne Cricket Club Sports Museum, where a variety of Australian sporting memorabilia is on display, including the great Don Bradman’s cricket bat! Dinner was held in the AFL (Australian Football League) Dining Room, which offers amazing views of the city and Rod Laver Arena on one side, and the MCG ground in the other direction. It was a fantastic night, filled with good food, good wine and arguably of most importance, lots of dancing! The dance floor swelled to more or less maximum capacity once the band got started, and as always it was great to see so many scientists (both young and old!) up and at it.

Despite the late night on Wednesday, delegates arrive bright and early the next day in time to hear this year’s Tony Roach Memorial Plenary, which was presented by Kim Fernie. Her talk, “Exposure and effects of various flame retardants on birds,” provided a thorough and fascinating account of a range of biological impacts that have been observed in both wild and captive birds exposed to brominated flame retardants. Being a Canadian native and unaware of Melbourne’s notorious "4-seasons-in-one-day" weather patterns, Fernie commented early in the conference about how nice the Melbourne weather was, which earned her the “Melbourne Spring Appreciation Award.” Although it did get cold and windy one day, we were very fortunate that for the most part, the weather was co-operative throughout the meeting (very much to our surprise!).

The remainder of the day was filled with a variety of sessions ranging from metal contamination in the environment, environmental monitoring and assessment, microplastics and persistent organic pollutants, aquatic and terrestrial risk assessment and environmental chemistry. Following an intensive three days of conference activities, it all came to a conclusion on Thursday afternoon at the closing ceremony with a wrap up from the conference chair, an advertisement for next year’s Joint SETAC Asia/Pacific and SETAC Australasia Conference, which will be held from 14–17 September 2014 in Adelaide, and most importantly, the awarding of several student prizes. We were very fortunate to receive funding for prizes from a variety of sponsors, so we were thrilled to be able to award several prizes to students based on the quality of their oral and poster presentations.

SETAC Australasia Honours Thesis Prize: James Black (Marine Ecology Research Centre, School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, NSW) for his presentation, “Lethal and sub-lethal effects of copper on the juvenile brittle star Amphipholis squamata at a range of selected temperatures.” Black was also the lucky winner of the iPad for completing the SETAC Members' Survey.

Best Research Presentation by a PhD Student or Early Career Researcher in Environmental Chemistry (sponsored by the National Measurement Institute): Edward Nagul (CAPIM / School of Chemistry, The University of Melbourne, VIC) for his presentation, “Flow injection determination of phosphate in natural waters using UV photoreduction of molybdophosphate.”

Best Research Poster by a PhD Student or Early Career Researcher in Environmental Chemistry (sponsored by the National Measurement Institute): Jenna Roberts (Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, ACT) for her presentation, “Ecotoxicological assessment of the Lower Molonglo/Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment: A combine laboratory and field evaluation.”

Best Student Research Presentation in the What's In Our Water Symposium (sponsored by CSIRO Publishing): Harpreet Bhatia (CSIRO Land and Water / School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Waite Research Institute, the University of Adelaide, SA) for his presentation, “Adult male Murray rainbowfish (Melanotaenia fluviatilis) as a test model to assess anti-androgenic effects of flutamide in Australian riverine environment.”

Best Student Research Presentation in Ecotoxicology (sponsored by Hydrobiology): Francesca Gissi (CSIRO Land and Water / School of Chemistry, University of Wollongong NSW / Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, TAS) for her presentation, “Development of toxicity testing protocols with Antarctic marine microalgae.”

Best Student Research Poster in Ecotoxicology (sponsored by Hydrobiology): Patricia Cunico Ferreira (CSIRO Land and Water /Institute of Nuclear and Energy Research, Sao Paulo, Brazil) for her presentation, “Removal of colour and reduction of toxicity in reactive dyes using zeolites from coal fly ash.”

Best Student Research Presentation in Risk Assessment and Environmental Monitoring (sponsored by EPA Victoria): Rajani Jagtap (Institute for Applied Ecology, The University of Canberra, ACT) for her presentation, “Measurement of mercury and selenium species in sediments and biota by HPLC-ICPMS”.

Best Student Research Poster in Risk Assessment and Environmental Monitoring (sponsored by EPA Victoria): Katelyn Edge (Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, NSW) for her presentation, “Use of biomarker responses in deep-sea sponges to assess impacts of drilling and fluids.”

The 2013 Organising Committee: Claudette Kellar, Dayanthi Nugegoda, Kathryn Hassell, Vin Pettigrove and Jackie Myers (not pictured: Spas Kolev, Ines Almeida, Oliver Jones, Valentina Colombo, Fred Leusch)

On behalf of the organising committee, we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who attended the 2013 SETAC Australasia Melbourne conference. It was a great success and would not have been possible without your participation. Sponsors greatly helped the conference this year, and we would like to thank all sponsors for their support: CAPIM, RMIT, Water Research Australia, Intertek-Geotech, Golder Associates, Agilent Technologies, CSIRO Publishing, Vision Environment Queensland, Ecotox Services Australasia, Advanced Analytical, National Measurement Institute, Hydrobiology and EPA Victoria. We would also like to thank the SETAC Australasia Council for their assistance.

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