SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
17 December 2015
Volume 16 Issue 12

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Highlights from SETAC Salt Lake City

Cameron Irvine and Markus Hecker, SETAC North America Science Committee

The SETAC North America 36th Annual Meeting took place from 1–5 November 2015 in Salt Lake City, UT. It was another exciting meeting that boasted excellent science, entertainment and networking opportunities. The meeting had more than 1,700 attendees from all geographic regions of the society. It featured 12 parallel sessions, including four that were recorded throughout the week. So if you missed some of your favorite science, please check out the recorded sessions from SLC or from last year's Vancouver meeting.  Hopefully the one you missed will be among them. We continued our highly successful Q&A where scientists responded to public questions on Reddit. You can also see highlights from member perspectives of the meeting posted on Twitter.

SETAC SLC photosFor more SETAC SLC photos, visit the SETAC flickr photo stream.

21st Century EcoToxicology–Adverse Outcome Pathways, “-Omics,” Systems Biology and Other Fancy Science
SETAC Salt Lake City served as a strong platform for continuing discussions regarding a 21st Century toxicology paradigm that aims to fuse novel developments in “-omics” and systems biology with traditional apical endpoint driven approaches to improve chemical and ecological risk assessment to better serve regulatory needs.

Sessions and workshops on Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) (their use and application) were packed throughout the meeting. There were 47 presentations related to AOPs in 22 different sessions. A testament to the increasing relevance the AOP concept is the current implementation of applied tools under an AOP Knowledge Base (AOP KB), such as the AOP Wiki, AOP Xplorer and the Effectopedia, which were the focus of a number of sessions and a full-day professional workshop.

In addition to a few targeted sessions, AOPs were featured in 22 sessions including “Pollinators and Agrochemicals,” “Assessing Risks of Pesticides to Federally Listed (Threatened and Endangered) Species,” “Moving Beyond Model Organisms – Next Generation Species Extrapolation,” just to name a few.  This clearly demonstrates that the AOP concept has gown out of its infancy and has become a main theme in environmental toxicology to be reckoned with now and in the future.

The increasing array and complexity of “-omics” in environmental science was also reflected by this year’s meeting. In particular, the use of metabolomics to assess chemical stress and the interrelated complexity and signatures on metabolites resulting from biochemical pathways known or predicted to be connected to chemical stress were the focus of many presentations. For example, there was an excellent talk on metabolomics in relation to pathways associated with neurotoxicity in exposed children.  Similarly, other “-omics” technologies, such as whole transcriptome and proteome sequencing, as well as epigenetic studies, have become a common component in many of the toxicogenomic studies presented at SETAC meetings.

Non-conventional Test Organisms and Endangered Species
There was a great interest in studies with non-conventional test species, and SETAC Salt Lake City witnessed an unprecedented number of presentations (49 platforms and posters) focusing on endangered species ranging from birds to fish (sturgeon) to invertebrates.

Several posters and platform presentations focused on testing freshwater bivalve mussels with test methods for water and sediment appearing to be well on the way to standardization. Some evidence indicates that juvenile mussels may have a similar acute toxicity profile to Daphnia magna, or are even slightly more sensitive to ammonia and some metals and ions including copper, nickel, chloride, sulfate and potassium.

We would like to highlight the outstanding work that is ongoing in the endocrine disruptor area, especially with monitoring effects on birds. It was particularly interesting to see the scope, breadth and depth of these studies and to hear about the physiological mechanisms and behavioral responses observed that reflect impacts.

This year’s meeting also saw the first session focusing on sturgeon ecotoxicology, which was very well attended.  It featured excellent science and sparked discussions regarding the appropriateness of traditional standard test species to protect endangered wildlife such as sturgeon.

SETAC’s Expanding Horizons
As SETAC is exploring new horizons, the society is increasingly placing emphasis on non-traditional topics in environmental toxicology and chemistry at its annual meetings.

The SETAC Berlin Sustainability Declaration has been taken up across geographic units, including SETAC Asia/Pacific, as evidenced by involvement of the President and Vice President of SETAC Asia/Pacific and founding members and Steering Committee members of the Sustainability Advisory Group. Connecting the SETAC Berlin Declaration with local stories (as examples of how to think about sustainability) is a strategy being explored, and a number of special symposia and professional training courses were proposed for the 2016 Asia/Pacific Meeting in Singapore, with similar offerings for the upcoming world congress at SETAC Orlando.

Another novelty at this year’s meeting was a “One Health” session that was quite successful. "One Health" encourages interdisciplinary collaborations in research, clinical practice, policy and communication related to health of people, other animals and the environment.  To our knowledge it was the first “One Health” session at SETAC; it pulled together experts from One Health community and SETAC, and on average was viewed by 40–90 individuals.

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is beginning to go beyond the “products” cycle and extend into the social aspects arena, making LCA potentially an acknowledged partner in the scientific areas consisting of multicriteria decision analysis, and systems and ecological thinking.  We think a focus on which approaches, methods or tools might be useful across these disciplines and why, would be the next set of questions to be explored.
Information and questions collected over the past few SETAC meetings for the Global Horizon Scanning Project were organized into the first Horizon Scanning Workshop to identify emerging topics and technologies that are, or will be, important to ecotoxicologists and chemists.

Other Highlights from SETAC Salt Lake City

  • Deep Water Horizon Special SymposiumMembers enjoyed hearing about the progress on the Gulf of Mexico research.
  • Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)— The expanding identification of PFAS replacements (e.g. perfluoroalkyl sulfonic acid precursors including substituted fluoroalkyl sulfonamides) and subsequent findings in environmental matrices such as wastewater and wildlife (as well as effects) were especially interesting. Presenters reported on an increasing array of PFAS precursors and degradation processes (both abiotic and biotic).
  • Several sessions on the fate and effects of metals had presentations describing how the Biotic Ligand Model (BLM) is being developed and refined for metals other than copper (which has its water quality based on the BLM) and for chronic, as well as acute, effects. Other sessions discussed regulatory approaches that overcome challenges faced by the States adopting this water quality criteria (WQC) approach.
  • A presentation on Fluoride in marsupials in Australia and effects on bone lesions using road kill was quite interesting.
  • Many advisory groups sponsored sessions and held meetings to discuss ongoing activities.
  • A number of great talks were given in a new session addressing bias in science and risk assessment. There was recognition by presenters and audience participants that we all bring some bias to the table. How can SETAC avoid bias? By cultivating ethics and integrity in our work, encouraging participation of diverse stakeholders so that no one group dominates, and establishing neutral groups to judge and provide peer review.

From the Student’s Perspective

  • NASAC was very successful in offering a variety of social and entertainment events throughout SETAC, including the student- mentor lunch and a noontime seminar.  
  • It appears that the 2014 SETAC Vancouver meeting started a new tradition of a SETAC North America student party that was continued at the Salt Lake City meeting with great success and enthusiasm.
  • The student dance party at a local pub was off the charts!
  • There was an interesting session and great debate on bias in science.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the Salt Lake City meeting had great displays from our vendors. From stonefly stickers and other great swag our vendors put on a great display.

All of us who attended SETAC Salt Lake City had a great time! We learned a lot, saw familiar faces, and we hope to see you at one of the upcoming SETAC meetings, may it be in Europe, Asia, Africa or at next year’s SETAC World Congress in Orlando!

The SETAC North America Science Committee is charged with identifying emerging scientific issues relevant to SETAC, facilitating communication among advisory groups and the general membership, and ensuring technical excellence within SETAC. Please contact Sue Robinson if you are interested in participating in the SETAC North America Science Committee.


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