SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
16 July 2015
Volume 16 Issue 7

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Regional Spotlight: Prairie Northern Chapter’s 6th Annual Meeting Exploring the Oil and Gas Industry in Western Canada

Kevin White and Michelle North, Prairie Northern Chapter Student Representatives

Prairie Northern meeting

The 6th Annual General Meeting and Conference of the SETAC North America Prairie Northern Chapter (PNC) was hosted this year from 4–5 June by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. The conference was aptly themed “One Health and the Oil & Gas Industry in the West: Animals to Ecosystems.” The conference kicked off with two short courses, attended by approximately 65 students and faculty. Proceedings began with a workshop titled “Industry-Defined Research Needs and Challenges related to Monitoring in the Oil Sands Region,” hosted by Kelly Munkittrick, Monitoring Director from COSIA, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. Munkittrick discussed current challenges in oil sands monitoring and the importance of communication between business and academia in order to facilitate actionable research and improvement in environmental performance in the oil sands.

Lyriam Marques with Nautilus Environmental Consultants subsequently stressed the importance of considering soil health and microorganism functional diversity when evaluating environmental contamination or restoration with her short course on “Soil Ecotoxicology: Function and Biodiversity Informing Adaptive Management to Accelerate Reclamation.”

Rounding off the first day, the University of Saskatchewan led “Tox on Tap,” which provided an excellent platform for informal education with Munkittrick once again leading with a session on “Changing Environmental Minds: The Future of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Regulation.”  He sparked a friendly debate about the usefulness of “-omics” in changing policy, among other topics. Mark Hanson, current SETAC PNC President, helped moderate the discussions together with the Saskatoon team. The event was open to the public and hosted by Kilkenny Irish Pub, with over 60 people coming out to network, socialize and discuss the future of our field in Canada.

The conference proper began the next morning, with 100 attendees being inspired by our esteemed plenary speakers, Fred Wrona with the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA); Karina Thomas with Alberta Health; and Vince Palace with Stantec. They provided insight into:

  • Design and Implementation of Integrated Environmental Monitoring: Challenges and Opportunities
  • Health Risk Assessment: Linking Environmental and Human Health, and
  • Social License: A New Paradigm for Environmental Monitoring in the Oil and Gas Industry and Beyond

In addition to the plenary speakers, 17 students from the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, Manitoba, Lethbridge and Saskatchewan covered a wide range of environmental toxicology issues concerning amphibians, birds, invertebrates and fish in their platform presentations. Following the platform presentations, an enjoyable wine-and-cheese poster social was held to highlight the current research of an additional 35 students from across the region. To close out the meeting, attendees enjoyed a sumptuous evening banquet dinner at the MacEwan Centre’s Ballroom, entertained in part by a quiz on the posters, a silent auction to raise funds for the chapter, and prizes awarded for the best student platform and poster presentations as follows:


  • Van Ortega, University of Alberta: Goldfish (Carassius auratus) immune responses to intravenously injected polymer-coated TiO2 nanoparticles
  • Derek Green, University of Saskatchewan: Contamination and multi-decadal decay of reservoir-liberated mercury in a downstream fishery: effects of fish trophic level, size and age
  • Anita Massé, University of Saskatchewan: Elevated maternal dietary selenium exposure produces developmental effects in amphibians
  • Fred Leal, University of Saskatchewan: Acute metabolic and cardiac effects of benzo-a-pyrene and 5-azacytidine in juvenile rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss)


  • Cameron Toth, University of Calgary: Assessing the health impact of the acid extractable organic fraction of oil sands process affected water on embryonic zebrafish (Danio rerio)
  • Sarah Crawford, University of Saskatchewan: The role of sediment characteristics in the adsorption and bioavailability of uranium (VI) in freshwater sediments
  • Breda Muldoon, University of Saskatchewan: Developing the brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) as a bioindicator of exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds in aquatic environments
Prairie Northern meeting, Tox on Tap

The conference was made possible through the support of numerous sponsors including the University of Manitoba Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources; the University of Calgary’s Graduate Student Association; Nautilus Environmental Consultants, and many others. The organizing committee, led by Judit Smits and Regina Krohn, included graduate students from the University of Calgary’s Veterinary and Biological faculties, with invaluable administrative assistance from the University of Saskatchewan’s Toxicology Centre and the University of Alberta.

We would like to sincerely thank everyone who attended and made this conference a success, as well as all of our presentation judges and volunteers, without whom it could not have come together. 

Planning is already underway for our 7th annual meeting to be held in Winnipeg, Canada. We hope to see you there in June 2016!

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