SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
SETAC Salt Lake City Session Summaries
Volume 17 Issue 4

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Session Summaries from SETAC Salt Lake City

The SETAC North America 36th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, hosted more than 1783 delegates from 34 different countries. It included 188 sessions, 23 special sessions and three keynote speakers, and it featured more than 744 platform and 841 posters presentations.

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    Summaries Published in the May Issue (Volume 17 Issue 5)

  • Design and Use of Spiked Sediment Toxicity Tests to Improve Environmental Management
    Lisa Taylor, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Steve Bay, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project
    • Scientists often operate under two conditions; not having enough money to measure everything or measuring everything but not using all the data. What if you could design your experiments to get the biggest bang for your buck and have the data applied in environmental assessments? This session, held at the SETAC North America 36th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, aimed at just that, describing the design of spiked sediment toxicity tests to obtain the most useful results.

      Sediments play a key role in determining fate and effects of most environmental contaminants. Laboratory toxicity tests with spiked sediments are used to investigate these processes and inform decisions for managing the environmental risk from both legacy contaminants and a rapidly expanding list of emerging contaminants. Approximately 90 session attendees learned about advancements in the design and use of spiked sediment toxicity testing. The session also focused on results of studies advancing the understanding of the effects of specific contaminants and geochemical factors on aquatic life. Eight presentations were delivered, with five focusing on the broader themes of experimental design and interpretation of results for development of sediment-quality benchmarks. These presentations used case studies for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and nickel to help provide focus on the use of spiked sediments as an assessment tool. The three remaining platform presentations were about a new 42-day continuous-exposure toxicity test for Hyalella azteca, the use of mesocosms to assess benthic communities, and the effects of kaolin clay on the amphipod Eohaustorius estuarius.

      Key messages from the presentations included:

      1. Design of spiked sediment toxicity tests should consider environmentally relevant concentrations of the contaminant, pH, redox, equilibration times, acid volatile sulfide (AVS), organic matter, iron hydroxides (labile, reducible Fe) and cation exchange capacity (CEC).
      2. Development of sediment pesticide benchmarks for streams using threshold effect levels based on EC20, MATC and longer-term tests were successful. Presenters found agreement approximately 75% of the time. The researchers expect this to improve with the collection of additional data.
      3. A study conducted in the Italian Alps to assess contamination by DDT found that a DDT sediment quality benchmark based on spiked sediment studies agreed with field data on benthic community impacts.
      4. Short-term exposures in the laboratory were more relevant to assessing the risk of nickel in the field than long-term exposures. The study did find long-term data was still appropriate for screening-level assessments. They cautioned that renewals of overlying water needs to be more frequent to prevent toxicity due to the build-up of water concentrations of nickel, which would not adequately assess the toxicity of nickel in the sediment and porewater. Mesocosms exposures using spiked sediments can bridge the gap between the laboratory and field for single and mixtures of contaminants.
      5. Variability in toxicity test results may not necessarily be due to toxicant effects but instead may be explained by size-related variations in sensitivity to the clay content of the sediment.

      This session was supported by the Global Sediment Advisory Group (SEDAG), and we encourage those interested in the topics to join the SEDAG community online.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management General – Part 1
    Dan Lavoie, CH2M, and Nile Kemble, United States Geological Survey
    • The session “Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management General—Part 1” held in Salt Lake City aimed to provide a variety of talks that covered diverse areas of the science conducted by our members. Each offering in this session provided a slightly different scientific focus enabling the audience to gain a bit of understanding and perspective on a wide range of topics. There were between 45–80 attendees in each session, which included topics such as:

      1. Integration of Ecological Risk and Treatability Testing in the Development of a Sediment Remedy (abstract 220)
      2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Update Human Health Ambient Water Quality Criteria (abstract 221)
      3. Determination of a Mercury Background/Reference Condition in a Northeastern Freshwater Pond System Using Multiple Lines of Evidence (abstract 222)
      4. Quantitative Weight of Evidence for Sediment Recovery in the Portland Harbor Superfund Site (abstract 223)
      5. Characterization of Wetland Contaminant Transport Processes through Innovative Field and Modeling Techniques (abstract 224)
      6. Development of the Chemical Aquatic Fate and Effects Database and it’s Usefulness in Assisting Chemical Spill in Aquatic Environments (abstract 225)
      7. Modifications of the AQUATOX Ecosystem Model for Improved Applications in Nearshore Marine Environment (abstract 226)
      8. ECOTOX Knowledgebase: Search Features and Customized Reports (abstract 227)

      Key messages from the presentations included:

      1. There is a need for risk assessors and engineers to collaborate when designing a sediment remedy and establishing effluent limits that are likely to be achieved to protect aquatic life.
      2. The USEPA has updated ambient water quality criteria for 94 chemical pollutants.
      3. Documentation has been developed by USEPA for each of the 94 chemicals detailing the latest scientific information supporting the updated final human health criteria.
      4. Given anthropogenic concerns such as atmospheric deposition of mercury, locating a background or reference site can be difficult in the northeastern United States.
      5. While not all of the endpoints used to monitor mercury levels supported use of the subject pond as a reference site, data showed that use of multiple lines of evidence may benefit researchers when trying to select a background or reference site.
      6. Use of likelihood ratios allowed quantitative integration of the independent lines of evidence to produce a weight of evidence metric that represents the strength of statistical evidence.
      7. The lack of solid understanding of the processes controlling the transport of sediment bound contaminants presents an issue in understanding the behavior of estuarine systems which are critical habitat for benthic communities, fish, birds and mammals.
      8. A multi-year empirical data set was developed to characterize a wetland’s behavior over a wide range of conditions (i.e., storm events, tides and other temporal factors), which will allow for site management decision-making.
      9. Data in CAFÉ can aid spiller responders in their assessment of the fate and potential environmental effects of spilled materials in aquatic environments.
      10. While developed for spill responders, CAFÉ could be expanded to address other research and management needs.
      11. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies AQUATOX simulation model has been expanded both in its analytical capabilities and in its application to coastline habitats.
      12. AQUATOX model output has been expanded to include daily growth rates, net primary and secondary productivity and dynamic trophic-level calculations for each trophic group modeled. This change allows risk assessment of environmental perturbations to be performed and verified for nearshore marine habitats.
      13. The ECOTOXicology knowledgebase used for toxicity data on aquatic life, terrestrial plants and wildlife and searches can be refined by 16 parameters (e.g. species, chemical, year, control).
      14. New additions to ECOTOX include current environmental chemicals of interest as well as endpoints to the cellular level.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management General – Part 2
    Timothy Canfield, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Christopher McCarthy, CH2M
    • Everybody has their favorite types of food, their typical “go to” options they gravitate to on a regular basis. But almost every one of us will venture out every now and then to try something new. Since we are not sure if we will like everything we try, we usually try small samples of a wider range of choices to experience something we normally do not ever consider. The session “Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management General— Part 2” held in Salt Lake City aimed to do just that, providing a range of talks that give a taste of diverse areas of the science conducted by our members. Each offering in this session provided a slightly different scientific focus, enabling the audience to gain a bit of understanding and perspective on a variety of topics. There were between 45–80 attendees in each session, which included topics such as:

      1. What Kind of Risk Assessor Are You? (abstract 472)
      2. Is Manure an RCRA Solid Waste? (abstract 474)
      3. Development and Use of Wild Game Consumption Rates in Human Health Risk Assessment (abstract 475)
      4. Evaluation of Mercury and PCB Trends in San Francisco Bay Region Stormwater (abstract 477)
      5. The Potential Impact Of Deposition From Static Rocket Motor Testing on Crops (abstract 478)
      6. The Application and Misapplication of Directed Acyclic Graphs for Causal Inference in Ecology (abstract 479)

      Key messages from the presentations included:

      What Kind of Risk Assessor Are You?

      1. Most risk assessors may be considered by the outside world to be “mamby-pamby” risk assessors because they hedge their answers (express the uncertainty in their assessments) to questions of risk most of the time. This is seen as a weakness by the non-scientific world.
      2. Risk assessors need to answer questions with as much certainty as possible and, in the cases where there is less certainty, try to better project the parts that have greater certainty where possible.

      Is Manure a RCRA Solid Waste?

      1. By and large, manure generated on farms is exempted from RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) regulations.
      2. But land application of manure without assessing the nutritional requirements of the land and associated crop can be regulated under RCRA.
      3. Estimates of manure levels need to be calculated, and if the calculations indicate the levels of manure exceeds what can be used on site, disposal plans should be developed to avoid RCRA violations.

      Development and Use of Wild Game Consumption Rates in Human Health Risk Assessment

      1. Human health risk assessments (HHRA) of chemicals due to the consumption of wild game currently lacks sufficient precision.
      2. The use of fish as a surrogate for wild game consumptive rate is not adequate if the exposure pathway of interest is a terrestrial species.
      3. To lower uncertainty in the HHRA, it is recommended to obtain assessment information as close to the consumptive location as possible and to utilize appropriate species for benchmarking.

      Evaluation of Mercury and PCB Trends in San Francisco Bay Region Stormwater

      1. Detecting contaminant cleanup success in large environments exposed to ever-changing dynamic conditions, such as San Francisco Bay, is extremely difficult.
      2. It is important for researchers and resource managers to understand the natural fluxes of contaminants in order to accurately determine if environmental conditions are truly improving.
      3. In order to make better assessments whether conditions are either improving or degrading there is a need to look at contaminant measurement concentrations as running averages across years as well as individual years when making assessments of overall condition of the environment under study.

      Potential Impact of Deposition From Static Rocket Motor Testing on Crops

      1. Deposition of byproducts from solid rocket fuel test firing shows visible impact on surrounding plants and crops.
      2. Typical cause of the visual impacts is due primarily to the presence of high chloride or low pH on the plants.
      3. Overall yield of the plant products exposed to these byproducts show no loss in yield compared to controls.

      Application and Misapplication of Directed Acyclic Graphs for Causal Inference in Ecology

      1. The use of Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAG’s) from the field of artificial intelligence is gaining popularity in the environmental assessment field.
      2. A DAG is a structure made up of nodes and arrows that describe a set of hypotheses about a causal process
      3. DAGS are visual, flexible and automatically updateable and can be used effectively to provide information when dealing with complicated systems of causality.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Microplastics
    Kay T. Ho and Robert M. Burgess, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    • Our understanding of the presence and effects of microplastics in the environment is in its infancy and research needs to be performed to address the potential hazards associated with this class of environmental contaminants. Research areas associated with microplastics include the need to (i) standardize methods for their isolation and identification in environmental samples, (ii) investigate the presence and distribution of microplastics globally, (iii) evaluate the ability of microplastics to serve as a transport medium for and source of conventional and emerging contaminants, and (iv) assess the biological and ecological effects of microplastics. Addressing these broad research areas will ultimately provide the information necessary to determine whether or not the regulation of microplastics is necessary and requires promulgation. For example, there is ample evidence that microplastics are ingested by many aquatic organisms including edible seafood and shellfish. To begin to address these gaps in our understanding, a platform and poster session titled Microplastics was convened in November 2015 at the SETAC North America 36th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. The goal of the session was to provide the audience with a current overview of the research associated with microplastics in the aquatic environment.

      The session consisted of 10 poster and eight platform presentations. Poster presentations addressed many of the research areas listed above including a study on the presence of microplastics in San Francisco Bay and studies investigating the absorption and release of conventional and emerging contaminants from microplastics. Relative to the effects research area, three posters focused on the impacts of microplastics to different aquatic organisms including a comprehensive review of the presence and effects of microplastics in Canadian aquatic environments. One poster examined in vitro effects using a cytotoxicity assay performed on organic extracts of various plastics collected from the North Pacific Gyre. On a related topic, a poster reported on the presence of microplastics in the nests of the fish-eating osprey in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Finally, as related to determining the need to regulate microplastics, one poster asked what does the current evidence tell us about the ecological and health risks associated with microplastics in the marine environment?

      Like the posters, several of the platform presentations addressed the research areas above including examining the presence and distribution of microplastics in the aquatic environment and investigations focusing on estuaries in South Carolina and tributaries of the Great Lakes. Two of these studies specifically examined the degradation of plastic trash and formation of microplastics in the aquatic environment. One presentation looked at the occurrence of microplastics in the stomachs of sunfish from the Brazos River Basin in central Texas while a second study investigated the effects of microplastics on the bioavailability of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon fluoranthene. Leaving the aquatic environment, a Danish researcher inquired to the risks in terrestrial environments resulting from microplastics contaminated sludge applications. Finally, in an effort to develop a molecular marker for certain microplastics, aryl phosphite antioxidants were evaluated as a possible candidate.

      The poster and platform sessions were well attended and there was a good exchange of questions and answers between the audience and the presenters. While the session was successful, it demonstrated that despite the excellent research that is on-going, much more work needs to be performed for the scientific community to properly assess the risks associated with microplastics in the environment. For example, as noted above, more efforts need to focus on developing standardized methods for isolating and identifying the microplastics found in environmental matrices. Encouraged by the progress made in this session, the conveners are considering proposing a microplastics session in November 2016 at the 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Biases and Conflicts of Interest in Science: Perspectives from Academia, Government and Industry: A SETAC Session Summary
    Christine M. Lehman, The Dow Chemical Company, Toxicology and Environmental Research and Consulting
    • The SETAC North America meeting in Salt Lake City hosted three platform sessions focused on biases and perceptions in the environmental sciences. One was specifically focused on the way in which SETAC, as a tripartite organization, can improve and foster relationships among each of the three sectors of our Society, while two dealt specifically with biases and conflicts of interest.

      One of the latter sessions occurred during the afternoon of the final day of the meeting and was titled “Biases and Conflicts of Interest in Science: Perspectives from Academia, Government and Industry.” The goal of this session was to discuss not only biases we have in our own research (experimenter bias), but also how our biases influence the way we view the science of others (receiver bias) and how these may affect environmental science. Individuals from each of these three sectors of SETAC were invited to speak in this platform session.

      Chris Borgert from Applied Pharmacology and Toxicology, Inc. began the session by offering ways to avert or minimize bias, including the suggestion to eliminate the addition of affiliations on publications to diminish receiver bias. He also proposed increasing the transparency (and, therefore, reduce the potential for experimenter bias) by making all data collected accessible and verifiable, and added this should be relatively straightforward in today’s digital age. Anne LeHuray of Chemical Management Associates, LLC discussed white hat bias, which is defined as bias leading to the distortion of information in the service of what may be perceived to be a righteous end. While this type of bias is less likely to be viewed unfavorably by the general public, it should nonetheless be minimized.

      From academia, Wayne Landis, Western Washington University, proposed that one of the fundamental issues in environmental toxicology and risk assessment is the bias that is built into the language of the field and its operating paradigms. He discussed the pitfalls of using normative science (e.g., using terms that have an implied policy goal) and the regularity in which it is used (e.g., using terminology such as ecosystem health, reference site or recovery) and suggested that outdated understanding hinders development of new methods. Cheryl Murphy from Michigan State University discussed the problems academicians at research-focused (e.g., R1) universities encounter without publishing innovative research. When coupled with the drive to attain external funding, research in academics risks being biased toward finding ‘positive’ or ‘interesting’ results.

      Tom Steeger from the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention outlined the manner in which chemicals are registered for use in the USA. This overview of the guidelines, registration requirements and good laboratory practices emphasized the high standards to which registrant-generated data are held and clarified why some data are used by the agency while others simply provide support or cannot be used at all. Steven Levine from Monsanto and Christine Lehman from The Dow Chemical Company provided insight to the standards and practices used by scientists in industry to maximize the credibility and integrity of science in industry. Both discussed how the focus of chemical companies is not solely on profit, but on human health and environmental sustainability as well.

      The discussion throughout the session was honest, candid and insightful, and provided perspective into struggles each of the tripartite sectors of SETAC may have both in accepting science from other areas as well as having their science accepted.

      Author’s contact information:

  • Summaries Published in the April Issue (Volume 17 Issue 4)

  • (1) Assessing Risks of Pesticides to Federally Listed (Threatened and Endangered) Species at a National Level and (2) Advances in National-Level Data for Risk Assessment of Pesticides to Federally Listed Species
    Bernalyn McGaughey (CSI), Amy Blankinship (EPA-OPP), Nancy Golden (FWS) and Cathy Laetz (NMFS)
    • The two sessions listed in the title above were organized for the 2015 SETAC North America meeting to present the emerging development of methods and data for application to national-level pesticide evaluations for species listed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The interface of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates pesticides, and ESA, which protects threatened and endangered species (i.e., listed species) in the United States, presents complex risk assessment challenges on a broad geographic scale.

      Building on the National Research Council (NRC) 2013 recommendations, “Assessing Risks to Endangered and Threatened Species from Pesticides,” and the knowledge gained thus far by collaborative efforts between the involved agencies – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, or FWS and NMFS hereinafter referred to as “the Services”), and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), hereinafter referred to as “the Agencies” – these sessions provided an overview of the progress that has been made by the Agencies as well as others in developing approaches for assessing risks of pesticides to listed species at a national-scale. The sessions highlighted recent advances and stimulated discussion on continuing progress, including, but not limited to, approaches related to probabilistic methods, weight-of-evidence analysis, mixtures, sub lethal effects, geospatial data sets, aquatic and terrestrial exposure and effects characterization, and population modeling.

      In general, the presentations underscored a finding that balancing an understanding of the potential risks to species at the local level, while maintaining a sustainable process at the regulatory or national level, is complex and difficult given the variability of species distributions, pesticide use sites and exposure metrics across the national landscape. Additionally, the data necessary for such assessments can be located among different sources and may be updated as new information becomes available. An overview of the process and a look at species-specific examples illustrated this complexity. Resolutions to managing this complexity, through innovations in model application, probabilistic approaches and aggregation of detailed data in consolidated resources were a common theme throughout all presentations. All but two of the platform presentations were recorded and are available for viewing online. There were also four poster presentations.

      Overview of the Process

      Several presentations by the Agencies and others, including the regulated industry, addressed the attempts put forward to develop a comprehensive assessment process that would build upon risk assessment procedures under FIFRA, by the USEPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), and consultation actions under ESA, by the Services. Conceptually, this includes a three-part, step-wise format recommended by the NRC that roughly corresponds to the required steps of the ESA consultation process. Using a risk assessment paradigm at each stage in the process, a wide scope of biological and toxicological data are applied to screening-level assessments, which are then followed by more refined risk assessments in order to determine if pesticide registrations will potentially affect the environment where listed species occur (including designated critical habitat), individuals of listed species and finally populations of listed species (following the three-part, step-wise process). The actual mechanisms for compiling and evaluating data in an efficient manner are complex and require collaboration among many different entities. Presentations included:

      1. Setting the Stage: Overview of the Ecological Risk Assessment Process Under the ESA and FIFRA | K. Myers
      2. Using Data Compiled by FESTF to Support a National Endangered Species Assessment Case Study on Organophosphate Insecticides | A. Frank
      3. Use of Toxicological Data in the Assessment of Pesticide Risk to Threatened and Endangered Species | G. Noguchi

      Managing Data Complexity

      With more than 1,500 listed species, over 1,200 pesticides and a nearly infinite number of local settings and use practices, the data that can be applied to a risk assessment is in some ways abundant but can be challenging to apply at the national level in a meaningful and reliable manner. Several approaches to assembling and analyzing toxicological data were given. Additionally, the use of probabilistic modeling was also introduced as one means of capturing variability. Presentations by Agency staff and pesticide registrants illustrated differences in how these various data challenges can be approached. Decisions regarding which data to include in assessments (including data quality) and how to apply assumptions meant to embrace variability in environmental conditions and use parameters, ultimately affecting the weight-of-evidence analysis to determine the likelihood of adverse effects. Presentations included:

      1. Inclusion of Multiple Stressors in Determinations of Pesticide Risk to Threatened and Endangered Species | C. Laetz
      2. National-level Endangered Species Assessment for Chlorpyrifos: Aquatic Species | J. Giddings
      3. National Endangered Species Assessment for Chlorpyrifos: Refined Terrestrial Ecological Risk Assessment | R. Teed
      4. Use of Species Sensitivities Distributions and Species Grouping Strategies in National-level Endangered Species Risk Assessments | A. Blankinship
      5. A Weight-of-Evidence Approach for Making Effects Determinations for Federally Listed Species and Pesticides | N. Golden
      6. Exploring a Mechanism to Access Existing and Localized Best Available Data for National Pesticide Risk Assessment | D. Campana (poster)

      Estimating Exposure Concentrations

      Estimated aquatic and terrestrial exposure concentrations will be calculated using existing methods, with some modifications meant to account for the variability across species’ habitats and pesticide use sites. At this time, modelers are refining parameters for managing generic aquatic habitat “bins” and terrestrial habitat, diet and exposure parameters. In addition to modeling efforts, monitoring studies that measure pesticide fate and transport following application, such as those conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, may provide useful data for characterizing the extent and concentration of pesticides in aquatic habitats. Presentations included:

      1. Targeted Monitoring to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Streamside Vegetation in Reducing Pesticide Loading to Surface Water | G. Tuttle
      2. Aquatic Modeling to Estimate Pesticide Exposure to Threatened and Endangered Species | M. Corbin
      3. Probabilistic Modeling to Account for Spatial and Temporal Variability in Aquatic Pesticide Concentrations for Endangered Species Risk Assessments | L. Padilla (not recorded)
      4. On-going Improvements to the AGDISP Pesticide Drift Model | H. Thistle

      Refined Risk Assessment

      While presenters were able to explore refined risk assessments on individual species, it is clear that such refinement for every species potentially exposed in a certain use situation would not be sustainable for a national-level assessment. Methods of grouping species or habitats to overcome the workload of assessing site-by-site and species-by-species were discussed, as were preliminary results on selected terrestrial and aquatic species. Species-specific examples demonstrated the degree of variability that is introduced by the selection and application of exposure and response data, and its interpretation with respect to potential exposure and adverse effects. Presentations included:

      1. A Refined Risk Assessment for Kirtland’s Warbler Potentially Exposed to Flowable Chlorpyrifos in the United States | D. Moore
      2. Assessment of Risks of Diazinon to the Kirtland’s Warbler | K. Garber
      3. Endangered Species Assessment for the Shortnose Sturgeon: Lessons Learned for a National Assessment Process | M. Winchell
      4. Reducing Pesticide Exposure to Threatened and Endangered Species | S. Hecht
      5. National Endangered Species Assessment for Diazinon: Screening-level Ecological Risk Assessment | R. Breton (poster)
      6. National Endangered Species Assessment for Malathion: Refined Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecological Risk Assessment | R. Teed (poster)
      7. A Refined Ecological Risk Assessment for the California Red-Legged Frog Potentially Exposed to Malathion | R. Breton (poster)
      8. A Refined Ecological Risk Assessment for the Delta Smelt Potentially Exposed to Malathion in California | R. Breton (poster)


      Overall, while there are many challenges to conducting a national-level risk assessment for listed species, significant and meaningful developments are occurring for many of the different aspects of the pesticide risk assessment and consultation process. New and modified processes are being developed for estimating pesticide exposure, as well as data aggregation and evaluation of toxicity data and species attributes. These advancements are meant to ensure that effects to listed species and designated critical habitat are evaluated in a comprehensive manner that considers both biological and toxicological factors. As this process continues to evolve, efficiencies will be sought to enhance the ability to complete national-level scientifically sound risk assessments for listed species in a timely manner.

      Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Making Science Matter: Effective Science Communication and Outreach
    Sarah Crawford, University of Saskatchewan, and Sarah Bowman
    • ScienceAs SETAC scientists, we need to consider the implications of environmental education and outreach. Whether it is part of a requirement for broader impacts, a passion to share science with others or to help increase public understanding of critical scientific issues, it is important that scientists learn the tools necessary for effective science outreach and communication. SETAC scientists do cutting-edge research on emerging environmental issues and making SETAC science available and comprehensible to all audiences should be a priority. Through science communication, we can encourage a new generation of scientists, create a scientifically literate public and use science-based information to educate decision-makers and stakeholders. The goal of this session was to highlight case studies on science communication within the SETAC community.

      Presenters introduced useful tools and strategies for sharing science with various audiences from elementary school children to community stakeholders. In this session, eight platform presentations and seven posters covered various science communication topics and case studies. Communication tools and stories were shared from speakers with a wide range of backgrounds in academia, government and business, showing that science communication can and should be implemented across an interdisciplinary level.

      Some highlights and key points from this session include:

      1. It is important to explain science in terms that our audiences understand. Whether this involves educating Congress on TSCA reform or teaching First Nation communities about fish consumption advisories, we need to tailor our message to our audience.
      2. Many different science communication models are effective at reaching audiences. This session explored informal and formal education opportunities, science cafes, social media, citizen science and extension programs. Each model has advantages and disadvantages, and the user should determine which one is best for the message and audience of interest.
      3. You do not need to be a science communication expert to successfully communicate science (although it can be useful). SETAC member Ruth Sofield gave a great talk about how her undergraduate students at Western Washington University communicate science through the use of comic books and documentaries. Many SETAC students participated in this session with stories of the design and creation of science communication and outreach programs at their universities.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • “One Health”: Opportunities for SETAC Leadership in Integrating Environmental, Human and Animal Health
    Tom Augspurger, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Nil Basu, McGill University
    • “One Health” is an organizational framework encouraging interdisciplinary collaborations in education, research, clinical practice, policy and communication stemming from the recognition that the health of people, other animals and the environment are linked. One Health partnerships are growing internationally, mainly emphasizing prevention of infectious zoonotic diseases (those that can be passed between animals and humans), but the environmental quality connections to human and animal health are often less developed in One Health collaborations. Realizing that SETAC’s science can guide the environmental quality component of One Health partnerships, we hosted the first SETAC session of overviews, case studies and perspectives on One Health. The session brought together experts from the One Health community and SETAC with these messages resonating most strongly:

      1. One Health encourages collaboration and communication. There are popular programs now at major universities focused on the interdisciplinary training of students across the veterinary medical, human health and environmental quality disciplines. There are diverse funding sources focused on One Health approaches to problem solving.
      2. One Health as a term is seldom used in SETAC communications, despite our long history of interdisciplinary environmental science and the growing use of the term by others.
      3. While One Health by name has been uncommon in SETAC, similar concepts have been used as organizing structures. For example, a 2000 SETAC Pellston Workshop® on “Interconnections Between Human Health and Ecological Integrity” was motivated by the concern of human health, environmental and social scientists for the interconnections between the condition of natural ecosystems and human health. That effort produced a conceptual model, recommended approaches to making the conceptual model operational, and identified requirements for implementation.
      4. Beyond frameworks, SETAC’s comparative pharmacology and toxicology work produces tools to advance One Health by enhancing understanding of biological targets and mechanisms of toxic action, and the extent to which these are conserved across species.
      5. Pollutants are stressors with relevance to the health of people, other animals and plants, but we often target research and communications narrowly, missing opportunities to connect or explain the relevance of environmental exposures of concern for one taxonomic group to others. In some cases our approaches to characterizing risk of chemicals have been so narrowly partitioned that they fail to address the holistic nature of individual or community well-being. Case studies that made these connections to multiple receptors (e.g., fish, wildlife and human health) illustrated enhanced resonance.
      6. Expertise to promote One Health partnerships is strong within SETAC, particularly within our Wildlife Toxicology, Human Health Risk Assessment, Ecosystem Services, Sustainability and Ecological Risk Assessment advisory groups. SETAC experts could readily contribute to collaborations on current concerns including infectious diseases in human-altered ecosystems, the effects of climate change on infectious diseases and toxicant exposures, antimicrobial resistance (the subject of a joint SETAC–US State Department–US Geological Survey workshop this fall), chemically mediated immunosuppression, nutrient enrichment’s role in toxic algal blooms, and effective disease surveillance (including determinants of healthy environments) – all of which would benefit from more transdisciplinary approaches to problem solving.
      7. Our research silos have served us well on many issues, but interdisciplinary collaborations are important for problem solving. SETAC’s Global Horizon Scanning Project, which is designed to identify geographically specific research needs, could be a catalyst for assembling transdisciplinary One Health teams on high-priority stressors for which a collaborative approach is needed.

      An Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Focus Article on One Health is in development by five of those who participated in the Salt Lake City session. A full-day session is proposed for the SETAC 7th World Congress/ SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, to involve a wider range of SETAC members (i.e., more advisory groups and geographical units), and emphasizing well-developed environmental, human and animal health projects from across the world as examples of the promise of this collaborative approach.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Fostering Tripartite Research: Perspectives, Opinions and New Approaches
    Mark Hanson, University of Manitoba, Richard Brain, Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC and Richard Frank, Environment Canada
    • One of SETAC’s core strengths has been its role in providing a venue where scientists and regulators of every persuasion can gather to share results and possible solutions to pressing environmental challenges. This tripartite structure (government, academia and business) is not without its critics however, and like any framework, it is always valuable to step back and assess its merits as well as possible drawbacks. At SETAC Salt Lake City, we gathered respected voices from SETAC members who have grounded insights and anecdotes regarding collaboration with those from differing vantage points of the proverbial aisle. Over the course of this morning opening session, participants shared their perspectives on rendering these collaborations more transparent, credible and science-oriented, in order to ensure that tripartite programming can remain productive and fruitful. Below we share their thoughts on where SETAC’ tripartite structure has taken us and where we are headed.

      Bill Goodfellow of Exponent, a former SETAC President and representing his co-authors from all three sectors stated, “The founding leadership of SETAC really got it right by requiring tripartite and balanced representation in everything we do. Many societies and organizations claim to have multiple sectors represented, but few, if any, truly have tripartite representation, committee membership and programming such as SETAC. Our biggest challenge is how to continue tripartite involvement in policy development, improvement of the science, as well as integrating other areas of expertise or geographic regions.”

      Keith Solomon, University of Guelph, summed it up simply as, “Unlike many societies, SETAC is doing a good job of engaging and encouraging tripartite activities.”

      Gertie Arts, Alterra and current SETAC Europe President, expressed her views on the tripartite structure as, “SETAC provides stakeholder-based scientific solutions to environmental challenges with an increased acceptability as a result of SETAC’s multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary approach. Points of attention are delivery of such solutions to hot topics and to problems perceived as most serious by the public and decision-makers.”

      The session speakers addressed specific examples of when and where this tripartite structure has reaped rewards. Valery Forbes, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, stated, “Fostering successful tripartite research on mechanistic effect modeling in Europe was achieved through a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (CREAM), a two-part SETAC sponsored workshop (MODELINK), and other activities that allowed relationship building among stakeholder groups, involved a critical mass of young scientists, and benefited from the support of the regulatory sector (i.e., EFSA).”

      Pat Guiney, University of Wisconsin-Madison and current World Council President, spoke to a specific example where SETAC’s tripartite structure helped change the way we legislate chemicals. He stated “SETAC North America’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform Dialogue Group worked proactively with members of Congress to help them understand the importance of using high-quality scientific data and a corroborative weight-of-evidence approach when modernizing TSCA, which led to the retention and improvement of these concepts in the legislative bills being developed.”

      Former SETAC President Jane Staveley of Exponent spoke to the practical value of the tripartite structure in communicating science. “We have developed a public outreach ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ to review and approve public pronouncements by SETAC in a way that fully addresses the interests and concerns of SETAC’s tripartite membership. Conducting this outreach in a timely manner has been challenging and would benefit from the development of well-vetted, multi-sectorial science statements on key issues in advance. We see great opportunities for leveraging the inherent strength of a balanced scientific viewpoint to make better environmental management decisions.”

      Finally, Dwayne Moore of Intrinsik stated, “Although difficult to pull off when the stakes are high, regulatory risk assessment is vastly improved when government, business and academia lob grenades at the problem rather than at each other.”

      We agree fully! Science is not the domain of any one party but works best when we put egos and prejudices aside. This has been a fundamental core strength of SETAC, and we hope it continues.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Integrating Environmental Health and LCA into Chemical Alternatives Assessment
    Jennifer Y. Tanir, ILSI Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI), and Lauren Heine, Northwest Green Chemistry
    • Chemical alternatives assessment is a process for identifying and comparing potential chemical and non-chemical alternatives that can be used as substitutes to replace chemicals or technologies of high concern to human health and the environment while minimizing the likelihood of regrettable substitutions. Generally, alternatives assessment compares inherent chemical hazards, environmental fate and toxicity, exposure potential, lifecycle impacts, as well as social, economic and technical performance factors. A 2014 study by the National Academy of Sciences compared 10 assessment frameworks and recommended a new framework that incorporates these components in a structured, 13-step process. Putting chemical alternatives assessment into practice is challenging, and the field is ripe for advances that will improve the ease of conducting assessments, demonstrate confidence and transparency in the results, and drive decisions that do not result in undesirable tradeoffs. This session offered a unique opportunity to discuss these challenges by bringing together expertise from the alternatives assessment, life cycle assessment (LCA) and environmental health communities.

      Eight platform presenters shared innovative approaches for improving hazard assessments and incorporating exposure and LCA into chemical alternatives assessment in the context of industrial, regulatory and academic practices. Topics included areas of overlap and contrast between LCA and chemical hazard assessment. In addition, the presenters addressed how information and uncertainty about physical properties, including form-specific hazards, functional use and exposure pathways, affect hazard classification and are integrated into alternatives assessments.

      Cross-disciplinary discussions are vital to merging together these disparate types of data in order to make decisions that will improve the sustainability of chemicals and products. The session provided a forum for dialogue among the presenters and the audience. In addition, the session complemented two related sessions, “Alternatives Assessment – Current Technical Challenges in Implementation” and “Current and Emerging Tools and Approaches for Ecosystem-Focused Chemical Assessments Involving Data Gaps.” As a result, the discussions at the meeting provided unique opportunities to advance the field of chemical alternatives assessment and provided a setting for bringing together practitioners in the chemical alternatives assessment community.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Aquatic and Terrestrial Plants in Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment
    Mark Hanson, University of Manitoba, and Hank Krueger, Wildlife International
    • This session, organized by the Global SETAC Plant Advisory Group, focused on new developments in plant ecotoxicology and the use of plants in the risk assessment of chemicals and other stressors. Algae and periphyton were included, along with higher aquatic plants (macrophytes) and terrestrial plants. While plants and algae are the poor cousins to more charismatic test organisms, such as the ubiquitous “fish,” without these primary producers, the ecosystems we care about as a whole would not exist. So, each year at SETAC, we gather to pay homage to these vital but unsung heroes of ecotoxicology. Speakers came from as far away as Australia and the Netherlands to participant in the session, and the topics ranged from statistical considerations in the construction of species sensitivity distributions (which was not just about plants) to how we can better include plant toxicity testing in the regulation of agrochemicals. Some of the main points of discussion from our afternoon are summarized below.

      The session had a number of talks on the regulatory implications of plant toxicity data. Gertie Arts of Alterra spoke in detail as to how the EU Registration of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) under Regulation 1107/2009 recommends a tiered approach to assessing the risk to non-target terrestrial plants (NTTPs). Two SETAC Europe stakeholder workshops have provided recommendations as to how reproductive endpoints can be included in the risk assessment, which higher tiers are appropriate in the risk assessment for NTTPs, and which mitigation measures are suitable for NTTPs. In a similar vein, Ed Swain of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency elaborated on how the State of Minnesota will revise its unique sulfate standard to protect wild rice based on the toxicity of sulfide to wild rice and the modeled relationship between sulfide in sediment and sulfate in surface water. The work that went into protecting this culturally and economically valuable plant required new test methods both for the lab and for microcosms (to be developed).

      Rebecca Dalton from the University of Ottawa spoke about work at the whole-ecosystem level where aboveground and seed bank riparian plant communities face considerable stressors, including the loss of natural habitat, nitrate enrichment and species invasions, which result in declines in overall floristic quality.

      From a statistics perspective, John Green with Dupont made the case for anyone constructing SSDs that a well-established maximum likelihood method for including censored species values (i.e., > values) should be used in constructing species sensitivity distributions. Doing so tends to yield more conservative (i.e., lower) HC5 estimates than either ignoring censoring or discarding censored values and continuing to sample species until the desired number of uncensored species values is obtained.

      Finally, Mark Hanson from the University of Manitoba spoke about ongoing work to assemble and evaluate the (sometimes) vast body of toxicity data for herbicides and algae. Not all studies are created equal, and we need to be careful about those we include in risk assessments (as well as SSDs). The hope is that by highlighting those studies that are deemed strongest, as well as highlighting those groups of algae for which data are lacking, we focus our efforts on filling critical data gaps with science of the greatest caliber.

      As a whole, the session highlighted the value of including robust data from primary producers, aquatic and terrestrial, to our shared goal of ecosystem protection. Many times the work and the issues tackled are not just specific to those groups working with plants but to ecotoxicology and risk assessment in general.

      Authors’ contact information: and

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SETAC Orlando

Looking Ahead

You are invited to the SETAC 7th World Congress/ SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 6–10 November 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Find out more at


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