SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
3 November 2016
Volume 17 Issue 11

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Report from the 10th SETAC Asia/Pacific Conference in Singapore

Kuan-Chun Lee, President, SETAC Asia/Pacific

Traditional lion dance
The conference kicked off with the traditional lion dance.

The SETAC Asia/Pacific 2016 Conference was held from 16–19 September at the National University of Singapore. The conference was co-organized by SETAC Asia/Pacific (SAP) and the National University of Singapore (NUS).  More than 320 scientists, assessors and regulators from 33 countries covering Asia, the Americas, Europe and Africa participated in the conference themed “Managing Environmental Quality in the Asian Century.” The conference was the 10th biennial SAP conference and kicked off the 20th anniversary celebration of the geographic unit (GU). This meeting also marked the first opportunity for SAP, which was established in 1997, to gather as a GU in Southeast Asia, one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. 

The welcome reception kicked off with the traditional lion dance, not only to celebrate our GU’s 20th anniversary but also for the growth and prosperity of the SETAC community. Colleagues mingled with each other to catch up and network while listening to a musical performance by the students from the Singapore American School, all while enjoying local food.

Guest of Honor and others at the 10th SETAC Asia/Pacific Conference
Guest of honor Philip Li-Fan LIU, Vice President of Research and Technology, NUS, (2nd from right) is joined by (from right to left) Choon Nam Ong, Director, NERI, NUS; Ross Smith, Immediate Past President, SETAC Asia/Pacific; and Kuan-Chun Lee, President, SETAC Asia/Pacific.

The guest of honor, Philip Li-Fan Liu, Vice President of Research and Technology of the National University of Singapore, opened the conference. Each of the subsequent days of the program began with plenary speeches from internationally renowned researchers. Jenny Stauber with CSIRO, Australia, delivered the keynote on development of new tools at the cellular, individual, community and ecosystem level and provided a report card framework to assess and communicate ecosystem health. Gerald Ankley with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discussed the challenges facing ecotoxicologists in the 21st century and identified opportunities on prospective and retrospective assessments with emphasis on use of the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) framework as an organizing principle for data collection and interpretation. The plenary speech by Emma Johnston, University of New South Wales, Australia, highlighted key development on molecular tools to study multiple stressors, including toxic contaminants and enriching contaminants, as well as discussed challenges such as currently lacking extensive genetic reference libraries for applying the techniques. Scott Belanger, Procter & Gamble, USA, discussed the higher-tier methods and insights on deterministic hazard assessment and provided a perspective and barriers towards acceptance for down-the-drain chemical assessment and application for chemical management systems. Finally, Kenneth Leung, University of Hong Kong, presented key challenges on addressing uncertainties of multiple stressors on toxicity endpoints and proposed a framework for the derivation of environmental quality benchmarks (EQBs) for chemical mixtures. The themes provided by the distinguished plenary presentations were tied to the platform (164) and poster (109) presentations in 22 sessions, presenting research in the areas of aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology, contaminant occurrence, behavior and effects, environmental chemistry, risk assessment, sustainability, environmental management and decision-making.

Ross Smith and Graeme Batley
Graeme Batley was awarded the inaugural SETAC Asia/Pacific Lifetime Achievement Award from Ross Smith.

In addition to hosting the conference the first time in Southeast Asia, SAP achieved a number of other “firsts.” The first SETAC Asia/Pacific Lifetime Achievement Award was presented. This award was established to recognize a lifetime of outstanding and sustained achievement in the fields of environmental toxicology and chemistry and management, with a history of enhancing the interactions between the tripartite sectors supporting interdisciplinary approaches to solving environmental problems. Graeme Batley, Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO and the founder of the SAP GU, was recognized for his numerous contributions to SAP specifically and the entire SETAC community.

This conference was the first SETAC conference to establish an indigenous session, with 13 platform and poster presentations, focusing on the importance of the inclusion of indigenous knowledge and values in science.  This is an important start for bringing the thoughts and different views from indigenous communities to challenge and enrich the advancement of science.

It was also the first SAP meeting where we have been able to provide support to non-student professionals from developing economies to attend. We provided the highest number of student travel awards at any SAP conference to date, to help support student attendance, with eight awards provided directly by SAP, eight by a grant from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, four from a grant from DuPont, and four more from the International Institute for Environmental Studies (IIES).

Student session at the 10th SETAC Asia/Pacific Conference
(from right to left) Kenny Leung, Ross Smith, Bruce Vigon, Graeme Batley, Charlie Menzie, Gerald Ankley and Scott Belanger shared their experience in the student mentoring session “SETAC Meeting the Next Generation of Scientists.”

The students are the future for SETAC, and we have always recognized the importance of student participation in our events. The conference held a Student Mentoring Breakfast session, “SETAC Meeting the Next Generation of Scientists.” Senior scientists Kenny Leung, Ross Smith, Bruce Vigon, Graeme Batley, Charlie Menzie, Gerald Ankley and Scott Belanger shared their thoughts and experience from SETAC in shaping their career. The students mingled with them and benefited from their knowledge and guidance.

At the closing ceremony, awards were given to those students who made the best platform and poster presentations. The first and second place platform presentation winners are Andrew Novic and Sarah Au, respectively. The first and second place poster presentation winners are S. Rebekah Burket and Eun-Su Shin, respectively. For the first time, four students were awarded the International Institute for Environmental Research (IIES) Student Travel Award, and the winners are Oyono Yannick, Sarah Au, Bi Xiaowei and Subhavana Katakam.

SETAC Symposium on Chemical Risk Assessment Approaches and Needs for the Asia/Pacific Region
Jenny Stauber, Karluss Thomas, Patrick Guiney, Bruce Vigon and Kuan-Chun Lee with the Speakers at the SETAC Symposium on Chemicals Risk Assessment Approaches and Needs for the Asia Pacific Region.

Alongside the conference, the SETAC International Program Committee (IPC) held the Symposium on Chemical Risk Assessment Approaches and Needs for Asia Pacific on 16 September. Participants of the IPC were joined by speakers from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand governments to share the chemical risk assessment framework, best practices on risk assessment and management, and discussed key priorities and opportunities for future SETAC planning, outreach and capacity building with local authorities. The symposium was very well received by the 101 participants from 19 countries in the tripartite sectors.

I would like to especially thank the key contributions from the National University of Singapore as the co-organizer, strong support from the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau, and the sponsors and exhibitor: Shimadzu (Asia Pacific) Pte Ltd, Agilent Technologies, Procter & Gamble, Global Silicone Council, Newmont Asia Pacific, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, International Institute for Environmental Studies, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, Hydrobiology Pty Ltd, Elsevier Australia, SPD Scientific Pte Ltd and TECO Medical Group.

This conference would not have been a success without the ideas and hard work by the members of the Conference Organizing Committee and Scientific Program Committee, and the SAP Board of Directors, the events staff, who did a fantastic job as the key organizer managing the event, NUS as the host, and the many students who supported the logistics for the conference.

As the SAP presidency was passed on to me from Ross Smith, I would like to thank Ross for the many contributions he has made to SAP. I also congratulate Jing You, who was named vice president.

Finally, I thank all the delegates for their active participation and contributions, without which the conference would not have been possible. The next SAP conference will be held in Daegu, South Korea in 2018. I look forward to meeting you there.

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