SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
19 January 2017
Volume 18 Issue 1

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Highlights from SETAC World Congress and North America Annual Meeting in Orlando

A brief summary from the SETAC North America Executive Director

Greg Schiefer, Executive Director, SETAC North America

Those who attended the 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, experienced some great science, covering a wide range of topics encompassed within SETAC’s global perspective. For those who couldn’t attend, we are providing a flavor of this outstanding meeting through the summaries provided in this issue of the SETAC Globe and in the linked presentation recordings. However, the truly remarkable aspect of SETAC meetings is only experienced through in-person social interactions with other scientists from around the globe. The more than 2,200 World Congress attendees came from 43 countries, and about 20% of total attendees were from outside North America. This success in creating a truly global meeting is a tribute to the remarkable efforts by the Program Committee to develop an internationally attractive program for scientists from around the world.

Another lasting impression I have from this meeting is that students are more than ever being recognized as an essential part of our Society. Through their excellent scientific presentations and volunteer efforts, SETAC’s students show that they are able to take on leadership roles within the Society and we welcomed and encouraged. It’s also remarkable that student participation in Orlando was 28.2% of the total attendees in Orlando and this represented the largest sector at the meeting (compared to non-student academics—24.5%, business—22.5%, government—18.5%, and Other/NGO/Retired—6.3%). Of course, this also reflects the amount of financial support we provide for students at our meetings. This year we provided direct travel support and registration waivers for about 150 students (total support of greater than $71,000). We appreciate all the contributions from members and supporting organizations that allowed us to provide this level of support.

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Meeting Summary from the SETAC North America Science Committee

Ryan Prosser, Mark Johnson and Lauren Kristofco, SETAC North America Science Committee

SETAC Orlando meeting attendees
SETAC Orlando participants are seen catching up at a poster social. Check out other pictures from meeting on the SETAC Flickr account.

The 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting was held from 6–10 November 2016 in Orlando, Florida. It was another great meeting that showcased timely and thought-provoking science while providing entertainment and networking opportunities. The meeting had more than 2,200 attendees from all geographic regions of the society, and it included 752 platforms presentations and 1,351 poster presentations. It featured 12 parallel sessions, including four that were recorded throughout the week. If you missed some of the excellent science, please check out the 201 recorded sessions from Orlando, as well as the recorded sessions from Salt Lake City and Vancouver meetings. You can also see highlights from member perspectives of the meeting posted on Twitter using #SETACOrlando.

Toward Sustainable Environmental Quality: Identifying Global Research Needs Through the SETAC Horizon Scanning Project

The Global Horizon Scanning Research Prioritization Project aims to collect and prioritize the most important future research questions as recognized by scientists from around the globe working in government, academia and business. The survey started in Africa and then moved to North America, Middle East, Europe and Latin America. Horizon Scanning Project workshops followed in the various geographic units of SETAC. A list of the top priorities of relevance to each geographical region was presented for the first time in this session at the Orlando meeting. See the SETAC Globe article by Charles Menzie for more detailed information.

Systems Modeling Approaches for Ecotoxicology to Link Molecular Responses to Ecosystem Effects

The goal of this session was to advance emerging science in the “-omics” to assessing risk and assisting with risk management decisions. Initially, presentations were focused on these new tools and the emerging science; however, it was clear that bridging various levels of molecular and biological organization remains a challenge. As ecological risk assessment is further informed with a greater understanding of toxicology at the individual level of organization, differences between communities in how populations are regulated have yet to be sufficiently characterized for many systems. Even still, further work in understanding how chemical exposure perturbs biological systems (e.g., adverse outcome pathways) informs our understanding using a mechanistic framework that may well develop into tools that can be used prospectively as well as forensically.

“One Health”: Opportunities for SETAC Leadership in Integrating Environmental, Human and Animal Health

SETAC Orlando Recordings“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. This session brought together experts from the “One Health” community and SETAC to present on topics ranging from the importance of this philosophy to current and future international agreements and assessments (e.g., Stockholm Convention, Global Environmental Outlook) to how current approaches to characterize risk of chemicals fail to address the holistic nature of individual and community wellbeing (e.g., Arctic pollution, contaminant-disease exposures among Florida turtles). For more information, read the session summary by Tom Augspurger and Nil Basu.

Advancing Sustainability in SETAC: Implementing the Berlin Declaration

SETAC Orlando RecordingsThe information presented in this session was particularly interesting and consistent with the goals and mission of SETAC. The first presentation set the stage, providing context within the society of working towards sustainability through the years. The following presentations provided specific examples of wicked problems and plans towards solutions that were regionally appropriate for this venue. Particularly interesting was a discussion on what Florida is doing in changing the way they value water resources, from draining the Everglades to managing farming, urban and wild areas for a sustainable future and re-engineering many of these legacy systems. It was clear that managing sustainability will take a focused effort now and that the more time passes before suitability becomes a priority, the more difficult it will be to maintain current lifestyle patterns in resource consumption.

Other Highlights from the SETAC World Congress and SETAC North America Annual Meeting:

  • The session on using freshwater mollusk toxicity data for improved conservation of water and sediment gave attention to a group of organisms that are often overlooked, but one group in particular, freshwater mussels, are one of the most threatened organisms in North America. Focus on the effects of contamination on these species and how it likely affects conservation efforts was sorely needed.  

  • The session on fate, toxicity or risk assessment of materials for military interest spanned a broad spectrum of topics. For example, a sophisticated process was initiated in Korea to develop aquatic criteria for explosives to differentiate toxicity between birds and mammals of new compounds proposed for military use. Much of this information has direct relevance as military bases and ranges contain assemblages of habitat and species that are becoming scarce. 

  • The session on assessing contaminant effects in multi-stress ecosystems was a wonderful compilation of various approaches for understanding complex problems – from the scale of continent to ecosystem to individual to molecular. For example, Lisa Nowell with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) presented a summary of an immense landscape-scale USGS evaluation of effects from pesticide mixtures on stream quality in the Midwestern United States that integrated water and sediment samples with passive samplers and mesocosm exposures.

  • The sessions on the Gulf of Mexico were timely and informative, especially those that considered the impacts of the oil spill on birds.  Particularly important are the insights associated with the long-term effects of exposure and the consideration of the modes of exposure, including orally through ingestion of prey as well as through preening. The effects of oil on the integrity of the feather structure and therefore the ability for the bird to remain waterproof were very interesting and reveal additional potential effects. For more information, read the session summary of Frequent Fliers: Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Birds.

  • A number of posters clearly demonstrated that only one test concentration is needed instead of two for the USEPA/OECD definitive fish bioconcentration test. The number of vertebrates tested and waste generated can be reduced without impacting the conclusions of this test.

  • Science was not the only thing in abundance at SETAC Orlando, geographic unit representation was as well. This was especially monumental for the students of SETAC as for the first time attendees included student leadership from around the globe. 

  • Many Interest Groups (formerly Advisory Groups) sponsored sessions and held meetings to discuss ongoing activities.

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