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SETAC Orlando Session Summaries
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Session Summaries from SETAC Orlando

The recently concluded 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting, which was held from 6–10 November 2016 in Orlando, Florida, was another successful meeting, attracting 2,235 delegates who could choose from 752 platform and 1,315 poster presentations. The theme of the meeting was “Fostering Environmental Science for an Ever-Changing World.” These session summaries provide examples of presentations and discussions during the meeting.

    Summaries Published in the April Issue (Volume 18 Issue 4)

  • Mixtures: Exposure and Toxicity from Combinations of Stressors
    Matthew O. Gribble, Emory University; Sean Weatherwax, Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc.
    • The session, “Mixtures: Exposure and Toxicity from Combinations of Stressors” presented at the 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, was broadly organized around the implications of joint chemical exposures for potentially synergistic toxicity to organisms and environments. The presentation topics ranged from methodological contributions, to applied studies in model organisms, to risk assessments of complex field sites and the challenges of coordinating associated parties to regulatory implementation. This session is relevant to SETAC because it supports “the development of principles and practices for protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity.”

      The major theme of the session is that a more holistic approach to environmental risk assessment is often appropriate as joint impacts may be greater than the sum of their parts.

      The presentations included several studies in model organisms, including Kayode Jegede’s (University of Saskatchewan) presentation on “Juvenile Mite Sensitivity and Fitness Reduction of Successive Mite Generation After Exposure to Metals,” Anderson Abel de Souza Machado’s (Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries) presentation on “Inverse U-shape and Non-Monotonic Dose-Response for the Toxicity of Bt Biopesticide to D. magna,” Tangtian He’s (City University of Hong Kong) presentation on “Mesocosm Assessment of the Effects of an Organic Ultraviolet Filter Mixture and Elevated Seawater Temperature on Corals,” and David Spurgeon’s (Center for Ecology and Hydrology) presentation on “Comparative Short-Term, Chronic and Mixture Toxicity of Chemicals in Bee Species: The Role of Toxicokinetics and Toxicodynamic Traits.” Each of these talks emphasized the complex impacts of a primary exposure, in a context of vulnerability and co-exposures, for an invertebrate model organism. A presentation by session co-chair Matthew Gribble (Emory University) provided a methodological framework for analyzing data from future investigations in these kinds of models titled, “Predicting Sediment Mixture Toxicity from Marine Amphipod Mortality Data.”

      There were also applied risk assessment presentations, including a presentation by Tanya D. Ambrose (NewFields Environmental), on “Ecological Risks of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Sediments of an Urban Waterway Platform,” and a presentation by session co-chair Sean Weatherwax (Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc.) about his work to assess risk for a site, working across multiple regulatory partners in particular with a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), “Ecological Risk Assessment: Crossroads Between an NJDEP LSRP-led and USEPA-led Cleanup Platform.” These talks focused on the process of detailed site characterization in the context of an environment experiencing a mixture of stressors from multiple sources and the challenges of completing environmental risk assessments for such environments.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Ecological Effect Models for Assessing the Risks of Pesticides: Ongoing Developments in the United States and European Union (WATCH RECORDINGS)
    Valery Forbes, University of Minnesota; Pernille Thorbek, Syngenta CropScience; and Kristina Garber, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    • winner graphicThere has been a lot of recent activity in the development of mechanistic effect models for use in pesticide risk assessment. Mechanistic effect models are being used to assess chemical effects at varying levels of biological organization, with toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic and population models receiving particular attention. In addition to model development, work is needed to integrate these types of models into the overall risk assessment process. Among other things, this will require prioritization of species to model, establishment of approaches for addressing data gaps, and evaluation of model complexity. In Europe, initiatives such as the Marie Curie 7th Framework training program (CREAM) and the SETAC-sponsored MODELINK workshop have provided new models, case studies and improvements in model validation, documentation and communication. These developments have been reflected in recent opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that open up opportunities for mechanistic effect models to play a more important role in pesticide risk assessments. In the U.S., there has been activity around exploring the use of population models to assess the risks of pesticides to threatened and endangered species that was prompted by recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences. There are both important similarities and differences in the challenges and opportunities for developing and implementing mechanistic effect models for pesticide risk assessment under U.S. and European legislation.

      The session brought together modelers, ecotoxicologists, risk assessors, decision-makers and other stakeholders to explore the challenges and opportunities involved in implementing ecological effect models in pesticide risk assessments. The session not only provided an overview and analysis of the kinds of modeling tools currently available for doing the job (Valery Forbes, University of Minnesota), but presented specific models and case studies for bees, (Pernille Thorbek, Syngenta CropScience) listed plant species (Amelie Schmolke, Waterborne Environmental, Inc.) and listed butterflies (Kristina Garber, USEPA). In addition, Steven Bartell, Cardno ENTRIX, demonstrated how food web and ecosystem models could be used to estimate direct and indirect effects in aquatic systems. John Stark, Washington State University, showed how organismal-level point estimates of toxicity can result in very different population-level outcomes. Using the General Unified Threshold model of Survival (GUTS) as a theoretical framework, Sandrine Charles, University of Lyon, gave recommendations for variations in experimental design that could increase the accuracy and precision of model parameters. Roman Ashauer, University of York, showed how toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic models can increase accuracy and decrease method-associated uncertainty of risk assessments.

      Due to recent methodological advances that have allowed the development of sophisticated, ecologically realistic and mechanism-based effect models, and because key advisory bodies in both Europe and North America are convincing regulators that such models have an important role to play in risk assessments, the topics covered in this session are timely. For instance, the National Academy of Sciences has asserted that population models are necessary for assessing the risks of pesticides to threatened and endangered species. Similarly in Europe, EFSA is including mechanistic effect modeling in several of their guidance documents and scientific opinions and recommends that, in the future, landscape modeling should play a central role. Therefore, many scientists in all three sectors of SETAC are actively involved in developing effect models, deciding how to apply them to risk assessments, and developing guidance for how to use them in regulation. This spotlight session provided an opportunity for the different stakeholder groups in SETAC to get together to hear about the newest developments and discuss how such new developments can be applied in risk assessments covered under different regulatory frameworks.

      Conclusions From the Session

      There is compelling evidence that point estimates of organism-level toxicity (e.g., LC50) can give very misleading indicators of ecologically relevant effects, sometimes overestimating or underestimating the effects at higher levels of biological organization.

      Risk assessments based on mechanistic organismal (e.g., TK-TD), population and ecosystem models are more ecologically relevant than those based on traditional methods relying on point estimates of toxicity and exposure. Such models help reduce the uncertainty in extrapolations from laboratory studies to field conditions.

      Whereas there is clearly not a lack of modeling tools available, stakeholder consensus is needed to achieve consistent and transparent implementation of models within different legislative contexts. Much progress has been made on this, especially in Europe. Recent developments in the U.S. related to assessing risks of pesticides to threatened and endangered species provide exciting opportunities for further advances in the use of ecological modeling in ecological risk assessments.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • The Other Oil Spills
    Marthe Monique Gagnon, Curtin University, and Emily Maung-Douglass, Louisiana State University
    • Background on the Session

      In recent years, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has garnered much scientific and media attention. However warranted, it raises the question, what about “the other” oil spills? Significant oil spills occur regularly and can have localized ecological, political and social relevance. A substantial amount of monitoring and research is conducted on these smaller oil spills; however, the knowledge generated is hardly publicized.

      This session explored oil spills other than Deepwater Horizon that have recently occurred around the world, and shared the findings from research and monitoring programs.

      This session focused on the impacts of spills on coastal and aquatic wildlife, as well as the recovery of organisms and ecosystems following the spill. Participants were encouraged to present approaches that confirmed impacts to organisms as well as those that did not result in a response from organisms or populations. The goal of the session was to present researchers undertaking post-spill monitoring with an ecotoxicological toolbox that includes a suite of knowledge and tools appropriate for their specific situation.

      Seven Presentations Exposed the Audience to a Variety of Spill Scenarios

      Sam Duggan, Colorado State University, exposed the impacts of a January 2013 spill where 22,700 liters of gasoline and 7,300 liters of diesel fuel were spilled into West Creek, a tributary to the Dolores River in Colorado. Stream health indicators were explored across multiple levels of biological organization in order to determine the long-term effects of this spill, including white blood cell counts; hepatocyte necrosis, cytomegaly and karyomegaly; and congenital abnormalities in mottled sculpin. Altered benthic macroinvertebrate community structure was detected at the spill site compared with an upstream reference site. Interestingly, PAH concentrations in sediment collected from a stream flowing adjacent to a road showed minimal impacts two years following the spill. These results indicate that the biological effects of the spill were persisting after sediment PAH concentrations had returned to “normal” levels.

      The effects of the oil spill that followed the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster were presented by Rosa Galvez, Université Laval. The 7,000-cubic-meter spill involved light crude oil from North Dakota, which infiltrated soils and contaminated Lac-Mégantic and the Chaudière River. This resulted in the worst case reported of an inland oil spill in North America. Following extensive monitoring, data were integrated to assess long-term impacts following the disaster, including chemistry, toxicity assessment and ecology. A sharp reduction in fish biomass was observed, along with unprecedented levels of abnormalities in fish. Three years following the spill, contaminants persisted in the sediments of the Chaudière River, but the composition of the contaminants changed with time, most likely due to weathering.

      The Enbridge Line 6B pipeline release was presented by Faith Fitzpatrick, US Geological Survey. The spill involved diluted bitumen discharged into the Kalamazoo River downstream of Marshall, Michigan, in July 2010, and it was one of the largest freshwater oil spills in North American history. A multiple-lines-of-evidence approach was implemented: geomorphic mapping, field assessments of submerged oil (pooling), systematic mapping of oil sheen, hydrodynamic and sediment transport modeling, forensic oil chemistry and net environmental benefit analysis (NEBA). The NEBA allowed researchers to weigh the ecological risks associated with leaving residual submerged oil in place against potential negative effects associated with removing the oil. Dredging was determined to be the appropriate approach, mainly in the large impoundments where most of the submerged oil settled.

      Marthe Monique Gagnon, Curtin University, presented the results from two years of monitoring the Montara oil spill, which occurred in the Timor Sea in 2009. The oil spill involved a light crude oil discharged on the sea surface with warm waters and occurred in a remote area accessible after two days of boating. The area, generally 80 meters deep, is nevertheless recognized as a biodiversity hotspot and exploited by commercial fisheries. Physiological indices and biomarkers (Ethoxyresorufin-o-decthylase [EROD] activity, biliary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon [PAH] metabolites, liver integrity measured by serum sorbitol dehydrogenase activity [SDH], oxidative DNA damage) were measured in two species of fish. While fish initially showed signs of exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons, biomarkers of exposure in fish collected in the most impacted area returned to reference levels within 24 months. Only liver somatic index in fish collected at the spill site remained elevated two years after the spill relative to fish from other locations. It was concluded that the majority of fish biomarkers had returned to reference levels within two years following the spill.

      The toxic effects on fish embryo development posed by hydraulic fracturing (HF) flowback and produced water (FPW) was introduced by Henri Yuhe He, University of Alberta. Exposure for 96 hours to organic fractions of FPWs caused morphological deformities in zebrafish embryo development, including spinal curvature as well as pericardial and yolk sac edema. Newly hatched larvae demonstrated increases in EROD activity upon exposure to FPW. Expression of a series of genes related to xenobiotic metabolism, oxidative stress and endocrine disruption were also found to be altered in exposure groups. These findings suggested that the organic contaminants released from FPW spills may have potential long-term environmental effects on teleost early development.

      On a related theme, Erik Folkerts, University of Alberta, presented a study where zebrafish was used as a model organism to determine if acute exposures to FPW induced developmental changes in oxygen uptake within the fish. Transcriptional analyses, as a result of hypoxia or other stressors, and cardiovascular genes were performed and paired with embryo metabolic rates to determine if FPW exposure affected immediate embryo oxygen consumption. Upon exposure to FPW, zebrafish larvae exhibited developmental deformities, reduced swim performance, altered embryonic transcriptional responses and reduced metabolic rates.

      Kamille Elvstrøm Krause, Technical University of Denmark DTU, introduced the audience to the rapid inter-generational adaptation demonstrated by an estuarine copepod to pyrene exposure, with pyrene being one of the most toxic components of crude oil to copepods. Survival, size at maturity, grazing rate and reproductive success were evaluated following exposure. At the concentration of 100 nM, pyrene exposure caused reductions in survival, size at maturity of females, egg production and hatching success. However, survival, egg production and hatching success were recovered in the second generation, suggesting that copepods have a strong resilience to the type of oil contamination they might face in their natural habitats.

      Key Messages from the Session

      The session presented the results from field monitoring of marine and freshwater oil spills as well as laboratory studies using fish larvae and copepods. Important take-home messages offered by the presentations included:

      1. Biological monitoring is more sensitive than chemical monitoring to assess impacts (see Duggan)
      2. When chemical monitoring detects the long-term presence of oil components in the ecosystem, fish communities are often effected at the population level (see Galvez)
      3. Biomarkers of exposure (e.g., PAH biliary metabolites) return positive response in field-based fish monitoring following an oil spill. However, biomarkers of effects (e.g., DNA damage) are less often detected under field conditions, especially in the long term (see Gagnon)
      4. Flowback and produced water from hydraulic fracturing has the potential to affect fish embryonic development and metabolism when released in aquatic systems (see He and Folkerts)
      5. Short-lived copepods demonstrate a strong inter-generational resilience to pyrene, one of the most toxic components of crude oil (see Krause)

      Concluding Thoughts

      This session discussed both freshwater and marine oil spills, and many similarities in fish biomarker responses were observed between these two ecosystems. Additionally, larval fish development appears to be affected in similar ways when embryos are exposed to the hydraulic fracturing’s FPW or to water accommodated fractions of crude oils. However, larval fish mortality often increases while short-lived copepods might have a higher adaptation potential to crude oil contamination.

      This session provided evidence that biological monitoring at various levels of biological organization is required in order to evaluate the overall impacts of oil spills on aquatic ecosystems. The need for the rapid deployment of recovery tactics, containment of submerged oil, a multidisciplinary science approach and the coordinated implementation of contingency planning are required for effective oil spill response.

      Authors’ contact information: and 

  • Integrating Chemistry and Biology in a Landscape Context to Reveal Potential Causes of Endocrine Disruption
    Jessica Leet, Jennifer Brennan and Cathy Richter, Columbia Environmental Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
    • Endocrine disruption in fish and wildlife continues to concern scientists studying in watersheds in North America and around the world. Disruptions in endocrine function can alter development, reproduction and disease susceptibility. Investigating endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in a landscape context that integrates land use patterns, water and sediment chemistry, field biology and laboratory experiments can prioritize the most important drivers of ecosystem health or impairment. The goal of this session was to bring together current research investigating the fate and transport of potential causal agents of intersex and immune suppression, the potential effects of these compounds on aquatic organisms, and larger questions of land use risk on fish and wildlife on an ecosystem scale.

      Several speakers in this session were part of a USGS Endocrine Disruption Research Group studying the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This project serves as a prime example of how research at multiple levels of biological organization are coordinated to answer larger questions about fish health in a watershed. The session began with a discussion by Pat Phillips, USGS, on identifying and quantifying the sources, fate, transport and distribution of EDCs throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a first step in assessing how multiple factors are influencing overall fish health in this system. The chemical analyses of water and sediment samples from stream sites throughout the watershed are being coordinated with bioassay assessments of estrogenicity, water quality parameters and fish health assessments at the same sites. Current findings are that storm events are associated with peaks in total estrogenic activity and that phytoestrogens are an important contributor to total estrogenic activity, possibly associated with an increase in the agricultural use of red clover.

      The second talk of the session was a synthesis of data from multiple studies using passive samplers to estimate chemical exposure to fish over time in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. David Alvarez, USGS, presented results focused on spring sampling near spawning beds at sites where fish health assessments had also been conducted. The herbicides atrazine and metolachlor, and the steroid hormone estrone were commonly detected, reflecting the agricultural land use of the sampling sites.

      David Bertolatus, University of Colorado, presented fieldwork conducted in the Shenandoah River watershed using an integrated chemical and biological analysis to compare differences in chemical mixtures and associated biological effects with land use patterns by assessing fathead minnows that had been exposed to water from various sites throughout the watershed. Reproductive effects and changes in gene expression related to immune function were observed at sites with agricultural land use and sites impacted by wastewater treatment plants. The data from this study provided insightful hypotheses regarding the specific effects of exposure to different types of complex mixtures and demonstrated the value of a complex mixture and landscape research approach.

      Jennifer Brennan, USGS, presented a framework for using effects directed analysis (EDA) to guide isolation of endocrine active chemicals (EACs) commonly found in the North American water sources, including the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This approach compared utility of cell and fish bioassays for identifying these model EACs from literature study sites across the USA. This approach can help identify active contaminants in a complex mixture that could be impacting fish health.

      The second half of the talks in the session focused on studies outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Keegan Hicks, University of Waterloo, presented exciting findings showing the recovery from an intersex phenotype in a rainbow darter population after updates to a municipal wastewater treatment plant. This information is encouraging and demonstrates that changes in the management of a point source can improve fish health. A complementary talk was given by Meghan Fuzzen, University of Waterloo, in which she discussed an assessment of spatial and temporal variability of biological endpoints in wild fish populations exposed to wastewater effluent. This research showed strong temporal variation in many endpoints measured, possibly due to the timing of the reproductive cycle. Variation was greatest at the lower levels of biological organization such as gene expression.

      Cheng Wang, Peking University,) presented research using a pMOSP1-EGFP transgenic Japanese medaka line to evaluate the potential of equol, a common contaminant from livestock waste and runoff discharge, to induce intersex in fish. This study found that equol did induce intersex in adult male fish at environmentally relevant concentrations.

      There was also a corresponding poster session that included additional research from the Chesapeake Bay Endocrine Disruption group along with posters that followed the same theme of addressing larger watershed or land use questions via integration of laboratory and field assessments.

      Overall, this session demonstrated that there is important work being done to investigate potential causal agents of endocrine disruption in fish populations, and by incorporating landscape context, these studies have much larger and more real-world application. Using a framework or approach similar to that being done in the Chesapeake Bay can help tie together studies being done throughout a watershed to gain information relevant to natural resource managers.

      Authors’ Contact Information:, and

  • Assessing Risks of Pesticides to Federally Listed (Threatened and Endangered) Species at a National Level – Parts 1 and 2
    Bernalyn McGaughey, Compliance Services Incorporated; Colleen Rossmeisl, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Pesticide Programs; Tony Hawkes, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Marine Fisheries Service; Sara Pollack, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    • The two-part session listed in the title above was organized for the 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, to present the continuing development of methods and data for application to national-level pesticide evaluations for species listed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It builds on a similar session organized for the 2015 SETAC North America annual meeting, which was held in Salt Lake City, Utah. The fact that these sessions continue from one year to the next, and might be expected next year as well, illustrates the complexity of dealing with the interface of the act that regulates pesticides (FIFRA: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) and the ESA. Building on the National Research Council 2013 recommendations (Assessing Risks to Endangered and Threatened Species from Pesticides; National Research Council, 2013; hereinafter, “NRC Report”), public workshops and the knowledge gained thus far by collaborative efforts between the involved agencies (“the Agencies” – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [USEPA] Office of Pesticide Programs [OPP], the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS], the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS, or FWS and NMFS together as “the Services”], and the U. S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]), this year’s sessions provided insights on 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 session presentations highlighted recent advances and stimulated discussion on continuing progress. There were also seven posters on similar subjects.

      In general, the presentations continue to illustrate that balancing an understanding of the potential risks to a species at the local level while maintaining a sustainable comprehensive risk assessment process at the national regulatory level is complex and difficult given the variability of species distributions, pesticide use sites and exposure metrics across the national landscape. Finding that balance is still a work in progress as, at this year’s session, the Agencies begin to transition from the USEPA Biological Evaluation process to the Services’ Biological Opinion process.

    • The core message of each presenter is recapped below (list numbers correspond with abstract numbers):

      1. 41 Process and Criteria for Efficient Assessment of Pesticide Risk to Endangered Species | Jeffrey Giddings (Compliance Services International)

        The risk assessment process has implicit assumptions and hidden or nuanced aspects that, when examined, point to specific areas needing policy discussion. Giddings likened this to the adjustments made on an audio soundboard wherein multiple feeds are balanced to eventually produce a refined output. Determining the “gradient” of risk was used as an example.

      2. 42 A Risk Assessment Process for Establishing Negligible Risk Earlier in National-Scale Endangered Species Assessments | Matthew Kern (Waterborne Environmental)

        This presentation suggested that establishing a sound “negligible risk” definition was important to bringing efficiencies to the assessment process.

      3. 43 Interim Methods Used in the Biological Evaluations to Estimate Risk to Individuals of Threatened and Endangered Species from the Use of Pesticides | Melissa Panger (USEPA)

        Panger stressed the importance of understanding that the Biological Effects (BEs) portion of this process was focused on the individual organism, not the species as a whole. She also reviewed the responsive changes in process that had been made as the Agency began to transition the draft BEs to final, which included changes in some aspects of terrestrial and aquatic models, error corrections and improvements in transparency, more consistency in weight of evidence analysis and aquatic species ranges, and the addition or deletion of species based on new or changed listings or reports of extirpation or extinction.

      4. 44 Assessing Risks to Plants under the Endangered Species Act Process | Sara Pollack (U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

        Pollack noted that as work began to transition to the Services, they were constructing their approach to plant analysis and planning to address this through use of 24 habitat types to describe plant groups for the continental U.S. and a similar evaluation for island species. An overview of the current methods and specific challenges to these assessments, such as use of plant toxicity data, assumptions related to overlap of species ranges with pesticide use and the identification of pollinators, was discussed.

      5. 45 Estimating the Proportion of a Bird Population Exposed to a Single Pesticide | Nancy Golden (U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

        Assessment is still immersed in the “number crunching stage,” but work is transitioning to the Biological Opinion (BO) stage. An important factor relevant to population-level evaluations is the percent of the population exposed. Evaluation of exposure requires consideration of the species’ range and its suitable habitat compared to the use overlap of the pesticide. Species distributions within its range are also factors being considered.

      6. 46 Use of Population Modeling in National Endangered Species Act Consultations with Pesticides | Julann Spromberg (Earth Resource Technology)

        Spromberg, a contractor for NMFS in this assessment process, discussed the connection of individual fitness to population-level responses. At the time of the SETAC meeting, the Agencies were still identifying the data they needed and the models or model types that would be effective in making this connection. She also noted the importance of these selections since the result will be a long-term regulatory decision.

      7. 47 Species-specific Refined Endangered Species Risk Assessment for Static Aquatic Habitats: Part 1, Exposure | Lauren Padilla (Stone Environmental)

        In this presentation, Padilla proposed an approach to use probability analysis to fit into a tiered risk assessment process that uses refined site-specific information to determine where the EPA-generated environmental effects concentration (EEC) fit into exposure realities when a site-specific analysis is done. The refined exposure modeling approach presented here for malathion focused on quantitatively accounting for observed variability in environmental and agronomic factors impacting the potential pesticide exposures to endangered species. See also poster MP090.

      8. 48 From Biological Evaluation to Biological Opinion: What to Expect Next with the National Pesticide Consultations | Scott Hecht (NOAA National Marine Fishery Service)

        An update on the Agencies’ progress was provided and included a review of conceptual frameworks, key concepts, methodologies and weight of evidence approaches. The process is evolving as Hecht described the “end goal” is one of developing a programmatic approach to national consultations for pesticide registrations. The approach aims to address a pesticide and its potential effects to all ESA-listed species using ecological risk assessment and proven risk mitigation strategies.

      9. 137 Update on Methods Used to Estimate Aquatic Pesticide Exposure to Threatened and Endangered Species | Jim Carleton (USEPA)

        Carleton provided an overview of Agency methods developed or updated for assessing aquatic species exposure. It was recognized that current models need continued improvement or modification to more realistically portray, among other factors, contaminant pulses and their travel time. The use of STREAMCAT data, an extensive collection of landscape metrics for 2.6 million streams and associated catchments within the conterminous U.S., may contribute favorably to finer-scale interpretation of this movement.

      10. 138 Characterizing Pesticide Exposure to Threatened and Endangered Species with GIS | Ryan DeWitt (NOAA National Marine Fishery Service)

        DeWitt pointed out the important differences between terrestrial and aquatic overlap analysis. He described the process used by the Agencies to spatially characterize pesticide exposure to listed species and their designated critical habitats. Results were presented by using the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinate), which was listed as endangered in 2003, as a case study. He also explored some of the uncertainties inherent in the spatial data associated with species range, depiction of use sites and pesticide exposure.

      11. 139 Refined Pesticide Exposure Modeling for Endangered Species in Flowing Water Habitats | Michael Winchell (Stone Environmental)

        Winchell questioned whether or not we can do better in representing diversity of aquatic habitat by further addressing base flow, percent of treated crop area within a watershed, and channel routing and velocity. Results produced by considering these factors could help bracket, along with monitoring, the highest realistic concentrations to be expected in the environment. Probability distributions of chlorpyrifos exposures derived in this manner selected species ranges and habitat types were discussed considering their combination with probabilistic effects determinations to inform risk characterization for the chemical.

      12. 140 Toxicity of Pesticide Mixtures in Midwest Streams | Megan Shoda (USGS)

        Shoda explained how the Pesticide Toxicity Index (PTI), a tool for assessing relative toxicity of pesticide mixtures to fish, benthic invertebrates and cladocera in stream water, is being applied to Midwest scenarios to incorporate the ability to assess multiple pesticides at once, which is how organisms encounter pesticides in a natural environment. In Midwestern simulations, these models seemed to provide a low resource way to assess PTI at unmonitored streams in the Midwest and provide insight into how pesticide mixtures in streams influence biological communities.

      13. 141 Refining Co-Occurrence and Proximity Analyses for Endangered Species Assessments | Ashlea Frank (Compliance Services International)

        Frank noted that the recent release of USEPA’s Draft Biological Evaluations, including national-level endangered species assessments, on the first three organophosphates through the registration review program, illustrated the need for improved and refined processes and methods to enhance efficiency and accuracy while meeting agricultural needs and species protection goals. She explained how the FIFRA Endangered Task Force’s (FESTF’s) tools and data allow the management of large, detailed data sets and align them for use in the national-level assessment process.

      14. 142 Mitigation of Pesticide Drift from Aerial Applications by Riparian Vegetation | George Tuttle (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

        Tuttle reported on a drift reduction study conducted in 2015 in Washington. This analysis predicted that an additional 26% reduction of instream malathion deposition could be achieved by either increasing the distance between the field and the beginning of the riparian vegetation by an additional 0.6 meters or increasing canopy cover by an additional 9%. The study provided evidence that riparian vegetation is also effective at reducing drift into streams from aerial pesticide applications, which makes installation of more riparian buffer vegetation even more important.

      15. 143 Implementing an Integrated Pesticide Use Enforcement System in California | John Haasbeek (CaliCo Solutions LLC )

        Haasbeek related his experience with developing customized software to integrate large data sets at the local level by discussing the California pesticide enforcement system’s tracking program. He noted that such a data management system has been developed on an agricultural system that produces 1/3 of the vegetables and 2/3 of the fruit for the nation. He also discussed how individual elements of the data could be protected yet uplifted to national availability for other types of analyses.

      16. 144 Testing a “Net Conservation Benefit” Approach for Pesticides Using a Small-Scale Pilot for Listed Threatened and Endangered Species | Dan Campbell (Syngenta)

        Campbell proposed reducing complexity, applying true landscape-level improvements for endangered species habitats, and providing a transparent and predictable approach to FIFRA/ESA consultations to balance pesticide mitigations with species benefits that offset possible risks from pesticide use, noting that these need to be of a scope and scale that brings influence to an expected outcome. Syngenta is seeking a scalable approach by conducting pilots in Iowa and Mississippi that will relate potential pesticide impacts (after avoidance and minimization measures inherent in FIFRA registrations) with on-the-ground habitat improvement work.

      17. Take-Aways

        Needs of the Process: Several presentations by the Agencies and others, including the regulated industry, addressed what the assessment process might use to further guide the risk assessment procedures under FIFRA. Discussion of the challenges presented when addressing the first three products in the Registration Review Program stressed the need to first look at the individual organism as the basis for review under the USEPA Biological Evaluation and then move to the population-level impact as evaluated under the Biological Opinion.

        Additional or Improved Methods: Several presentations began with the statement that “this is still a work in progress,” in recognition that further scientific improvements could be made, including the refinement of current or adoption of alternate models, using additional data or managing large dataset in a way to expedite analysis, and considering voluntary efforts as an aid to mitigation and species recovery.

        Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Summaries Published in the February Issue (Volume 18 Issue 2)

  • Use of Freshwater Mollusk Toxicity Data for Improved Conservation of Water and Sediment Quality
    Patricia L. Gillis, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Ning Wang, U.S. Geological Survey
    • Freshwater mollusks, including mussels and snails, are one of the most imperiled groups of animals worldwide. Environmental contamination has been identified as one of the key factors contributing to their decline. Previous studies have indicated that freshwater mollusks are more sensitive than commonly tested organisms to some chemicals, such as copper, lead, ammonia and chloride. In 2005, ASTM published the standard guide for conducting laboratory toxicity tests with freshwater mussels in water exposures, which has led to the derivation of water-based toxicity metrics for a number of compounds. These toxicity data can be used to derive water quality regulations that will protect this sensitive group; however, the large number of mollusk species and their complex life histories, in combination with the multiple exposure routes experienced by the various life stages, necessitate further research to fully understand mollusk sensitivity to contaminants in order to develop effective conservation strategies.

      The session, “Use of Freshwater Mollusk Toxicity Data for Improved Conservation of Water and Sediment Quality” was held during SETAC’s World Congress in November 2016 and highlighted the findings of presenting experts from both academia and government. The studies presented included both controlled laboratory investigations with targeted compounds as well as complex contaminant exposures in natural environments. Half of the platform presentations were given by graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, demonstrating the active research in this area from the academic community.

      The presentations covered three themes: (1) examinations of whether existing water quality regulations protect contaminant-sensitive mollusks; (2) assessments of specific contaminants to determine if they could pose a risk or have played a role in observed declines in wild populations; and (3) method enhancements for quantifying contaminant sensitivity and uptake.

      Mollusk Sensitivity and Water Quality Regulations

      Mussels are generally underrepresented in the toxicity databases used to develop water quality criteria (WQC), water quality guidelines (WQG) and other environmental guidance values. Ning Wang with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) summarized the past 15 years of research and illustrated the development, validation and methods used in the evaluation of chronic exposures of mussels in water and sediment. The results of chronic (28–84 day) exposures with 5 mussel species and 14 chemicals indicate that mussels are sensitive to a variety of inorganic contaminants such as ammonia, metals (e.g., aluminum, copper, lead, nickel and zinc) and major ions (e.g., chloride, nitrate, potassium and sulfate). Wang concluded that WQG and WQC might need to be derived or updated to reflect mussel sensitivity to these chemicals. Chris Ivey, also with USGS, focused on acute and chronic aluminum sensitivity of a unionid mussel (Lampsilis siliquoidea) and an amphipod (Hyalella azteca). He presented that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) draft revised acute and chronic WQC for aluminum would adequately protect the mussels and amphipods tested; however, including the new chronic data from the two species in a criterion recalculation would likely lower the proposed chronic criterion. James Kunz, USGS, also evaluated the sensitivity of L. siliquoidea and H. azteca to nickel and zinc, and found that both species were highly sensitive to both metals. Kunz concluded that the USEPA WQC for nickel and zinc need to be evaluated to protect the mussel and amphipod tested.

      Assessing the Role of Specific Contaminants in Population Declines

      In addition to studies with single compounds for the purposes of deriving WQC that are protective of mollusks, researchers have also strived to elucidate whether contaminants could be contributing to observed declines of wild populations. Early life stages have been found to have a heightened contaminant sensitivity. Because of this sensitivity to many contaminants, exposure can directly influence recruitment, thus experiments with early life stages are used to understand impacts in natural populations.

      To determine if elevated major ions and trace element concentrations could have contributed to observed mussel declines in a coal-mining–impacted river, Andrew Phipps, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, examined the effects of environmentally relevant concentrations of major ions and nickel on the growth and survival of juvenile mussels. No significant differences in overall growth and survival between treatments and controls were observed. Therefore, Phipps concluded that major ion chronic toxicity alone or in combination with nickel was not the primary source of toxicity for juvenile mussels in the Powell River (Virginia and Tennessee).

      Freshwater mussels occupy a range of habitats, including rivers influenced by agricultural practices. Neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) are widely used pesticides that can be transported from agricultural fields to surface waters by surface or sub-surface runoff. To determine whether neonics pose a risk to mollusks, Ryan Prosser, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), examined the effects of six neonicotinoids and one butenolide pesticide on the early life stages of a snail, Planorbella pilsbryi, and a unionid mussel, Lampsilis fasciola (Canadian Species at Risk). Acute toxicity of mussel larvae (glochidia) and snails occurred above environmental levels, though growth and biomass production in the snail were more sensitive endpoints than mortality. Based on toxicity data presented and the levels of these pesticides in North American surface waters, Prosser concluded that neonics and butenolide insecticides pose less of a hazard with respect to mortality for the two species of mollusks examined compared with other non-target aquatic insects.

      Nutrient pollution, specifically nitrate, is one of the most prevalent causes of water quality degradation globally, with increasing anthropogenic input from suburban and agricultural runoff, municipal wastewater and industrial waste. The potential effects of nitrate to freshwater mussels are not well understood, particularly during the parasitic stage of the freshwater mussel life cycle during which metamorphosis from larvae to juvenile occurs. Adrian Moore, University of Georgia, revealed that environmentally relevant levels of nitrate reduced glochidia attachment to host fish, metamorphosis success on the fish, and thus production of juveniles. Moore concluded that despite low acute toxicity, nitrate might play a role in mussel population declines.

      Method Enhancement for Quantifying Contaminant Sensitivity and Uptake

      While the ASTM method provides guidance for employing mussel early life stages in toxicity assessments, much is still unknown on how their toxic response is influenced by organism source and the use of fish host and mussel surrogates. Because early life stage freshwater mussels are among the most contaminant-sensitive organisms, it is important to understand even subtle influences of organism culture and source on toxicity endpoints.

      Unlike the majority of laboratory-cultured test organisms employed in traditional toxicity testing, glochidia are typically obtained from field-collected gravid mussels. While employing naturally sourced organisms can enhance the ecological relevance of a toxicity assessment, wild organisms can introduce additional variability in contaminant response. Patricia Gillis, ECCC, investigated year-to-year variability in reference toxicant (NaCl) response using gravid mussels collected from the same site for up to eight years and investigated the effect of collection site on glochidia sensitivity using mussels from a single species collected from different watersheds. Gillis found that spatial differences (collection site) in parent source have a stronger influence on the toxic response of glochidia than temporal differences (year of parent collection).

      Larval freshwater mussels can be wild-sourced for toxicity tests, but the mussel’s complex life cycle, specifically the parasitic phase on vertebrate hosts, requires significant resource investment to produce mussels for toxicity testing using live fish hosts. Anakela Popp, North Carolina State University, presented her research on a series of comparative acute toxicity tests and found that in-vitro–propagated juvenile mussels were significantly more sensitive to chemical toxicants than fish-propagated juvenile mussels in approximately 50% of cases investigated. However, differences between in-vitro– and fish-propagated juvenile mussel responses to contaminants were within a factor of two, which is similar to the average of within-lab variation for fish-propagated juvenile mussel toxicity testing in previous studies.

      Understanding a mollusk’s response to contaminants in natural environments is important, but it is equally important to avoid negatively impacting the population one is studying. Dianthani Nugegoda, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, compared uptake of trace metals by an artificial mussel and a live Australian freshwater mussel. Nugegoda found that accumulation or regulation varied across essential and non-essential metals regardless as to whether lab or field exposures were conducted. While artificial mussels alleviate some of the limitations of live biomonitors such as reproduction and translocation difficulties, they might not reflect the bioavailability of all metals, particularly those that are internally regulated. Nugegoda concluded that while the efficiency of artificial mussels is similar to other passive samplers, a combination of artificial and live mussels is recommended for field monitoring.

      This session highlighted the broad range of ongoing mollusk ecotoxicology research, which serves to derive the robust information required by regulators and conservation communities around the world in order to protect this imperiled and ecologically important group.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Lab Data, Hazard, Risk and Regulation of Endocrine Active Chemicals – So What? The Big Picture from Little Pieces (WATCH RECORDINGS)
    Nancy Shappell, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service
    • SETAC Orlando RecordingsScientists looked at both their own work and that in literature, presenting both quandaries and explanations for why lab and field data of endocrine disruptors often disagree. Sessions were recorded for online viewing.

      Studies of waters up and downstream from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in Canada and native fish (rainbow darters) found elevated estrogenic equivalents in water correlated to increases in both mRNA for vitellogenin (VTG) in males and intersex with altered gene expression, and decreases in secondary sex characteristics, in vitro production of 11-ketotestosterone and aggression. No differences were found in plasma VTG, body condition factor, gonadosomatotrophic index, population or community effects. Confounding factors were conjectured to be nutrient concentrations, other chemicals and natural gradients. (Mark Servos, University of Waterloo).

      Confounding results elsewhere: White suckers in Boulder Creek exposed to high concentrations of estradiol-17beta equivalents (E2Eq) in WWTP effluent had high incidence of intersex, yet the same species exposed to the same concentrations in Chicago canals of 100% WWTP effluent were not found to have intersex. One explanation proffered by Heiko Schoenfuss, St. Cloud State University, argued that those exhibiting intersex were naïve to environmental estrogenic exposure, having entered the receiving water from dammed upstream waters, while white suckers in the Chicago “canals” had lived in effluent for more than 110 generations. So field studies may fail to mimic lab studies, as lab fish are ‘naïve’, while fish in the wild have adapted to environmental exposures in order to survive.

      Conflicting field and lab results could be the result of inherent heterogeneity within treatments neglected in lab studies. Using Principle Component Analysis, Jelena Ivanova, St. Cloud State University, separated subpopulations of male fathead minnows (reflective of social hierarchy) in control fish as well as in those treated with estrone, estradiol and selective serotonin uptake inhibitors using length, bioconcentration factor (BCF), gonadosomatic index (GSI), secondary sex characteristics (SSC) and log VTG. Treating these subpopulations as one within a treatment group could result in false negatives and underestimation of chemical effects.

      Chris Borgert, Applied Pharmacology & Toxicology, Inc., proposed that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) should be evaluated for a combination of both their affinity and intrinsic activity, providing an estimate of potency. A review of literature showed low affinity estrogenic compounds do not result in estrogenic additivity. Adoption of a potency threshold would result in removal of many chemicals from hazard identification as estrogenic endocrine disruptors.

      Failure to show additivity was also shown by Nancy Shappell, U.S. Department of Agriculture, reporting co-incubations of cells with estradiol and environmental concentrations of other weaker estrogens resulted in lower estrogenic activity than estradiol alone (E-Screen assay).

      Obviously differential responses to EDCs may vary by organisms, species of fish, but differential states of stress are typically not considered. Tomas Brodin, Umea University, who studies behavior modifying drugs (benzodiazepine) in fish, found a high bioconcentration factor was the best indicator of behavioral effects, though sometimes laboratory fish showed no effect of drug, unless exposed to a stressor. Revisiting the idea of evolutionary adaption, these guppies, lab reared for more than 40 generations in aquaria, lacked a predator threat. Once a threat was introduced, a drug effect was seen.

      On the bright side, several investigators reported upgrades in WWTPs have resulted in “recovery” of fish populations, no longer exhibiting evidence of endocrine disruption.

      Author’s contact information:

  • Modeling and Monitoring of Environmental Pesticides Exposure: Regulatory Context and Improvements from Science
    Arnaud Boivin, ANSES, and Russell Jones, Bayer
    • As part of the pesticide regulatory process in many countries, monitoring and modeling are widely used to estimate exposure when performing risk assessments for surface water, groundwater and soil. Considerable progress has been made in monitoring and modeling of pesticide behavior in the environment in the past 30 years. This session was set up to review recent developments in modeling and monitoring, including the development of guidelines, the inclusion of additional processes in modeling, and the application of modeling and models in the risk assessment process. The discussions of the eight presentations and 11 posters submitted by scientists from Europe, the United States, India and China in this session summary is divided into development of guidelines, modeling of new processes, and modeling and monitoring and their application in the risk assessment process.

      Development of Guidelines

      Anne Louise Gimsing, Danish Environmental Protection Agency, summarized progress made on developing a scientific framework for monitoring groundwater guidelines as part of the EU registration process by the SETAC Environmental Monitoring Interest Group on Pesticides. A report on this project is expected near the end of 2017. The report will provide a variety of approaches applicable to various regulatory protection goal options and study objectives.

      Inclusion of New Processes in Modeling Exposure Assessments

      Considerable research has been ongoing for several years to include processes in models that had not previously been considered. These processes include modeling the effectiveness of vegetative buffer strips in removing pesticides from runoff water (Oscar Perez-Ovilla , Bayer CropScience LP), estimating plant uptake of pesticides from soil by crops to better predict the movement of pesticides and their metabolites to groundwater (Robin Sur, Bayer CropScience AG), and work in both Europe and the United States on the application of the aged (time-dependent) sorption process to improve modeling predictions of movement in ground and surface water (Russell Jones, Bayer CropScience). The modeling of buffer strips quantifies the benefit of this widely used management measure, and the inclusion of plant uptake and aged sorption is an important process for some compounds, which needs to be included to obtain realistic times. Harmonization of these processes has been the subject of much discussion in recent years.

      Modeling and Monitoring and their Application in the Risk Assessment Process

      The majority of symposia contributions fell into this category.

      1. In India, pesticide residue monitoring in surface water showed the presence of elevated concentrations of compounds in surface water above India guidelines, including compounds no longer registered in India (Tanu Jindal, Amity University). The authors recommend proper extension services to educate farmers on the judicious use of new formulations of pesticides and integrated pest management approaches designed to avoid contamination of water resources.
      2. In southern China, soil cores were taken from a river in rural and suburban areas (Jing You, Jinan University). The residues in these cores showed the shifting trend away from organochlorine compounds to compounds currently used, with this trend more evident in the rural cores since urban cores included soil from erosion due to land reclamation activities associated with urban expansion.
      3. Case studies of groundwater assessments in France were presented (Arnaud Boivin, ANSES), which included both modeling and monitoring. These included issues associated with the conduct of targeted monitoring studies and the possibility to combine them with a review of public monitoring studies for an enhanced assessment.
      4. In France, the groundwater assessments performed using the EU scenarios can be refined by considering the effects of cropping practices, such as crop rotation and cover crops (Laure Mamy, INRA). French agricultural conditions as implemented in the French agro-pedo-climatic scenarios (FROGS scenarios) model were evaluated to allow comparison of appropriate conditions to assess the influence of agronomic practices on potential movement of pesticides to groundwater.
      5. Sebastian Stehle, University of Koblenz-Landau, compared insecticide concentrations in surface water around the globe with legally accepted regulatory threshold levels and concluded that the current pesticide regulatory risk assessment approaches may fail to protect the aquatic environment.
      6. While the sorption is usually correlated with organic matter, this is not always the case especially for low organic matter subsoils (Francis Donaldson, BASF Corporation). Conducting sorption studies on subsoils can lead to refinements that more accurately describe sorption in subsoils.
      7. Important pathways for movement to surface water include surface runoff, spray drift and interflow (Xuyang Zhang, California Department of Pesticide Regulation). The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is in the process of implementing a modeling framework to assess each of these pathways by adding spray drift to their existing framework, allowing evaluations such as which mitigation measures provide the greatest impact on reducing residue in a watershed.
      8. A modeling framework (Daniel Perkins, Waterborne Environmental, Inc.) has been developed to quantitatively evaluate the impact of multiple best management practices at multiple locations on movement of pesticides to surface water. Such a framework may be useful in assessing the impact of management practices from a regulatory viewpoint.
      9. Estimates of pesticide concentrations in drinking water from surface water are typically based on scenarios in the United State and generally result in conservative estimates of potential concentration. This contribution (Perkins) described an approach based on distributed environmental and management information to provide more realistic estimates at a regional scale using chlorpyrifos as an example.
      10. Salinity has a potential to affect properties such as water solubility and sorption (Parichehr Saranjampour, Louisiana State University). Measurements made with fipronil, bifenthrin, cypermethrin and atrazine indicate that salinity tends to reduce water solubility and increase the octanol-water partition coefficient.
      11. Salinity has the potential to impact degradation of compounds in surface water as demonstrated by the change in the rate of formation of a metabolite of dichloran in an aqueous photolysis study (Emily Vebrosky, Louisiana State University).
      12. Experiments conducted with the fungicide 2,6-dichloro-4-nitroaniline shows increasing toxic effects when exposure occurs in the presence of sunlight, presumably due to the presence of the intermediate photodegradation products (Vebrosky).
      13. A novel assessment procedure was developed to consider temporal and special variability in monitoring data in order to account for uncertainties in monitoring data (Dan Wang, California Department of Pesticide Regulation). The procedure was illustrated with data available for chlorpyrifos in the California Central Valley, which showed a significant downward trend in concentrations.
      14. Monitoring data (more than 115,000 samples from Canada and the United Stated) for linuron was compared with the predictions of standard Tier 2 models (Gerco Hoogeweg, Waterborne Environmental, Inc.). The results of the comparison indicated that no correlation exists between modeled data and observed data for linuron.
      15. Three different spray technologies (airblast, cannon and electrostatic) were tested to generate comparable baseline knowledge on canopy deposition, aerial drift and mid-row floor deposition (Serhan Mermer, Oregon State University). These tests show both advantages and drawbacks of the respective tested sprayers and may help growers make more informed decisions regarding optimal application technologies for their field and the environment.


      The oral and poster presentations covered a wide range of topics. The session provided information on the development of a scientific framework for EU groundwater monitoring guidelines through SETAC, summaries of the ongoing work on incorporating additional processes into exposure models to more accurately represent model predictions, and examples of interesting applications of modeling and monitoring of pesticides around the world.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Summaries Published in the January Issue (Volume 18 Issue 1)

  • “One Health”: Opportunities for SETAC Leadership in Integrating Environmental, Human and Animal Healt (WATCH RECORDINGS)
    Tom Augspurger, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Nil Basu, McGill University
    • 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. 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 a second session of overviews, case studies and perspectives on One Health at the 2016 SETAC World Congress. This follows upon our inaugural session at the 2015 Salt Lake City meeting; a major outcome was the publication of a peer-reviewed Focus Article in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, which is freely available online.

      The session at this year’s World Congress brought together experts from the One Health community and SETAC with these messages resonating most strongly:

      1. Alonso Aguirre, a leader in the One Health community, kicked off the session with a wide-spanning overview of One Health, followed by Larry Kapustka, a long-serving member of SETAC, who spoke of the importance of interdisciplinary environmental science. Though One Health by name has been uncommon in SETAC, similar concepts have been used as organizing structures to stress the importance of interconnecting human conditions, ecosystem quality and animal health.
      2. Ricardo Barra from SETAC Latin America gave an overview of global Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) on Chemicals and Waste. Agreements such as the Stockholm Convention and the Minamata Convention place co-equal value on information from humans and ecosystems. One Health principles will also feature prominently in the GEO6 report (Global Environmental Outlook, to be released in 2018) in which the theme is “Healthy Planet, Healthy People.”
      3. 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 (and other hazards) have been so narrowly partitioned that they fail to address the holistic nature of individual or community wellbeing. Case studies that made these connections to multiple receptors (e.g., fish, wildlife and human health) illustrated enhanced resonance. Specific topics covered included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Safer Chemical Ingredient List (Emma Lavoie and Claudia Menasche), natural and manmade disasters (Geoff Scott), Arctic pollution (Nil Basu), and contaminant-disease exposures among Florida turtles (Jennifer Lynch).
      4. Our research silos have served us well on many issues, but interdisciplinary collaborations are important for problem solving. Bryan Brooks discussed initial results of the SETAC Global Horizon Scanning Project, which was designed to identify geographically specific research needs. Some of the most pressing research questions were shared at the conference and provide a catalyst for assembling transdisciplinary One Health teams on high-priority issues for which a collaborative approach is needed.
      5. 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 interest 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, 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.

      This second session at SETAC on One Health demonstrated that topics such as zoonotic diseases, arctic pollution, natural disasters and chemical management are all wicked environment problems of local to global concern, and they are topics that benefit from a One Health approach. There was great excitement about continuing the dialogue into next year’s meeting, especially among some of our younger members. Topics such as agriculture, oceans and health, and indigenous values and perspectives have emerged as areas to highlight at the SETAC North America 38th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 12–16 November in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We gladly welcome your involvement in moving forward the One Health dialogue within SETAC.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Existing and Emerging Contaminants in Changing Arctic Environments
    Amila De Silva, Magali Houde and Jane Kirk, Environment and Climate Change Canada
    • Overview of Sessions

      Amila De Silva, Magali Houde and Jane Kirk
      (From left) Amila De Silva, Magali Houde and Jane Kirk. Notice, they are all wearing Arctic inspired scarves by an artist from Red Deer, Alberta. They are also inspiring women scientists. In fact, out of 96 oral platform sessions at SETAC Orlando, theirs was one of four sessions led by three female session chairs. We thank SETAC for supporting diversity through its numerous efforts.

      As three professional scientists who lead Arctic ecosystem research and have been passionate about this subject since graduate school, we’d noticed a long running absence of a session dedicated to Arctic research at SETAC North America meetings. This was in contrast to a historically large number of abstracts fitting this theme. Instead of waiting for somebody else to take charge, we proposed an Arctic-themed session for SETAC Orlando. We were thrilled to receive more than 20 submissions.

      The objective of our session was to provide a tribune to disseminate current research on contaminants in the circumpolar Arctic, recognizing that contaminant research in the Arctic is more important now than ever given the accelerated rates of climate-induced changes and the vulnerability of this unique ecosystem. And where better to hold such a session than Orlando, Florida!

      Key findings from the eight platforms and 14 posters include the following:

      1. The kick off talk was by Meredith Curren, Health Canada, who presented a 10-year human biomonitoring study looking at contaminants in four Inuit populations in northern Canada. She reported that many organic pollutants and metals are higher in Inuit populations when compared with the general North American population due to the contamination of their traditional food sources. This research highlighted the practice of integrating traditional knowledge with scientific research and collaborating with local communities, which is valuable to all Arctic studies.
      2. In keeping with this theme, Heidi Swanson, University of Waterloo, presented research on elevated fish mercury levels in the Northwest Territories, a collaborative effort with the Dehcho First Nation peoples and Ph.D. student Gwyneth MacMillan, Université de Montréal, who collaborated with local Inuit and Cree subsistence hunters in Nunavik, Quebec, to sample biota for bioaccumulative rare earth elements. Swanson spoke eloquently of leading projects that formally include traditional knowledge interviews with elders, collaboration with subsistence fishers and community youth training.
      3. Several talks and posters investigated the changing Arctic environment, such as temporal evaluation of perfluoroalkyl substances in a High Arctic ice cap by Heidi Pickard, a M.Sc. student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the newly detected presence of organophosphate flame retardants and plasticizers in the Arctic by Liisa Jantunen with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Pickard’s research on ice cores as a tool to build a chronological record of contaminant deposition was innovative and informative.
      4. The final presentation was by venerable Arctic research pioneer, Derek Muir, Environment and Climate Change Canada, who tied all of these themes together by reporting heavy metals in Arctic char in two adjacent watershed undergoing climate-driven changes at different rates resulting in disturbances to permafrost. The study site of Cape Bounty on Melville Island presented a fascinating and unique opportunity to study the effect of climate change on contaminants in the Arctic.
      5. Requisite interdisciplinary collaborative approaches in Arctic research were evident as shown by the governmental, academic and Indigenous partnerships in virtually every submission. Further, since the circumpolar Arctic region spans numerous countries, we note that Arctic researchers are geographically diverse. Contributing authors in our session had affiliations in Canada, USA, Switzerland, Greenland, Austria and Norway.
      6. Finally, particular mention of the oral platforms of three graduate students (Gwyneth MacMillan, Heidi Pickard and Sara Pedro of the University of Connecticut) is warranted for their inspired and inspiring talks from a new generation of Arctic researchers.

      Based on the attendance of the session (as many as 100 people!) and the extent of participation, we affirm that Arctic research is scientifically rich, timely and exciting, and it should be included in similar focused sessions in future SETAC meetings.

      Authors’ contact information:; and

  • Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment: Fate and Effect (WATCH RECORDINGS)
    Kay T. Ho and Robert M Burgess, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and John Weinstein, The Citadel
    • SETAC Orlando RecordingsThe “Microplastics in the Environment: Fate and Effects” all-day session was comprised of 15 platform presentations, covering the fate and behavior modeling, effects of shape and size, impacts on chemical bioavailability, and uptake and movement through the food web of microplastics (MP). We also had 16 poster presentations that included scientific overviews, MP fate, sorption of conventional chemicals and biomarker responses to plastics.

      The platform session started with a discussion of fate models to estimate the movement of MP in wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and receiving waters by Nikki Maples Reynolds, Waterborne Environmental, Inc. Barbara Beckingham, College of Charleston, continued the discussion of the interactions of MPs and triclosan in WWTPs. Ian Krout, Marist College, finished the fate portion of the session with a presentation on the contributions of MP from tributaries in the Hudson River.

      The next set of platform presentations focused on the uptake of MP by different organisms. Austin Gray, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, started by discussing how different sizes and shapes of MP were preferentially taken up by Daggerblade grass shrimp. J. Evan Ward, Univ of Connecticut, presented remarkably vivid video clearly showing how bivalve gill tissues could differentiate, ingest and reject different size, shape and types of MP. Tamara Gaspar, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, also used novel visuals using a Deltavision Elite deconvolution microscopy to illustrate how 3 µm polystyrene particles did not enter the cell but 50 nm polystyrene particles became intracellular. Warren Kunce, Uppsala University, summarized the uptake of polyethylene spheres by the midge, Chironomus riparius, by showing that different nutritional conditions affected MP accumulation but the pyrethroid pesticide, esfenvalerate, did not.

      The talks before and after the lunch break discussed the role of MP in changing the bioavailability of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs). Sarah Au, Clemson University, demonstrated in a laboratory setting that trophic transfer is a pathway by which higher trophic level organisms can be exposed to MPs and high concentration associated legacy HOCs. Martin Ogonowski, Stockholm University, evaluated a toxicokinetic model for the freshwater daphnid, Daphnia magna, using PCBs to study the kinetics of PCB and MP uptake by organisms with a short gut residence time. Tham Huang (for Patrick Caniff), Loyola University Chicago, showed increased algae production in the presence of MPs and that D. magna were able to extract the energy from the algae on the microplastics. Konrad Kulacki, Exponent, Inc., summarized literature studies and concluded that uptake of HOCs needs to be assessed under more environmentally realistic conditions to determine the relative importance of MP as compared with other routes of exposure. Elma Lahive, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, continued the discussion of HOCs and their uptake by organisms by concluding that the concentration of PBDEs in chironomids decreased in the presence of MP; however, she also found that the microbiome of chironomids changed in the presence of MP.

      We concluded the day-long session by looking at the uptake of HOCs in marine organisms. Anna-Marie Cook, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, reported that myctophidaes (lantern fish – small fish near the base of the oceanic food web) contained MP, which was verified by gut dissection and the presence of plasticizers in the tissue. She also emphasized that visual observation of plastics was not a reliable method of determining their presence. Carme Alomar Mascaró, Spanish Institute of Oceanography, finished the session by noting different MP concentration patterns in uptake by species (e.g., non-predatory fish and sharks), and at different locations within the Mediterranean Sea. She also evaluated biomarkers of plastic and found that only one marker, Glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity, was correlated with increasing plastic concentration.

      Overall, researchers emphasized the lack of data and standardized methods when working with MPs and the realization that we are just starting to understand the scope, severity and impacts of this problem. The poster and platform sessions were very well attended, with a good level of questions and answers exchanged between the audience and presenters. Based on the popularity of this session and other related microplastics sessions at the 2016 meeting, the session chairs will be considering proposing another microplastics session at the SETAC North America 38th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 12–16 November 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Radionuclides in the Environment, Including Accumulation in Biota
    Larry Bryan, University of Georgia, and Teresa Mathews, Oak Ridge National Lab
    • Radionuclides are found in the environment, both naturally and as a result of human activities such as nuclear testing, industrial processes and a broad range of accidental releases. Radionuclide contamination can be harmful to humans and biota, although the levels of concern relative to health of biota are generally not well understood, especially for exposure to lower levels of contamination. Information relative to accumulation and “effects” levels is vital to any determination of ecological risk following catastrophic events or short- and long-term exposure at contaminated sites. Research pertaining to radionuclides in the environment and pathways of exposure of biota or wildlife was presented, including four presentations (three talks, one poster) about the Fukushima release, one on Chernobyl, three pertaining to accidental releases or contamination in the United States, and a study examining dosimetry models for radionuclide uptake by plants.

      The discharge of radionuclides into the western Pacific Ocean from the 2011 failure of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has led to several studies examining the exposure, doses and fate of radiocesium (134Cs and 137Cs). Two of these studies examined sediment, aqueous and dietary exposure routes for radiocesium in marine biota. Cuiyu Wang from State University of New York Stony Brook School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) and colleagues conducted laboratory experiments to measure the transfer of 137Cs from marine sediments near Fukushima through multiple trophic levels in a benthic food web. Zofia Baumann from the University of Connecticut Marine Sciences and colleagues measured radiocesium in wild-caught fish within both benthic and pelagic food webs and found that fish relying on benthic food sources had significantly higher radiocesium concentrations, suggesting sediments as the primary source for radiocesium. Nicholas Fisher from SoMAS at Stony Brook and Delvan Neville from Oregon State University School of Nuclear Science and Engineering and colleague, used the shorter-lived 134Cs as a tracer to study the movement of migratory tuna populations, since the Fukushima release was the only substantial source of this radionuclide in the Pacific Ocean. Nicholas Fisher from SoMAS at Stony Brook used the measured Cs concentrations in these wild-caught fish to estimate dose rates for human consumers. Despite public anxiety, they found radiation levels are far below levels of concern, highlighting the need for more education and training regarding environmental radioactivity and associated risks.

      The remaining presentations examined on-going studies of radionuclide uptake in various types of biota in other locales. Cara Love from the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Lab and colleagues, in an on-going study examining parasite loads and disease prevalence relative to radiocesium levels in carnivores (wolves and raccoon dogs) in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, found trends suggesting that parasite loads may be linked to body burden but acknowledged the trend may also be attributed to population density. James Leaphart from the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Lab and colleagues examined accumulation of radiocesium in aquatic biota in a shallow, contaminated system on the Savannah River Site in the U.S. but did not find the biomagnification that has been documented in some other aquatic systems. Robert Kennamer, University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Lab, and colleagues reported on an in situ study of two species of water birds released on a 137Cs-contaminated reservoir on the Savannah River Site and found 137Cs levels to vary between an herbivore (American Coot) and omnivore (Ring-necked Duck) and residence time to influence accumulation rates, which also varied between species. Danielle Cleveland from the U.S. Geological Survey Columbia Environmental Research Center and colleague documented increased radioactivity in biota (plants and small mammals) associated with active and closed uranium mines in the U.S.  Nicole Martinez from Clemson University Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences and colleagues reported on uptake of a suite of radionuclides by a common plant species and dosimetric modeling of this uptake as a step toward improving the evaluation of potential environmental radioecological impacts and risks.

      Overall, the session presentations documented ongoing studies at various levels of contamination at various locales and indicated the need for continued research in many areas of the field of radioecology. We are trying to determine interest in future SETAC sessions on radioecology.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Passive Sampling in the Aquatic Environment: Recent Developments and Advances
    Robert M. Burgess, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Loretta A. Fernandez, Northeastern University, and Keith A. Maruya, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project
    • The use of passive sampling as a tool for measuring the freely dissolved concentrations of anthropogenic contaminants in the aquatic environment continues to expand. With applications including the evaluation of contaminant exposure concentrations for risk assessments to monitoring the effective of remedial actions at hazardous waste sites, the uses for passive sampling are wide-ranging and continue to gain acceptance for use in regulatory decision-making. In this session, recent developments and advances involving passive sampling in aquatic environments including water, sediments and organisms were highlighted. Areas of interest to the session included, but were not limited to, comparing in situ versus ex situ applications, assessing passive sampling for emerging contaminants (e.g., munitions, pesticides), calibrating passive sampling data for non-equilibrium conditions, comparing bioaccumulation and toxicity to passive sampler measurements and developing contaminant activity gradients for assessing transport.

      The session consisted of 21 poster and seven platform presentations, discussing both laboratory and field research. Posters covered a wide range of topics from monitoring the effectiveness of activated carbon to remediate contaminated sediments, to spatial and temporal measurements of interstitial water, groundwater and surface water. The scope of contaminants addressed in the poster session included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDTs, dioxins and furans, pyrethroid insecticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care products. One poster addressed the use of passive sampling to measure fugacity gradients between air and water. Although most presentations continue to focus on hydrophobic organic contaminants, passive sampling approaches for hydrophilic organic contaminants, including the use of organic diffusive gradients in thin films (o-DGTs) for fluorinated compounds, antibiotics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals continue to be developed. Interestingly, two posters explored the use of passive sampling to look at the behavior of mercury. Progress with a new form of passive sampler, electrospun nanofiber mats, was also described, as was the novel application of polyethylene with fluorotelomer alchohols. There was also a poster discussing the use of passive sampling in developing a mass balance model for assessing contaminant bioavailability. Other posters evaluated the standardization of passive sampling methods and the comparison of passive sampler uptake to bioaccumulation by aquatic organisms.

      The platform presentations were selected to cover a broad range of passive sampling topics including, for example, the behavior of new types of performance reference compounds and comparisons of different (selective vs. non-selective) polymer sorbents. In addition, the use of passive sampling for measuring contaminants in marine sediment interstitial waters was discussed. One talk investigated the ways in which passive sampling can be used to answer questions about the appropriate ways for dosing mixtures of contaminants into toxicological studies. Two of the presentations explored how data obtained using the polar organic chemical integrated sampler (POCIS) can be applied to support monitoring programs and for informing toxicological databases.

      Both the poster and platform sessions were very well attended, as indicated by the numerous questions directed at the presenters, and the in-depth exchange between the audience, presenters and session organizers. A key remaining long-term challenge for passive sampling is its acceptance as a viable environmental sampling technique. The success of this session and others that also addressed passive sampling at the SETAC Orlando meeting provide growing evidence that this technology will ultimately be accepted by the entire environmental sciences community (not just the scientists!). Encouraged by the turnout and popularity of this session, the session organizers look forward to proposing an expanded, integrated and all-inclusive passive sampling session at the SETAC North America 38th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 12–16 November 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

      Authors’ contact information:; and

  • Experimental and Modeling Approaches to Account for “Real World” Complexity in Environmental Toxicology
    Ismael Rodea-Palomares, University of Florida, Teresa Lettieri, European Commission Joint Research Centre, Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, University of Florida
    • Understanding real world effects of chemical pollution requires dealing with complex issues such as low doses, mixtures and temporal dynamics of exposure. It also needs accounting for the interactions of chemical pollution with other biotic and abiotic factors, such as natural or anthropogenic stressors, and inter- or intraspecific interactions (competition, predation, disease, etc.). Synergistic interactions between experimental and modeling researchers can enrich each other, but it is often difficult to establish a fluent dialogue between both communities. This session represented an effort to explicitly mix presentations of researchers from both communities working in topics addressing complex issues encountered when trying to increase realism in the aquatic ecotoxicological analysis. We included presentations that offered insightful perspectives and approaches that challenge and increase our understanding of “real world” processes and impacts of pollution in aquatic ecosystems.

      Rafael Muñoz-Carpena opened the session, exposing the implications of the real world as a multidimensional complex system that is inherently interlinked and irreducible. He argued how this perspective may shift the focus of research from detailed isolated pieces to integrated systems at a level of detail that maximizes the utility of the generated knowledge.

      Eldon Blancher, Moffatt & Nichol, presented the opportunities that the mechanistic modeling platform AQUATOX offers as quantitative modeling platform to identify and evaluate multiple interacting stressors in complex environments. He presented a case study in which AQUATOX was used to model an intensively farmed watershed. AQUATOX was shown as a very capable and detailed modeling system that may model a complete food web network. The presentation also discussed the typical trade-offs of such detailed modeling system, i.e., the requirement of extensive and detailed information on climatic, hydrologic, biological and chemical parameters for the model calibration.

      Graduate student Brittany Dabney, Colorado State University, presented an experimental approach to assess the combined effects of metal contamination and sediment deposition on benthic invertebrate colonization in restoration scenarios. Analysis from mesocosm experiments showed how patches of metal-contaminated sediment influence downstream community composition. This study indicates a need to focus on interpreting other abiotic variables and species traits when estimating stream recovery. An important message was that there might be unexpected interactions of these drivers and experimental uncertainty coming with the increased realism may hamper the extraction of clear conclusions.

      Dan Dyer, Bayer Crop Science, presented an experimental validation exercise of Higher Tier Aquatic Exposure Assessment performed under the USA pesticide regulation requirements, using field-monitoring data from an experimental watershed. The central idea was to discuss the “conservative” nature of environmental exposure assessment scenarios for pesticide registration, which was illustrated comparing field concentrations with those simulated under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prescriptions. 

      Wayne Landis, Western Washington University, presented the development of predictive Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) for multiple acetylcholinesterase inhibitors to predict population-scale endpoints. The AOP is a conceptual framework that can be integrated into a deterministic environmental modeling framework informed by realistic stochasticity via Bayesian networks. The ongoing research seeks to inform population-level models for salmonids exposure to mixtures of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.

      Teresa Lettieri, European Commission, presented an experimental exercise addressing the pervasive issue of exposure to complex mixtures and how to understand which chemicals are the main drivers of observed mixture effects. She undertook this exploration using different biological-based assays from which inference on mean toxicity drivers can be obtained. However, a key question remains on how to upscale an experimental approach to address many mixtures with different constituents in a systematic way.  

      Daniel Hanson, HansonRM, presented a modeling strategy to incorporate spatial connectivity to restoration scaling of lost ecosystem services in complex aquatic systems. He presented a multimedia model that incorporates different simple and well-established submodels to account spatially for main drivers responsible for value lost. The emphasis was set on the consideration of spatial patterns since it can totally change the decision structure based on aggregated values.

      Tomas Brodin, Umea University, presented a combined experimental and modeling research in which simplified experimental fish food webs were used to illustrate how the effect of asymmetric exposure of fishes (due to differences in bioaccumulation rates) can produce unexpected effects at the food web levels. The take home message was that fishes that do not bioaccumulate pharmaceuticals can be the most affected via indirect prey–predator effects.

      Margaret Mills, University of Washington, presented the use of novel genomic and mutagenic strategies to study and assign mechanism of action of chemicals via the understanding of antioxidant and oxidative stress gene expression profiles. She studies in detail Nrf2 pathway in sensing and responding to oxidative stress in zebrafish and illustrated how combining genetic analysis and modeling helps to understand the complexities of chemical effects on whole organisms.

      The session evidenced some important trade-offs commonly encountered in experimental and modeling exercises when trying to understand real-world behavior and effects:

      1. What are we trying to understand or predict?
      2. To what purpose?
      3. Which is the relevant level of detail to understand the systems?

      Clearly, there are options to model (Blancher presentation) and to experimentally explore (Mills’s and Lettieri´s presentations) a system at a very high and realistic level of detail. However, some emerging large-scale patterns can be missed in the details (Hanson presentation), or in the uncertainty when scaling up the system (Lettieri presentation). Some interesting reflections emerged from the issue of model purpose (exploratory or regulatory) and the details and level of complexity required to meet these purposes. We close this summary with a significant an open question posed to Brodin from the audience, “How much complexity is enough? And how do we standardize complexity?”

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Leveraging Technologies Between Mammalian and Ecological Toxicology to Advance Risk Assessment
    Claire Terry and Vince Kramer, Dow AgroSciences
    • The current paradigm shift in human health and ecological risk assessment, aiming for animal-free testing and utilization of innovative approaches, provides a prime opportunity to look across risk assessment approaches and identify opportunities for collaboration. For example, the transfer of toxicogenomics techniques and expertise to ecotoxicogenomic applications will continue to transform ecological toxicology into a new standard of hypothesis-driven experimentation that optimizes resources and the performance of robust, risk-based decision-making. In addition, refined hazard and risk assessments are more often required in both human and ecological risk assessment, driven by new regulatory requirements.

      This poster session used case-studies and proposed approaches to generate discussion on improving the current paradigm for both human health and ecological risk assessments. It covered views from different experts and stakeholders from academia,business, animal welfare groups and US governmental departments.

      The key points from the presentations included the following:

      1. Natalie Burden from NC3Rs presented on the benefits of incorporating exposure considerations within the safety assessment process for chemicals. A number of improvements were noted, including better understanding of internal exposures and increasing the human relevance of doses that are used in mandatory animal toxicity studies; refinement of animal dose levels; advent of sophisticated microsampling techniques, which increases understanding of dose-response relationships but also decreases the need for groups of satellite animals; and supporting the generation of data that is directly applicable for making risk, rather than purely hazard-based, assessment decisions.
      2. Cheryl Murphy from Michigan State University presented a poster describing Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) as a unifying collaborative framework to tackle challenging ecological problems and explaining a case study using behavior in larval fish. In their work, the AOP framework was used to unite several different technologies and approaches: behavioral assays, gene expression, metabolomics, individual-based models and risk analyses to predict the effect of contaminants across levels of biological organization and infer population responses to quantify risk of exposure to certain chemicals.
      3. In another case study, Kurt Gust from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center presented a poster titled “From Zero to Validated Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) with Genomics Guiding the Way.” The work presented was a suite of studies that established the molecular, mechanistic and systems-level impacts of nitrotoluenes. Data were used to develop a hypothetical AOP establishing PPARα binding and inhibition as the molecular initiating event (MIE) for a series of key events leading the adverse outcome (AO) of overall starvation-like weight loss. The connection between impaired PPARα signaling and the AO was validated in PPARα knockout (K/O) mice where the PPARα K/O eliminated the AO resulting from nitrotoluene exposures. This poster provided another good example of where -omics can lead systems-level development of AOPs.
      4. Finally, Amy Rosenstein of Environmental Risk Expertise presented a poster titled “Extrapolation Strategies for Ecological Risk Assessment with Inhalation Risk Assessment for Cetaceans as an Example.” She asked, “How do current wildlife toxicity extrapolation strategies incorporate scaling factors, and how much does lack of data affect the end results?” A summary of extrapolation approaches that have been used in ecological risk assessments and promising methods currently being developed to take into account metabolic, physiological and other species differences were discussed. As a case study, laboratory animal inhalation toxic effect levels were extrapolated to marine mammals (cetaceans) by scaling, using body mass and lung volume.

      Conclusions from the Session

      The session made clear that there are many ways to leverage technologies between mammalian and ecological toxicology to improve the relevance and realism of risk assessments.

      The main tools and approaches identified included the following:

      1. AOPs and Mode of Action studies (MoA), for example utilization of mammalian toxicity MoA data for wild-mammal risk assessment
      2. Moving towards systemic exposure-based risk assessments (toxicokinetics) in human and ecological risk assessments
      3. Reducing animal usage and applying the 3Rs across mammalian and ecological toxicity testing
      4. Developing in vitro tools applicable to both types of risk assessment
      5. Utilization of environmental monitoring, residue and biomonitoring data to reduce uncertainty and refine risk assessments

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Frequent Fliers: Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Birds
    Katherine Horak, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Wildlife Research Center; Steven Bursian, Michigan State University; Brian Dorr and Susan Shriner, USDA National Wildlife Research Center
    • The blowout of the Deepwater Horizon well in April of 2010 released millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to acute mortality of birds resulting from oil exposure, questions were raised about physiological effects of oil exposure to water birds that could have subsequent effects on avian health and survivability. Exposure to oil resulting in effects that are not acutely lethal likely occurs through both consumption of oil-contaminated food and water and external oiling of feathers, resulting in ingestion through preening and dermal uptake. These effects of oil exposure that are not acutely lethal are difficult to characterize as they may manifest as reductions in foraging and migratory ability and increased costs of reproduction and flight, potentially resulting in reduced fitness and survival. Because of these challenging endpoints, the more subtle effects of oil exposure have not been widely investigated. There was increased interest in characterizing the physiological effects of oil exposure following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In the years since the spill, considerable progress has been made toward understanding these subtle effects. Studies were completed 1) investigating the effects of external oil exposure and the resulting oil consumption on migratory ability using homing pigeons (Coloumba livia), 2) on flight performance and thermoregulation using western sandpipers (Calidris mauri), 3) and on physiology and thermoregulation using laughing gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla) and double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus). These and other studies contribute significantly to understanding the broad-reaching sub-lethal effects of oil spills that have generally been overlooked when spills cause relatively low levels of acute lethality. These effects have been infrequently captured in damage assessments completed over short time periods and confined to the geographic area immediately impacted by the spill.

      Key points from the seven presentations included the following:

      1. Pete Tuttle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, opened the session with a review of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process and the associated avian injury assessment for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The NRDA trustees developed a Live Oiled Bird Model, which used bird abundance, oiling rate and fate to assess injury using avian surveys and telemetry.
      2. Steve Bursian, Michigan State University, described the suite of avian toxicity studies that were designed and implemented under the avian injury component of the Deepwater Horizon NRDA to characterize physiological impacts of short-term repeated Deepwater Horizon oil oral dosing and external dosing as well as the effects of external oiling on experimental and field-based flight performance.
      3. The physiological effects of repeated external exposure to Deepwater Horizon oil in a waterbird were presented by Brian Dorr, National Wildlife Research Center. Six exposures of about a tablespoon of oil (6.5 g/kg) to a bird’s body feathers over a 3-week period resulted in multiple physiological responses. Hemolytic anemia was associated with Heinz bodies and reduced packed cell volume, as well as increased white blood counts, monocyte and lymphocyte counts, confirming findings of field studies conducted during the spill. Liver and kidney sizes were greater in exposed birds and had associated evidence of oxidative damage. Thermography indicated greater heat loss in oiled birds with an associated increase in food consumption, presumably to meet the increased energetic demand. The combined effects of short-term repeated oil exposures and feather damage may be more detrimental than expected.
      4. Paul Mathewson, University of Wisconsin, presented on the use of the Niche Mapper™ bioenergetics model to predict thermoregulatory costs of oil exposure in a waterbird. The model was validated against the response of captive waterbirds repeatedly exposed to sub-acute amounts of oil over 20% of their body surface and unexposed birds. The model accurately predicted surface temperatures for oiled and unoiled birds, although predicted food consumption tended to be lower than observed. When the validated model was applied to the landscape of the gulf coast region, there was a clear increase in metabolic energy demand for birds exposed to oil. This information can help provide a more complete understanding of the consequences of oil spills for wildlife in subtropical habitats.
      5. Initial, opportunistic findings of probable cardiomyopathy during oral dosing studies led to the development and use of avian echocardiograms to assess the impact of external oiling on cardiac function in cormorants. Kendal Harr with Urika, LLC described experimental results that showed decreased myocardial contractility and dysfunction and significant increases in ionized calcium in externally oiled birds.
      6. An assessment of oil-induced oxidative stress in cormorants was presented by Chris Pritsos, University of Nevada, Reno, as a potential mechanistic explanation of field observations of anemia in birds during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Metabolism of oil by P450 enzymes can cause the generation of oxygen radicals that are counteracted with the generation of antioxidants. Experiments were designed to determine if birds fed fish injected with weathered Deepwater Horizon oil would develop signs of oxidative stress. Results showed increased glutathione levels and an overall increase in total antioxidant capacity, suggesting that oil exposed birds were experiencing oxidative stress.
      7. Impacts of light oiling (20% of surface area) on flight patterns, behavior and body mass of homing pigeons were presented by Cristina Perez, University of Nevada, Reno. Repeated experimental flights followed the single application of oil in pigeons marked with GPS data loggers. Oiling resulted in altered flight paths, increased flight duration and increased flight distance, and it reduced ability to regain body mass between flights. In addition to taking more time to complete flights, the inability of oiled birds to recover between flights may require more time spent at stopover sites, further slowing migration. These impacts on flight performance and ability to migrate can cause reductions in reproductive success and survival of avian species that may not be accounted for in typical natural resource damage assessments.

      Conclusions from the Session

      Understanding the potential fate of the tens of thousands of birds that were exposed to oil during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill but did not die on-site was an important goal of the avian injury component of the Deepwater Horizon NRDA. The studies presented in this session highlighted advances in our understanding of the subtle effects of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on birds. Exposure manifested itself in changes in hematologic parameters including formation of Heinz bodies and changes in cell counts. There were also effects on multiple organ systems, cardiac function and oxidative damage. Crude oil affected flight patterns and time spent during flight tasks indicating that migration may be affected by short-term repeated exposure to oil. Feather damage also resulted in increased heat loss and energetic demands. The presentations given in this session clearly indicate that the combined effects of oil toxicity and feather effects in avian species, even in the case of relatively light oiling, can significantly reduce the overall health of birds. Findings from these studies informed the assessment of damage due to the Deepwater Horizon spill and will do so for future spills as well.

      Complete manuscripts of many of the studies presented in this session and others associated with the avian toxicity studies that were designed and implemented under the avian injury NRDA will appear in a special edition of the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

      Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Engineering, Toxicological and Risk Assessment Issues with Sediments at Dam Removal Sites
    Tom Augspurger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jennifer Bountry, Bureau of Reclamation, and Serena McClain, American Rivers
    • Dams are an important part of worldwide infrastructure, but many dams were built decades ago and some face management concerns, including safety issues, obsolescence or reservoirs full of sediment. As dam infrastructure ages, removal is becoming a more accepted management tool for structures no longer serving their original purpose or where environmental benefits outweigh existing uses. One of the most challenging management concerns related to dam removal is the release, transport and ultimate fate of stored sediment. Because sediment evaluation expertise is strong within SETAC, our session at the 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting was crafted to identify sediment evaluation best practices in implementing a successful dam removal. With the synergy of specialists in hydrology, engineering, watershed assessment, chemistry, toxicity evaluation and risk assessment, we advanced those best practices.

      Organized around several multidisciplinary frameworks for sediment management decisionmaking (most notably the U.S. Subcommittee on Sedimentation’s draft “Dam Removal Analysis Guidelines for Sediment” and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ “Evaluation of Dredged Material Proposed for Discharge in Waters of the U.S. [Inland Testing Manual]”), the session included the following highlights:

      1. Dams are on small and large rivers with a wide range of sediment characteristics, so some dam removal sites have negligible sediment that does not warrant robust analysis and others have potentially large volumes, contaminants or other complexities that may require more active sediment management.
      2. The U.S. Subcommittee on Sedimentation drafted risk-based “Dam Removal Analysis Guidelines for Sediment” to establish processes workable for evaluation at all dams. Risk is defined as the product of the probability of a sediment impact and the consequence of the impact, should it occur, and that risk estimate guides the level of sediment data collection, analysis and management.
      3. As with any risk-based evaluation, development of a site conceptual model is a critical first step to identify potential receptors of concern and the nature and magnitude of potential exposure pathways. A conceptual model is also a key communication tool among stakeholders. Existing ecological risk assessment guidance on site conceptual model development may be applicable to dam removal decision support.
      4. Understanding the volume and spatial distribution of sediment deposits and considering that information with regard to a river’s capacity to move sediment helps inform the probability of impact. This is the foundation of the “Dam Removal Analysis Guidelines for Sediment,” and the document includes guidance on sediment volume estimation from simple field measurements and computations, as well as the tools available to model sediment movement.
      5. Yantao Cui, Stillwater Sciences, discussed the limitations of fine sediment transport prediction but explained a compelling workaround to evaluate potential water quality impacts of dam removal scenarios through focus on the likely magnitude of suspended sediment concentration and the duration of associated downstream impacts.
      6. Evaluating the chemical nature of sediments at dam removal sites and the implications of entrained and re-deposited sediment upon dam removal are similar issues to those for dredged sediment evaluation. David Moore, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Jeff Steevens, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) covered the utility of the “Inland Testing Manual’s” tiered approach to collection of data for initial screening, application of conservative screening tools as well as application of a more detailed site-specific assessment (sediment toxicity and bioaccumulation studies), should it be required. Jeff Frey, USGS, noted watershed level contaminants assessments as a data source to identify potential pollutants of concern in the initial data synthesis to inform next steps.
      7. Sediment chemical analyses and toxicity testing to inform dam removal decision-making need to address processes that differ between long-impounded sediment and recently mobilized sediment (e.g., changes in redox status and microbial activity that can affect nutrient status and contaminant bioavailability).
      8. Federal and state regulatory processes can have significant influence over sediment management options through the varied application of regulations tied to Clean Water Act section 404 permitting and section 401 water quality certifications. Accordingly, guidance for science support on sediments at dam removal sites should integrate regulatory frameworks and the interests of regulated and regulatory communities.
      9. We found the “Inland Testing Manual’s” framework and general risk assessment guidance to be complimentary to the draft “Dam Removal Analysis Guidelines for Sediment.” Taken together, these provide methods and context for addressing sediment volume and then technical guidance on chemical and toxicological evaluation tailored to meet the decision support needs of dam removal teams.
      10. Don Booth (Booth Consulting) and Chauncey Anderson (USGS) provided valuable case studies of dam removals on Clark Fork River (MT) and Klamath River (CA and OR). These facilitated examination of the “Dam Removal Analysis Guidelines for Sediment” and other tools for how they would have facilitated those projects.

      Dam removals have re-established important natural river functions and, in some cases, expanded recreational opportunities on river systems. The need for dam removal expertise is expected to grow. American Rivers reported in 2014 that 1,185 dams have been removed in the US since 1912 and that the majority of the dams (971) were removed within the past 20 years. The volume, movement and physical–chemical nature of sediments are important considerations in evaluating the costs and benefits of dam removal, which will benefit from the “Dam Removal Analysis Guidelines for Sediment.” The presenters are building on the session by cooperating on an article proposed for Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management to further illustrate the “Dam Removal Analysis Guidelines for Sediment” and the roles for hydrologists, environmental engineers, specialists in watershed assessment, chemists, toxicologists and risk assessors to foster successful dam removal management teams.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Uncharted Waters: Field Ecotoxicology in Remote Locations on Limited Resources
    Jonathan M. Ali, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Marlo K. Sellin Jeffries, Texas Christian University, and Alan S. Kolok, University of Nebraska at Omaha
    • Imagine that you are hot and tired, miles from nowhere, unable to speak the local language and still have a long afternoon of field sampling to contend with. If challenges such as those are reminiscent of past field trips, or if they spark within you the irresistible lure of wanderlust, then the session on “Uncharted Waters: Field Ecotoxicology in Remote Locations on Limited Resources” would have been speaking your language.

      The purpose of this special session was to identify common challenges for environmental chemists and toxicologists engaged in international field research. This session attracted a large and diverse audience of roughly 40 participants, who engaged with eight speakers about their work in remote locations including but not limited to Australia, Chile, Colombia, Haiti and Kazakhstan. Four main themes were emphasized throughout the session:

      1. Come prepared, but remain flexible.

        Planning for international projects is far more complex than finding the shortest layovers and lodging with a minimum of two-stars on Google. Catherine Propper, Northern Arizona University, outlined some important considerations when conducting international work. Are your research aims amenable to likely, yet unexpected changes? How will samples be collected and stored, and will they be analyzed in the host country? Are there legal or regulatory issues that need to be addressed prior to sample collection and export for analysis? Does your project require ethics review by the IRB/IACUC equivalent in the host country, if one exists, prior to sampling? What protocols are in place in case of emergencies such as natural disasters, apex predators and exotic diseases?

        A preliminary site visit may be the best way to address many of these questions, but budget constraints may require that the pilot study be done blind, that is, without previous on-the-ground experience. The importance of flexibility and preparedness in such cases was highlighted in a talk from Gunnar Nystrom, Texas Christian University, who is part of an international team conducting a field survey in Kazakhstan aimed at characterizing the presence and biological effects of pesticides in the Syr Darya river basin. The team’s initial plan of conducting caged-fish studies with lab-reared fish came to a halt when host-country collaborators explained that transit time to the field sites would be in excess of 20 hours (nearly three times longer than the U.S. team had estimated). This required the team to adjust their plan to utilize wild-caught fish to address their research question. Though a lack of information regarding species distribution prevented upfront species selection, the team arrived prepared to collect a variety of species by employing local fisherman equipped with a wide array of fishing gear. In less than ideal circumstances, your professional experience and expertise can pave the way for finding solutions and adequately preparing to overcome unforeseen obstacles.

      2. Adapt to local fauna.

        Animal and food web models familiar to ecotoxicologists in developed nations are often not applicable to more exotic and remote ecosystems. This was explained by Alan Kolok, University of Nebraska at Omaha, who detailed the use of “grocery store toxicology” to characterize mercury contamination and uptake in Colombian river systems. What started as a formidable task of sampling from a multitude of aquatic species in a complex tropical ecosystem became a simple trip to the fish markets of local communities for fresh caught catfish. Unconventional approaches such as this allow for simple, yet insightful assessments of the interactions of contaminants, ecosystems and public health.

        Another major challenge with non-traditional models is the limited availability of biochemical and molecular tools. One strategy that dealt with this limitation was highlighted by Katheryn Hassell, University of Melbourne, who adapted commercial biomarker test kits to freshwater and marine fishes in Australia. Other situations, however, might call for the use of a specific animal model that is not amenable to commercial test kits and requires the development of new tools. As an example, Jonathan Ali, University of Nebraska Medical Center, presented on the recently generated transcriptome of a pencil catfish for biomonitoring in Chilean watersheds. Thus, toxicologists must be prepared to either adapt existing tools or develop new tools to work in such systems.

      3. Consider the cultural and local infrastructure.

        Many of the remote locations described in this session are home to nations with cultural norms and infrastructure that differ widely from that found in highly industrialized Western nations. Language barriers are inherent to many remote locations, where regional dialects leave researchers dependent on local guides for translation of everything from simple greetings to critical questions. More importantly, the local perceptions about science, health and the environment can influence how data can be collected. While monitoring for waterborne contaminants in Haiti, Joseph Bisesi, University of Florida, faced several challenges ranging from limited infrastructural capabilities to stigma surrounding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). This stigma was due, in part, to an ongoing cholera outbreak that has led to the public’s perceived association between PPE with the presence of cholera contamination.

        A lack of infrastructure can also present challenges in the problem formation phase of international field studies as described in a series of presentations by Daniel Snow and Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, part of the team conducting field research in Kazakhstan. The team sought to quantify chemical contamination in an ecologically important watershed; however, agrichemical use data were not readily available and land use information was found to be sparse in some regions, making it difficult to predict what classes of chemicals might be present at each field site. In the absence of such information, the team utilized a variety of chemical sampling methods (grab samples of water and sediment, passive samplers, etc.) and included a wide range of chemicals in their analysis. In developing countries with less stringent chemical use regulations, a lack of existing data presents a host of challenges but also a plethora of opportunities.

      4. Communication is paramount.

        All the speakers in this session agreed that clear communication is critical to project success when working in international settings. This goes beyond language barriers and includes detailed discussions about project goals, potential pitfalls and expected outcomes for domestic and foreign collaborators. Foreign collaborators may trade in alternative forms of professional currency relative to that of the visitor’s home institutions. Early conversations about benchmarks of a successful project will prevent harm to professional relationships and ensure longer-lasting and harmonious collaborations.


      So why would anyone want to do international research in remote locations? The planning is challenging, you must adapt to unknowns that are surrounding the biology and chemistry of remote environments, and you will likely be pushing your professional limits. While all of this is a daunting challenge, it can also be extremely rewarding both professionally and personally. Often these remote locations represent areas of great need, where your professional skill and acumen can make a significant difference in the well-being of the native human population as well as the broader environment.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Scientific Advances Supporting Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria Derivation (WATCH RECORDINGS)
    Michael Elias, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Tom Augspurger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chris Mebane, U.S. Geological Survey, and Kathryn Gallagher, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    • SETAC Orlando RecordingsThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Office of Water is in the process of revising its methodology for deriving Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criteria (“Guidelines for Deriving Numerical National Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Aquatic Organisms and Their Uses,” USEPA 1985). Understanding the importance of scientific advances in the field of aquatic toxicology over the past 30 years, USEPA held an “Invited Expert Meeting on Revising Guidelines for Deriving Numerical National Water Quality Criteria” in September 2015. This meeting primarily drew on U.S. aquatic toxicology experts for key issues to consider in updating USEPA’s guidelines. The Invited Expert Meeting crystallized the need to balance two priorities:

      1. Refining methods for deriving state-of-the-science criteria through comprehensive analyses
      2. Developing criteria more rapidly for the broader protection of aquatic life

      The first priority reflects that some of chemicals criteria development may be complex, and developing robust criteria may require extensive analysis.

      The second priority reflects the fact that tens of thousands of chemicals have entered, and continue to enter, the environment from anthropogenic activities, with the number of chemicals in commerce increasing each year as research and development on new product chemistry advances and new products are developed. Since rigorous testing of all chemicals is not feasible, there is a need to more rapidly derive aquatic life criteria for new and existing chemicals using approaches to estimate safe environmental concentrations with limited empirical data.

      The 2016 SETAC World Congress in Orlando, Florida, provided an opportunity to further explore and discuss the new science relevant to the derivation of aquatic life criteria with the international scientific community. The full-day session, which consisted of 16 platform and 12 poster presentations, covered a broad range of topics relevant to the derivation of aquatic life criteria, while maintaining focus on the two priorities identified for USEPA’s guidelines revision.

      Following an overview of USEPA’s planned approach for revising the guidelines and a presentation of international approaches for the derivation of aquatic life criteria, the morning session focused on a discussion of streamlined, expedited criteria development methodologies that are designed to facilitate the derivation of a greater number of aquatic life criteria, consistent with the second priority discussed above. Presentations covered topics such as adverse outcome pathways, mode of action models, ecological thresholds of toxicological concern, web-based tools such as Interspecies Correlation Estimation (ICE) and sequence alignment to predict across-species susceptibility (SeqaPASS) models, and weight-of-evidence methodologies for the characterization of uncertainties associated with derived criteria. The morning session concluded with a retrospective review and evaluation of USEPA’s approach to developing aquatic life criteria based on currently available science.

      The afternoon session hosted discussions on a range of topics relevant to the first priority of deriving state-of-the-science criteria through comprehensive analyses. Presentations included discussions about the integration of ecological principles into the development of water quality criteria, particularly as they relate to metals and metalloids. Several presentations considered the integration of field-based methods and mesocosm data into the development of aquatic life criteria. The afternoon session concluded with a discussion about the development and protectiveness of chemical thresholds in situations where good ecological status is unlikely to be achieved.

      The presentations and discussions during the session encompassed a broad range of topics and perspectives, and they continued the robust exchange of ideas that is important to informing the revision of USEPA’s guidelines. Recordings of the platform sessions can be viewed for free at

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SETAC Orlando Abstract Book

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SETAC Minneapolis

Looking Ahead

Save the date for the SETAC North America 38th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 12–16 November 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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