Snapshots of the 2010 SETAC Asia/Pacific Meeting
Eddy Zeng, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, China
The 2010 SETAC Asia/Pacific meeting, hosted by the State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry (China), was successfully conducted at the Marriott China Hotel in Guangzhou, the heart of the Pearl River Delta, from 4–7 June. As the largest city in South China and the third largest in China, Guangzhou is growing regardless of which aspect you may be discussing. With economic development and urbanization occurring at unprecedented rates, sustainability becomes a critical issue for the future of local economics and the health of the people and the environment in the Pearl River Delta. To conduct a SETAC Asia/Pacific meeting in Guangzhou was truly special and important for this region.
The theme of this year’s meeting was “Balance between economic growth and environmental protection: sustainability through better science.” Similarly a “balance” could be seen through the meeting. With 574 participants from 22 countries/regions and more than 30 volunteers from the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, new and old topics as well as new and old challenges were discussed by new and old faces (by old, we mean this figuratively of course). Two hundred fourteen participants were from outside Mainland China, and perhaps more importantly was the fact that not all participants were from the Asia/Pacific region. Participants from government, academia and industry traveled from Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands and the United States, just to name a few, with the notion that Dr. John Giesy described during his plenary session as “So goes China, so goes the world.”
To reflect, each day began with a plenary session by a well-respected and world-renowned scientist in each of their respective fields: Dr. Paul Lam, Dr. Kevin Jones and Dr. John Giesy. These plenary speeches amplified the theme of the meeting with what would be called “big-time” science, but perhaps more importantly discussed the significance and also the difficulties of being a scientist (especially a young scientist) in today’s fast paced ever-growing world. These sessions were followed by various topics examining important current environmental issues: contamination of air, water, sediment and soil from such chemicals as mercury, PAHs, PCBs, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, chiral chemicals and nanoparticles; contaminant distribution, transport and effects; and remediation. Chemical toxicity is not the only culprit of the degraded world; the impacts of other stressors, such as global warming and hypoxia, were also covered in platform discussions. A multitude of platform presentations discussed the innovative techniques being used currently or perhaps in the future for environmental monitoring and risk assessment, such as active and passive sampling devices, in vitro and in vivo methods for bioaccumulation assessment, and the link between science and policy that will provide the framework for future environmental change. Additionally, the number of presentations and whole sessions discussing issues prevalent in the Pearl River Delta and throughout China was astounding. No stone was left unturned as 36 sessions were conducted and approximately 450 platforms given. Platform presentations were followed by poster presentations. More than 150 poster presentations were given and similar to the platform presentations, a breadth of topics were discussed. The poster session allowed all participants to discuss research on a more personal level while enjoying some Chinese desserts and tea.
Furthermore, the SETAC Asia/Pacific board of directors was renewed during the meeting, and Dr. Kenneth Leung from the University of Hong Kong is taking over the job of former president Dr. Shu Tao of Peking University to lead the growth of the SETAC Asia/ Pacific chapter. A new Chinese SETAC branch was formed and around 30 people attended the first meeting. In the meeting, an organizing committee was selected, and future Chinese SETAC annual meetings were planned.
While participants may have originally come to Guangzhou solely for the SETAC Asia/Pacific 2010 meeting, they will come back for the food. Guangzhou is quite well known for its many types of fresh fruits and vegetables as well fresh seafood, and, as such, Guangzhou had something to offer everyone. Agilent Technologies graciously sponsored part of the Saturday reception banquet.
As the meeting closed, we realized that some of the most memorable and valuable moments in our lives are those in which we stepped out of our comfort zone and succeeded, which is just what this meeting offered. Many participants were traveling overseas for the first time, tackling a new culture or language, presenting their very first platform or poster, or perhaps participating in organizational activities for which they felt underprepared. These are the moments that we should cherish as they make us stronger and more prepared for the next challenge, and in the end make us better scientists and perhaps more importantly, better people. One of the best things to see was the number of students participating in the meeting—48 percent of the participants were students and more than 30 students joined the meeting as volunteers. These are the individuals that will be changing the world and through this meeting are taking the first step to be able to say in hopefully the near future that we are “Balancing economic growth and environmental protection: sustainability through better science.”
Most of our bellies and minds are quite full, so it is time to relax and digest until we can get our second helping in the 2012 SETAC Asia/Pacific meeting in Japan. Hope to see you there!
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