SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
6 November 2014
Volume 15 Issue 11
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Report on the 9th SETAC Asia/Pacific 2014 Conference

Rai Kookana and Anu Kumar, CSIRO

SAP Conference attendees
Delegates at the SETAC Asia/Pacific 2014 Conference in Adelaide.

The 9th SETAC Asia/Pacific Conference was held at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 14–17 September 2014 with the theme "Advancing Science for a Sustainable Environment."

The conference was jointly organized by SETAC Asia/Pacific and SETAC Australasia. More than 370 delegates from 26 countries attended, nearly half of them from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

The conference started with a welcome mixer on Sunday evening after Uncle Lewis O’Brien, an Elder of the Kaurna people, gave the traditional “Welcome to Country” ceremony. In addition to food, drinks and networking with colleagues and exhibitors, delegates also had an opportunity to get up close with some native wildlife (e.g., Koalas) from Urimbirra Wildlife Park.

SAP Conference attendees
His Excellency, the Honourable Hieu Van Le AO, Governor of South Australia (3rd from left) opened the conference. Seen here on the podium (from left) are Koji Arizono (President SETAC Asia/Pacific), Diane Jolley (President SETAC Australasia), Anu Kumar (Conference Co-chair) and Rai Kookana (Conference Co-chair) on the lectern.

The Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honorable Hieu Van Le AO, officially opened the conference on Monday morning. This was followed by two high-profile keynote speakers. Paul Bertsch of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) spoke on “Sustainable Intensification,” a very fitting topic on the theme of the conference. He discussed the grand challenges and opportunities that we face in order to sustainably meet our water, food and energy requirements this century. Charles Tyler (University of Exeter, UK) delivered his keynote on application of molecular approaches to unravel the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and other emerging contaminants in fish. This talk provided the latest research on novel molecular approaches to better understand the mechanisms of endocrine disruption in fish. Both lectures, covering fundamental and applied sciences, provided an excellent start to the conference.

The science of EDCs from genes to population was followed up by a full-day session on this topic. Other topics on the first day included ecological risks to the Great Barrier Reef and the Antarctica, mining and acid-sulfate soils, environmental chemistry and remediation, as well as passive-samplers, analytical chemistry and ecotoxicology.

SAP Conference attendees
Charles Tyler (University of Exeter) delivering the keynote at the conference. His first slide shows the biodiversity he photographed near the venue in Adelaide.

The poster session in the afternoon was preceded with several short snapshot platform presentations by selected poster presenters in their respective session. This served as an entrée and promotion for various posters presented throughout the day.

Caroline Gauss of ENTOX Australia opened the proceedings on the second day with the Tony Roach Memorial Keynote Address. Gauss presented a keynote lecture covering key challenges associated with evaluating contaminant impacts on marine megafauna. The talk was widely acknowledged as thought-provoking and truly stimulating.

SAP Conference attendees
Jo Kavanagh, Heather Henry, Ross Smith and Charles Menzie shared their experiences with the students during a student breakfast.

This was followed by the keynote by Phil Reeves, Chief Regulatory Scientist of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), on regulatory considerations for nanomaterials. This was particularly welcome as SETAC’s mission is to achieve a tripartite balance among academia, business and government. These two lectures kicked off yet another day of excellent presentations covering several themes including a review of the last decade of research on nanomaterials, environmental omics, bioavailability and risk assessment approaches for metals, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and off-shore oil and gas exploration.

In the evening, during a brief break after the posters session, the delegates gathered for the conference dinner in the beautiful dining hall of the convention center. In addition to the excellent performance by the band and the delegates’ response on the dance floor, another highlight of the evening was the Aussie tradition of “fun prizes” at SETAC conferences. Several colleagues were acknowledged light-heartedly by our expert comedian trio for this event (John Chapman, Mike McLaughlin and Scott Wilson). For example, the “Crocodile Dundee Award” went to Mike Williams for exploding the myth that the majority of Australians commonly wrestle crocodiles and the “The Imperial Perfectionist” award to Jenny Stauber for the presentation title “….an ounce of prevention or a pound of cure?,” to name some of  the more benign prize descriptions.

The beautiful ambience, sumptuous food, suitably supported by the famous South Australian wines, no wonder the delegates danced on and on, well into the night!

SAP Conference attendees
Harpreet Bhatia discusses her poster with delegates during the poster session.

The final day commenced early with a student breakfast sponsored by Hydrobiology and organized by Casey Doolette and Mike McLaughlin.  This provided a forum for students to meet informally with some of the international and local speakers, and some 40 students enjoyed this opportunity. Several speakers, namely Jo Cavanagh (New Zealand), Heather Henry (USA), Charles Menzie (SETAC Globe Executive Director) and Ross Smith (Australia) shared their experiences on how they reached their current positions and the challenges that they faced along the way. One of the topics that particularly sparked interest among the students was hearing from guest speakers about what qualities they would look for if they were to hire a PhD graduate. The overriding message was that your career might not follow the path that you originally planned! However, this is not a bad thing according to the speakers, as every opportunity is a chance to develop your skills, meet new contacts and gain experience in a new area, all of which may lead to successful employment.

The fifth keynote address on the final day was presented by Norihiro Itsubo from Tokyo University, Japan on life cycle assessment, providing a thought-provoking research perspective of the environmental assessment method for global supply chains.  The third day’s proceedings included sessions on life cycle assessment, water quality guidelines, ports and estuaries, ecological risk assessment and also included a special forum on sustainability.

SAP Conference attendees
Patricia Corbett (far right) receiving the Best Student Platform Presentation award from Jason Kirby (middle) and Diane Jolley (at the lectern).

At the closing ceremony, several more awards were handed out, including Best Student Presentation awards for platform and poster presentations. The first prize for the best platform presentation was shared by Patricia Corbett and Harpreet Bhatia, while Zhen Wang received the first prize for best poster presentations. Other prize winners were Melanie Sun, Jenna Roberts, Chamini Priyandika, Dingkun Fu and Adam Wilkinson.

Overall, the program consisted of five plenary and 207 proffered oral presentations, 149 posters, six poster snapshot sessions and one panel discussion. Based on survey responses and delegate comments, the conference was a success in terms of outcomes for participants.  A vast majority of respondents (> 90%) considered the conference to be good to excellent. Indeed, the conference was able to cover fundamental science to integrated system sciences of life cycle and risk assessment as well as regulatory considerations, involving academia, business and government in the SETAC tradition.

The conference organizers would like to thank the 2014 sponsors and exhibitors for their ongoing support and contributions to the success of the 9th SETAC Asia/Pacific 2014 Conference: Metals Environmental Research Associations (MERA),  Advanced Analytical, CSIRO,  Vision Environment, Australian Environment Agency, CAPIM, Ecotox Services Australasia, Government of South Australia Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Intertek, Loligo Systems, P S Analytical, Modern Water and Hydrobiology.

We gratefully acknowledge the hard work by the conference organizing committee members (several of whom do not get a mention here) and the support from the International Advisory Committee, the SETAC Asia/Pacific board and the SETAC Australasia Council. Thanks also to Plevin and Associates, who did a splendid job as our event manager, and the Adelaide Convention Centre team for their professional support. Obviously, the conference would not be possible without the contributions of delegates from far and wide.

The next SETAC Australasia conference will be held in Nelson, New Zealand, in August 2015. For further information, contact Louis.Tremblay@cawthron.org.nz.

Authors' contact information: Rai.Kookana@csiro.au and Anupama.Kumar@csiro.au

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