James Sanders, Exponent, Inc.

The Chesapeake-Potomac Regional Chapter (CPRC) of SETAC held its annual spring meeting from 7–8 April in the rolling, green hills of Davis, West Virginia. Early arrivers gathered on Sunday at Blackwater Falls State Park for a hike on the Pase Point Trail, overlooking the North Fork of the Blackwater River. The attendees then ventured to the 60-foot, tannin-stained cascades that give the park its name. Later, the hikers refreshed themselves with food and craft beers at a local pub and parlor.

On Monday, conference goers filled the Canaan Valley Resort’s beautiful, sunlit conference center for a daylong scientific program. Attendance was very strong, particularly given the site’s remoteness from the geographic heart of the chapter in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Twelve posters were on display, with topics ranging from traditional persistent contaminants to those of emerging concern like microplastics and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The presenters, including 11 students and 1 professional, presented uniformly high-quality research in fundamental toxicology and environmental fate, assessment and remediation.

The platform presentations were equally enriching, with a good mix of familiar and new faces among both the student and professional presenters. Students Meredith Seeley of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Ross Cooper of Virginia Tech, and Mandar Bokare of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, delivered award-winning talks on microplastics in sediment, water quality in the Shenandoah Valley watershed, and PCBs in the Anacostia River. Lisa Ortego updated the chapter on behalf of SETAC North America’s Board of Directors and prompted a lively discussion about ways for chapter members to engage in public outreach and scientific communication.

Peter Tango of the US Geological Survey delivered the keynote address. His topic was “Pfiesteria hysteria,” the dinoflagellate outbreak that led to a massive fish kill in the Chesapeake Bay in the late 1990s and spurred calls to clean up the bay. The talk covered the science of the outbreak, along with the media coverage and public policy response that it engendered. It was a fitting way to round out a program full of environmental science and toxicology done by researchers and professionals driven by the real-world relevance of their work and the importance of understanding the wider environmental, political and social context in which it falls.

On a personal note, this was my sixth CPRC spring meeting but my first as a professional after five years of attending as a Ph.D. student. Speaking to the current crop of students—this time on the other side of the table at the traditional mentoring lunch—filled me with confidence in the future of our discipline. It also made me realize how far I’ve come since my first CPRC meeting as an early career graduate student and gave me an appreciation for the important part that our local chapter, and SETAC as a whole, have had in shaping my own personal development and making me feel part of a wide but supportive scientific community.

Author’s contact information: jsanders@exponent.com

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