Chris McCarthy, Jacobs; Konrad Kulacki and Kendra Brown, Exponent; and Ben Amos, Sediment Solutions, LLC

The 25th annual meeting of the SETAC North Atlantic Regional Chapter (SETAC NAC) was held from 8–9 April at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Boston. The meeting started with a half-day short course titled “The Use of Equilibrium Passive Sampling for Environmental Investigations.” Ranier Lohman of the University of Rhode Island kicked off the course with an introduction to the fundamental academic research, development and theory of equilibrium passive sampling. Lohman offered case studies from his work with passive samplers in environmental investigations. Michael Healey of SiREM Labs spoke next about commercialization of passive sampler technology, including challenges related to use of these devices in field sampling that his lab is currently addressing. In lieu of the planned field demonstration in Boston Harbor, which was cancelled due to inclement weather, SiRem led an indoor, hands-on demonstration of passive sampling deployment tools.

The short course provided a firm foundation for the following day and a half of technical platform talks, as several of them included passive sampling elements. The first afternoon’s platform sessions were “Sediments and Sampling Methods,” followed by “Toxicology, Risk Assessment and Chemistry.” That evening, a student poster social highlighted graduate and undergraduate research from ten different schools. The second morning’s platform sessions were “Regional Environmental Topics” and “Emerging Contaminants.” In addition to passive sampling, microplastics and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were common themes across presentations. The second afternoon featured a career panel discussion, in which professionals shared their perspectives and answered questions for students and young professionals.

Paul Kirshen and Robert Chen, from the UMass Boston School for the Environment, gave the keynote presentation. The talk, titled “One, if by Land, Two, if by Sea: Boston’s Decision to Manage Present and Future Coastal Flooding,” described a large, interdisciplinary project, which was conducted with funding from Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission to evaluate the potential impact of constructing a massive two-gated flood protection barrier in Boston Harbor. The Green Ribbon Commission partners with the city of Boston on strategies to confront climate change. The presenters shared their reasoning for advising against building the multibillion-dollar flood protection barrier; overall, it would not be a cost-effective way to protect the city from increasing flooding associated with sea-level rise. The researchers instead recommend shore-based protection systems, such as temporary flood walls and building elevated green spaces. During the presentation, Kirshen and Chen gestured toward the harbor, which dominated the view from the conference-room windows.

The meeting hosted more than 60 attendees from academia, government and business. Awards were presented for best graduate and undergraduate platform and poster presentations. Award winners from the 2019 meeting were:

  • Best Undergraduate Poster: Aleice Goodman, Smith College
  • Best Undergraduate Platform: Haleigh Guzofski, UMass Boston
  • Best Graduate Poster: Monika Roy, UMass Amherst
  • Best Graduate Platform: Dounia Elkhatib, University of Rhode Island

The final order of business was the passing of the torch from outgoing SETAC NAC president Ben Amos to incoming president Chris McCarthy. The entire chapter thanks Amos for his service this past year and looks forward to the coming year under McCarthy’ leadership.

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