Ryan Prosser, Mark Johnson and Lauren Kristofco,
SETAC North America Science Committee Members
The SETAC North America 38th Annual Meeting took place from 12–16 November 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The program committee, led by Teresa Norberg-King and Dalma Martinovic-Weigelt, organized an excellent meeting that highlighted the innovative and impactful research being conducted by SETAC members. The meeting had more than 1,815 attendees and included 691 platforms presentations, 789 poster presentations and 22 poster corner presentations. It featured 11 parallel sessions, including four that were recorded throughout the week. If you were not able to attend this year, please check out the great science presented in more than 200 recorded presentations from Minneapolis.
The meeting also provided opportunities to catch up with long-time collaborators, meet new friends and have a little fun. Santa Claus even attended (although many have stated observing him incognito at past meetings) in order to help raise funds for the Herb Ward Endowment Fund Challenge. Attendees were also able to get involved in a Make-A-Difference Service Project, sponsored by Ramboll Environ, by assembling packs of native seeds used to recruit volunteers for habitat improvements project along the Mississippi River.
Other highlights from SETAC Minneapolis include:
- A thought-provoking session on “Conflict of Interest and Normative Science – Is It a Problem in Environmental Science?,” which featured presentations on addressing the “white hat bias,” science integrity and the need for tools to assure quality and integrity in science. Allen Burton also stepped in to take the place of SETAC champion Peter Chapman, whom we sadly lost this fall. Burton paid tribute to “Dr. Weight-of-Evidence” and Chapman’s endless encouragement of young scientists and support of the tripartite nature of SETAC.
- A highlight of the session on “A 50-Year Retrospective of Scientific Contributions of the Duluth United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Water Lab to Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry” was the presentation given by a forefather of modern ecotoxicology in the US, Don Mount (USEPA, retired). He graphically described environmental disasters from the past that he and his colleagues used as the starting point for their future research. He shared first-hand account of “windrows several feet high of dead Daphnia along the shores of Lake Superior,” and hundreds of miles of dead fish in the Mississippi River floating into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1960s, and how these shocking events led to increased public awareness of contaminants in the environment. Mount is concerned that the lack of environmental concern and action by lawmakers is occurring today because the public is not as acutely aware of the potential impact human activities can have on the environment.
- For the first time, a town-hall forum was held on the Tuesday evening of the meeting. The SETAC Town Hall was held at University of St. Thomas and the focus was “What’s In Your Water? Using Science-informed Problem Solving to Protect Our Most Valuable Resource.” The purpose of the event was to learn about the public’s concerns and interests, to share experience of SETAC scientists with the public, and to model SETAC’s multi-sector discourse and collaborative problem-solving process.
- The meeting wrapped up on Thursday with interesting and lively discussion at the poster corner presentations. The topics included “What Made You Become a Successful Science Communicator? Tell Us!” and “The Other 3 R’s: Remediation, Rehabilitation, Restoration – When Do You Get a Passing Grade?”
- There were a number of sessions that the SETAC Science Committee thought stood out at the meeting in Minneapolis. For example, the half-day session on “Adverse Impacts of Chemicals on the Microbiome,” showcasing a very new and booming area of research, was well attended. Other notable sessions were “Existing and Emerging Contaminants in Changing Arctic Environments,” “More Data is Not Always Better – Using Weight of Evidence Approaches in Environmental Risk Characterization” and “Expanding Beyond the Honey Bee – Novel Approaches for Advancing Risk Assessment for Non-Apis Bees.”