Lauren Zink, University of Lethbridge

The Prairie Northern Regional Chapter held its 10th annual meeting on 10–11 June at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. The chapter welcomed more than 70 registrants from academia, business and government for the “From Peaks to Prairies: Ecotoxicology in Semi-Arid Environments”-themed meeting.

We began with a very well-attended short course focused on utilizing R for data analysis and visualization. The workshop was led by University of Lethbridge alumni and current postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary, Patrick Gauthier. The evening was spent at our annual Tox on Tap event at which Vince Palace, currently head scientist at the International Institute for Sustainable Development – Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA), spoke about career changes from government to industry to pseudo-academia, sparking conversation amongst the audience. Students especially took note of the paths careers can take, and that in many cases, the journey will wind, giving the chance to do good science in all sorts of ways.

Additionally, the chapter hosted two remarkable plenary speakers at the meeting to present the global implications of their current work. Claudia Sheedy of Agri-food and Agriculture Canada, who works to understand the fate and transport of pesticides through prairie environments, enlightened attendees. She spoke about over a decade of environmental monitoring and how these types of data sets allow us to investigate the transport of contaminants, such as pesticides, through the environment. Sheedy’s work developing novel analytical methods to assess the impacts of agricultural effluent resonated with many of the meeting’s attendees. Agilent Technologies’ spectrometry specialist Marcus Kim then presented his work on molecular gastronomy – thankfully his presentation took place right after lunch!  He helped us to better understand the complexity of chemical compounds and how his work in separation and detection allows us to break down and understand each component independently. Kim’s diverse career as both a researcher and instructor allowed him to reinforce that careers in science are full of twists and turns.

Students from many universities, including the University of Lethbridge, University of Saskatchewan, University of Alberta, University of Manitoba, University of Calgary, MacEwan University and University of Winnipeg, presented their original research while competing for prizes. As a result of generous sponsorship donations, this meeting boasted a separate awards category for the many undergraduate students in attendance. At the festive banquet following the meeting, awards were distributed.

Undergraduate Student Poster Award Winners

  • Laura Alsip, University of Manitoba: “Toxicity of lake sediments exposed to diluted bitumen on Stagnicola elodes
  • Darren Van Essen, University of Lethbridge: “Effects of the novel brominated flame retardant, TBCO, on early-life stages of Zebrafish (Danio rerio)”
  • Kaden Fujita, University of Lethbridge: “Effects of weathered diluted bitumen on early-life stages of Zebrafish (Danio rerio)”

Graduate Student Poster Presentations Award Winners

  • Abigail DeBofsky (University of Saskatchewan): “Gut microbiota in fish from the North Saskatchewan River following an oil spill”
  • Saurabh Pratapati (University of Saskatchewan): “Qualitative and quantitative analysis of microplastic contamination in the treatment process and in effluents of the City of Saskatoon Wastewater Treatment Plant”

Graduate Student Platform Presentation Award Winners

  • Sean Everitt, University of Lethbridge: “The effects of weathered sediment-bound dilbit on the health of zebrafish embryos (Danio rerio)”
  • Kevin Strotski, University of Manitoba: “Pharmaceuticals in wastewater and receiving waters in four Canadian Arctic communities”
  • Tyler Black, University of Manitoba: “The BOREAL Project: Changes in arthropod communities following simulated diluted bitumen (dilbit) additions to freshwater limnocorrals”

This meeting was made possible due to many generous donations from our meeting sponsors, including The University of Lethbridge Faculty of Arts & Science, University of Manitoba Department of Environment and Geography, Agilent Technologies, Syngenta, SETAC North America, Noldus Information Technology, Nautilus Environmental, CanNorth Environmental Services, Eppendorf, Cuppers Coffee and the many volunteers, who donated their time to help make the meeting a success.

This meeting reflected the growth and development of the chapter over the past decade, and we look forward to seeing everyone in Saskatoon for the 11th annual meeting in 2020!

To learn more about this event and other ongoing activities within the chapter, please visit www.prairienothernchapter.org.

Author’s contact information: zink@uleth.ca

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