Nile Kemble, SETAC Sacramento Professional Training Course Committee

Just like the old wedding saying dating back to the 19th century, the SETAC North America 39th Annual Meeting, held from 4–8 November in Sacramento, California, offers up something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue with regards to this year’s professional training courses. The old is as at SETAC North America annual meetings in the past, we are offering you the chance to sign up for a great selection of professional training courses. The new? In an attempt to entice individuals who are not SETAC members or members who might not be able to attend a weekend training course, SETAC is offering two professional training courses on Thursday morning this year. As for the borrowed and blue, well, we borrowed the saying and the blue is for those who might miss out on these training opportunities.

The Program Committee reviewed many excellent course proposals, so the task of coming up with a diverse selection of courses that fit into the time slots and space available was difficult. In the end, we feel we’ve selected professional training courses covering not only timely topics but a wide range of scientific areas as well, including courses on statistics, pollinators, endocrine systems, sediment quality assessment and much more.

Sunday Full-Day Courses

    • Statistical Issues in the Design of Analysis of Ecotox Experiments
      • For those that may be having issues with analyzing their ecotoxicology data, this course will identify and explore techniques both statistically sound and acceptable to the regulatory communities for laboratory ecotoxicity experiments to meet current and near-term future guidelines. The course will help researchers identify problematic data that may call for specialized approaches and provide practical advice, make specific recommendations as well as provide alternative methods when they might be appropriate. The course will also introduce statistical methods in recently adopted OECD Test Guidelines and proposed new guidelines.
    • An Introduction to Data Science with R
      • Environmental scientists must increasingly deal with large, messy data to address their questions within their research. For example, a scientist might need to clean and merge data from multiple sources prior to statistical analysis. Furthermore, these datasets might be not exactly match (e.g., observation times might be on different scales) and might be large (e.g., GBs in size). Participants in this course will learn how to:
        1. Work with and cleaning of large datasets in R using the data table package
        2. Explore and visualize the data with the ggplot2 package
        3. Create reproducible results using RMarkdown files

        Prior experience with R is helpful but not required. Participants will be expected to bring their own laptop with R and RStudio installed so that they can follow along and work on exercises during the course.

    • Ecological Risk Assessment Methods for New Chemical Submissions: Tools and Approaches Under the Amended Toxic Substances Control Act
      • The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was signed into law in 2016, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s primary chemicals management law. For the vast majority of new chemical submissions, little or no ecotoxicological information has been provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), which presents challenges to the ecological risk assessment process. The purpose of the course is to describe ecological risk assessment tools and approaches currently used within the USEPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) New Chemicals Program with a focus on the assessment of risk to the aquatic compartment. Instructors will present OPPT’s ecological risk assessment process, provide hands on risk screening examples, and discuss the challenges and opportunities regarding ecological risk assessment under the amended TSCA.
    • The Endocrine System: Global Perspectives on Testing Methods and Evaluation of Endocrine Activity
      • In response to concerns that certain environmental chemicals might interfere with the endocrine system of humans and wildlife, regulations have been promulgated in various regulatory bodies around the world targeting the evaluation of these types of effects. This training course will address key topics related to endocrine system evaluation and regulatory requirements around the world. The course will provide basic information on the vertebrate endocrine system, mechanisms of control and adverse effects. The focus will be the estrogen, androgen and thyroid systems, although new endocrine system targets will be discussed.
    • mRNAseq Data Workshop: De Novo Assembly and Differential Expression Analysis
      • Transcriptomic analysis is valuable for understanding underlying molecular mechanisms of responses to environmental stressors.  However, computational analysis of mRNA sequencing data continues to be a barrier for discoveries. This hands-on workshop offers an opportunity for participants to overcome this barrier. This course provides participants with the framework and tools for a differential expression analysis of transcriptomic data. It will cover experimental design considerations, transcriptome assembly and differential expression data analysis with a sample dataset. This workshop will be relevant for participants who have or anticipate having Illumina RNA sequencing data from a non-model organism with no closely related reference genome. Participants will be provided scripts, a small example set of data to work with, and cloud computing resources in addition to a discussion on experimental design along with a workshop-specific website containing step-by-step instructions and access to the sample data.
    • Using Multiple Lines of Evidence for Sediment Quality Assessment in Regulatory Programs
      • This course will provide environmental scientists and managers with the latest information and tools to work with California’s sediment quality objectives policy; however, most of the course content is applicable to other locations in the United States as well as internationally. This course will include a description of the conceptual approach for both the benthic macrofauna and human health assessment frameworks. Essential technical concepts underlying data analysis and integration will be described. Data analysis tools and hands-on data analysis experience will be provided to illustrate key steps in data interpretation and site assessment. Case studies will be presented that illustrate challenges and solutions to implementing sediment quality assessment within regulatory programs.
    • Strategies for Effective Science Communication
      • As scientists, we inherently understand the importance of our work. However, focusing on the finer details of research is often not the best way to draw interest from public stakeholders. In this training course, participants will learn ways to explain the implications of your research in a relaxed, relevant manner that connects with their audience. Through introductory lectures and an interactive worksheet, participants will refine their talking points into clear, concise “elevator pitch” briefings tailored for specific audiences. These prepared messages will then be applied in a mock interview exercise, where participants will practice communicating their science in various media and networking scenarios.

Sunday Morning Half-Day Courses

    • Addressing Challenges in Cross-Species Extrapolation of Chemical Toxicity Information: Application of the SeqAPASS Tool
      • It is recognized that limited empirical data is available for a majority of chemicals in commerce for the evaluation of chemical toxicity. Further, data describing the potential adverse effects of chemicals across species is even more sparse. An underutilized data source for purposes of species extrapolation is protein sequence and structural information. With sequencing and annotation techniques becoming more cost-effective and streamlined, this growing source of data served as the motivation for developing the USEPA Sequence Alignment to Predict Across Species Susceptibility (SeqAPASS) tool. SeqAPASS utilizes data to predict chemical susceptibility across species based on concepts derived from evolutionary biology. The aims of the course are to generate awareness of ongoing challenges related to species extrapolation in toxicology and regulatory decision-making and to demonstrate the utility of the SeqAPASS tool for addressing these challenges. A component of the course will describe the methodology behind the SeqAPASS tool and best practices for use in cross-species extrapolation. The course will provide the participants with the theory and hands-on skills that will facilitate independent use of the SeqAPASS tool.
    • Methods for Sampling Nectar and Pollen for Pollinator Exposure Assessment
      • Honeybees and other pollinators may be exposed to pesticide residues in nectar and pollen. A quantitative estimation of the risk posed by these residues requires the measurement of residue levels in those pollinator food items. Participants in the course will learn the reasons for conducting nectar and pollen residue studies, the complexities of setting up studies in the field, experience the intricacies of the sampling methods themselves with hands-on demonstrations and learn about the potential pitfalls awaiting the practitioner.

Sunday Afternoon Half-Day Courses

    • Physiological and Environmental Biochemistry of Mercury Selenium Interactions
      • Learn the sources of mercury and selenium as well as their chemistry, biochemistry, toxicity and interactions in relation to environmental and human health risk assessments. Participants will also learn how mercury and selenium interact at the molecular, cellular, tissue, organism and ecosystem levels. Topics covered in this course will include the mechanisms of mercury toxicity, bioaccumulation dynamics, toxicity to aquatic life, health risk assessment and fish consumption guidelines, and the urgent need to identify populations at risk from MeHg exposure.

Thursday Morning Half-Day Courses

  • Multivariate Statistical Analysis for Water-Quality Data
    • Good multivariate analysis starts with exploratory and graphical analyses to reveal potential relations in the data and to highlight potential outliers. This course will first present ways to extend univariate and bivariate methods for graphical analysis to multivariate data, as well as methods unique to multivariate data. The second part of the course will focus on multivariate outlier detection. The third and most extensive part will present multivariate statistical analysis methods, such as multiple regression, principal component analysis and cluster analysis, including examples and suggestions as to when to use these techniques.
  • Introduction of Receptor Modeling Using the USEPA’s PMF5.0 for Air and Water Pollution Source Apportionment
    • The overall goal of the course is to introduce course participants to the USEPA’s Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) receptor model as a research and regulatory tool and to demonstrate how this model can be appropriately used for decision-making purposes. By the completion of this course, participants will be able to:
      1. Explain what a receptor model is
      2. Understand the data quality required for PMF modeling
      3. Conduct PMF modeling for source appointment
      4. Interpret PMF findings
      5. Understand how source apportionment can be used to support various regulatory programs

Be sure to register by 15 August to get the early bird pricing. For more information, visit the SETAC Sacramento website.

Author’s contact information: nkemble@usgs.gov

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