Keith Maruya, Past President, SETAC Southern California Chapter

The 2019 annual meeting of the SETAC Southern California Chapter (SoCal) was held from 6–7 May at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum, the campus of the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

The oceanfront venue, home to ground-breaking oceanographic research since 1903 and co-located with the campus of the University of California, San Diego, stole the show with coastal vistas and breezes greeting the 128 registrants from the region and beyond.

Karen Mogus

Karen Mogus of the State Water Board outlined updates to toxicity testing policy.

The SoCal Chapter was thrilled this year to welcome members of the South and Southwest, South Central and Pacific Northwest chapters, along with Susanne Brander and Leah Thornton Hampton, current members of the SETAC North America Board of Directors.

The meeting kicked off with a special symposium on toxicity testing. Karen Mogus, Deputy Director in the Division of Water Quality at the California Water Resourced Control Board, provided the context for the session with a summary of updated numeric aquatic toxicity objectives proposed for waterbodies statewide. Mogus was followed by a series of SoCal Chapter members, who provided their take on challenges with troubleshooting, setting site-specific guidelines, capturing pulsed contamination events, and performing toxicity identification evaluations (TIEs).

Maggie Stach platform presentation winner

Graduate student Maggie Stack was recognized for her stellar platform presentation.

Day two dawned with a second mini-symposium titled “Screening for Emerging Contaminants,” with Brander giving a keynote on her application of -omics to elucidate multigenerational effects on fish exposed to low levels of endocrine active chemicals. Thornton Hampton, a Ph.D. student at the University of North Texas and Texas Christian University, followed with a summary of her work on immunotoxicity of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and brought the audience up-to-date on SETAC North America activities. Margaret Stack, a M.S. student at San Diego State, was awarded Best Graduate Student Presentation for her talk on non-targeted analysis of contaminants in California condors. Daniel Lucas, a freshman majoring in neurobiology at the University of Arizona, was also recognized for his platform presentation on surveying contaminants in recreationally caught fish in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The Monday evening poster social featured 34 presenters, a record for our chapter’s annual meeting. Diversity was also on tap as attendees from Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Long Beach, Loyola Marymount, UC Riverside, Arizona State, Oregon State, University of Arkansas and Scripps presented their work on topics such as microplastics and sunscreens, transcriptomics, and adverse outcome pathways and sources of variability in toxicity testing. Awardees for Best Student Presentations went to Joseph Belsky, University of Arkansas, for his work on insecticide toxicity to bees, and Erica Choe, Loyola Marymount, for her study on volatilization of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from turf pellets.

SoCal Chapter meeting organizers

The meeting organizers are celebrating a job well done!

Thanks go to countless folks, including 14 sponsors, the meeting organizing committee and contributing chapter board members, volunteers, invited speakers, presenting participants and all those who attended. Special thanks go to Dimitri Deheyn for helping secure the one-of-a-kind venue; Chris Stransky, chapter president and meeting emcee; Nick Hayman, logistics; Violet Renick, website; Joe Freas, finances, Mary Woo and Karin Wisenbaker, student judging; and last but not least, our dedicated and hard-working co-secretaries, Misty Mercier and Alvina Mehinto, whose families could not resist joining in the fun. Congrats to Nick Hayman for being nominated and voted in as the next chapter vice president!

In the end, we accommodated 22 platform presentations, more than half of which were given by students, including Nikki Andrzejczyk, UC Riverside, winner of the chapter’s 2018 graduate student research grant. The remaining talks were presented by folks representing government and academia (seven each) and the private sector (four). Sector representation for poster presenters was strikingly similar and equitable with 18 of the 34 posters given by students (11 graduate, seven undergraduate), six each from academia and industry, and four given by government employees. The triumvirate that is SETAC is clearly alive and well in SoCal!

Other firsts in La Jolla included an impromptu Sunday evening mixer, which was organized to welcome newcomers to our chapter. Stephen Clark and Brant Jorgensen from Pacific EcoRisk joined a few SoCal Chapter regulars to meet and chat with Kelly Govenar, a Scripps Institute of Oceanography graduate student supervised by Deheyn, and Thornton Hampton, who had traveled in from Texas. Later on, Karen Watanabe-Sailor, a professor at Arizona State who models adverse outcome pathways for a living, joined in the Cinco de Mayo festivities. In a post-meeting debrief over margaritas and soft tacos, a handful of board members took a few minutes to reflect on the past couple of days before throwing out possible venues for 2020. In true SETAC fashion, we can’t wait for next year’s event!

Author’s contact information: keithm@sccwrp.org

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