Remembering Peter Chapman


Peter M. Chapman (1951 – 2017)

The editorial staff and Editors at the SETAC journal Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM), with heavy hearts, share with you the loss of our dear friend and colleague Peter M. Chapman. Peter left us much, much too soon on 26 September 2017.

We wish to dedicate this IEAM blog post to his memory. And we invite everyone reading this column to contribute their thoughts and favorite memories from Peter’s stellar career. We invite you to help us build one of many lasting remembrances to our dear friend.

P Chapman

Peter is among the precious few recognized by peers in academia, business and governments as a world-renowned environmental toxicologist. He will be remembered as an expert and leader in the field of ecological risk assessment and benthic ecology. Peter introduced the scientific and regulatory communities to methods for assessment of sediment quality that remain the state of the practice around the world. Among his many big ideas was the “Sediment Quality Triad,” now an internationally recognized approach for evaluation of sediment quality in streams, rivers, and oceans.

Peter’s career in ecotoxicology and environmental chemistry began more than 30 years ago. He graduated from the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) in 1979 with a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology, emphasizing ecotoxicology and risk assessment. He was a partner for 25 years in EVS Environment Consultants in nearby Vancouver, among the earliest science-focused environmental consulting companies in North America and an inspiration for several successful environment professionals and ecology/risk consulting companies thereafter. He merged EVS with Golder Associates and worked 10 more years before retiring to his private consulting practice in 2014. Peter’s many science and consulting collaborations never slowed down.

In fact, Peter is forever known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm. He was traveling constantly to supervise ecology surveys, advise governments, meet with stakeholders at project sites, give lectures. We suspect satellite telephone technology was invented by his family to track his whereabouts.

Peter was a prolific writer of journal articles and books. He has an extensive and impactful publication record. It’s a wonder where he found the time. Many colleagues suspect Peter never slept.

At the core of Peter’s work was a fundamental faith in science. He challenged the users of scientific information, throughout his career, to rely on the principles fundamental to science to support their decision-making and to do so without bias. His strong conviction—together with others at SETAC—led 15 years ago to launching the Society’s science journal, IEAM. A journal—so much like Peter—dedicated to bridging the gap between scientific research and the use of science for management of the environment.

We miss Peter dearly.


11 thoughts on “Remembering Peter Chapman

  1. Ralph Stahl

    I had multiple occasions to work with Peter in various SETAC activities. After my first encounter with Peter at one of the SETAC annual meetings, I made it a point to see if I could get him to participate in Pellston-style workshops I helped to organize. I did this because he always wrote his sections on time, actually ahead of everyone else, and was a great editor of text provided by others in the workshop. He never seemed to get tired, and was always encouraging people to do their best, write their materials, and above all, enjoy themselves. All in all, his passing was a shock to everyone that knew him, including me. I’ll miss his sprinting around the SETAC meetings, talking to anyone and everyone, and always offering some suggestions on presentations, posters, etc.

  2. waynelandis

    I was saddened to hear that Peter Chapman was gone. As a colleague and friend I will miss him, and this note is personal. How can it not be?

    I and we owe a lot to Peter. I have had the great pleasure of coauthoring with Peter some of what I consider the key editorials and papers in my career. Peter encouraged and supported the publication of my team’s original papers on the relative risk model. Many of our colleagues also benefited from similar interactions and Peter’s expert editorship. He was an unrelenting supporter of the recognition of the importance of climate change in the field of environmental toxicology and risk assessment. The decade of Learned Discourses in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management explored many of the cutting-edge topics of our field and provided some of the key dialog in our field. The Sediment Quality Triad paper by Long and Chapman (Marine Pollution Bulletin 1985) is one of the seminal papers in the field of aquatic toxicology.

    In my mind, Peter is still here. Every time in the future when I hear or read someone using a NOEC or LOEC in a paper I will hear Peter standing up and calling out the problems with that approach. I will see him respond to the use of “heavy” metals in writing or a speech, pointing out the that no such thing exists. When someone who should know better uses correlation to assume causation, I will see Peter rebuking that misinterpretation. I will feel being back to back with him as we defended our point during a in a heated discussion in one of the many committee meetings we shared. I will also hear his counter arguments to my assertions regarding a controversial point as a write my paper or present my talk. Finally, I will still feel encouraged to continue to do the best science and to encourage others to do so.

    Thanks to his family for sharing him with us.

    Wayne Landis

  3. Peter Bruce

    Peter was a great inspiration. It was Peter’s work that formed the path for my first steps into the field by offering the opportunity and tools to bridge the gap between science and environmental management. I brought his ideas for the TRIAD with me for my masters with field work in Vietnam. Later, when presenting my results at a workshop in Denmark, I was somewhat terrified when realizing that he was taking part. He quickly dispersed my feelings of distress and engaged in one of the most inspiring talks I have had on environmental science. His ability to share his great understanding and knowledge with his juniors in an inclusive and encouraging way made all our encounters memorable and inspirational.

    Thank you Peter.

    Peter Bruce

  4. Jannicke Moe

    I would like to share the memory of my first meeting with Peter Chapman. I was boarding a flight to my first SETAC North America meeting as a fresh postdoc, 14 years ago. A friendly man who noticed my poster tube asked if I was going to the SETAC meeting, and then asked about my presentation. I had no idea who he was, but could hardly believe it when he said: “I know about your work, I have just used it as an example in a review paper”. Later during the flight, he came over to my seat with his laptop to show me this example. What flying start for my conference presentation! I have later understood that it was typical of Peter to show interest in anybody’s work, and I’m sure that his enthusiasm has inspired and encouraged many other young researchers.

  5. Bryn Phillips

    My only interaction with Peter Chapman was at the annual National SETAC meetings. Early in my career we often attended the same sediment-related sessions, and I would always observe him sitting attentively in the front row. When it came time for questions, he was always the first with his hand up, and always seemed to deliver a short speech as well as a question. It was always informative and entertaining. When I started to make sediment presentations of my own I would see him stride in and purposefully sit in the front row. As I ended my presentations, I would never ask if there were any questions. I would merely say “Yes, Dr. Chapman?”, and off he would go! I’d like to think we got into a bit of a routine. Always informative and entertaining.

    Cheers to Peter.

  6. Keith Maruya

    Shocked and saddened to hear of Peter’s passing. Certainly a person of impact in our field with his sediment quality triad concept from the late 80s, and more recently, as a key contributor to our passive sampling for contaminated sediment workshop. I loved his no-nonsense approach to applying and communicating science. RIP

  7. Alan Mearns

    I met Peter in 1980, shortly after I joined NOAA and the Puget Sound MESA project. He was already at that time engaged with the late Ed Long in developing products for assessing the health of Puget Sound. What a cheery guy! Made me feel welcome back to the Northwest science community. But then my engagement with him expanded. Around 1984, another colleague, Rick Swartz at EPA, challenged me to referee a 5-lab inter-calibration experiment using his sediment amphipod bioassay. Peter was lead not only of one of the performing labs but also was my right-hand man helping insure that all testing was done blind, so that this referee wouldn’t know who was who or which beaker had what in it. I value color slides I took of all the people from the 5 labs gathered on a Whidbey Island beach on a snotty winter day screening grab samples to collect 30,000 Rhepoxinus: his day-long continuous commentary kept us warm and cheerful. Then he followed up by forcing me to get the multi-authored paper done and published. He did so by embarrassing me at a regional ecotox meeting…claiming I had too many interests (like the ensuing el Nino) that were slowing down publication. I still have and treasure the embarrassing but jovial overhead graphic that he displayed at the meeting. During the past 3 decades I’ve enjoyed and passed on many of his great incisive editorials. His passing is a shock to me. Thank you Peter.

  8. Meg Harris

    I met Peter at my first SETAC NA meeting, which was in Vancouver BC over Canadian Remembrance Day. I rode with him in the elevator that morning and asked about the red poppy pin that he was wearing and that I’d been given. He explained the significance (a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers) and politely asked to adjust mine, which I had pinned slightly askew. He spoke with such consideration and respect- and without judgement. At that meeting, and other meetings since then, I realized he brought these traits to all of his interactions. While I didn’t know Peter well, I can genuinely say that I always looked forward to seeing him at meetings. I am saddened to hear that he is gone and my thoughts go out to his family, friends, and colleagues.

  9. Dr. Najeeb Rasul

    I did not know Peter in person but I am saddened to hear the sad news. My thoughts go out to his family.
    I requested Peter to review a chapter in our book entitled Geological Setting, Palaeoenvironment and Archaeology of the Red Sea. He did a great job and the chapter got accepted for publication. The book will be published by Springer, Germany in May 2018. I wish to share the book with his family. His photo along with his affiliation and expertise would be published under the Reviewers’ list. I will be grateful if one could let me know where the book could be mailed or if there is a library where I can send the book. This is in his memory and for his efforts to help us compile the book.
    Najeeb Rasul

  10. Angela Stenhouse

    I had the privilege of working with Peter briefly at Golder & Associates and can thank him for giving me the opportunity to return to environmental science. He was so intelligent and accomplished, but never arrogant and always encouraging. He took an interest in people and made you want to have the same level of enthusiasm for environmental science and toxicology he had. I was so saddened to hear of his passing, as he had a level of energy that seemed destined to last forever.

  11. Flávio de M Vasconcelos

    I met Peter Chapman in 2006 in Brazil where he helped us to develope and to
    concluded a case of river sediment contamination in Minas Gerais.

    He was sharp and firm in his ideas and
    inspired the whole team! I am really sorry to know that he passed away in


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