Category Archives: SETAC Meeting

Ancient Marine Mammal Bones Record Dynamic Change in Mercury Concentrations Over the Last 3000 Years

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 41st Annual Meeting (SciCon2), 15–19 November 2020.

A guest post by Julie P. Avery, Nicole Misarti, Todd M. O’Hara, and Lorrie D. Rea

Do you like fish?  Have you heard warnings from the FDA about consuming predatory fish such as tuna, swordfish, and shark due to high mercury? Fish are a healthy food and an excellent source of lean protein, healthy omega-3 fats, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc, and iodine. Fish provide all these nutrients, which are essential for human and animal health. Marine mammals in Alaska, like Steller sea lions and northern fur seals, thrive on a diverse fish diet. But what about the mercury? Since we eat some of the same fish as seals and sea lions, we can study them to understand how mercury might affect humans. 

Coastal and Arctic communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of mercury contamination due to their dependence on fish and marine resources for food and sociocultural needs. According to the World Health Organization, mercury is one of the top 10 contaminants of concern for human health.  

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Spiders!

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 41st Annual Meeting (SciCon2), 15–19 November 2020.

A guest post by Gale Beaubien

One day, my oldest daughter (age 5) had to poop, an event that typically requires the audience of my youngest (age 3). However, on this particular journey, my oldest saw a small cellar spider in the adjacent bathtub, and this sight caused both to scream bloody murder.

Now, I study riparian spiders (more on that later) and my daughters have lived most of their lives with a striped-knee tarantula, that they named “Mr. Mommy.” They talk to Mr. Mommy, they help me feed her, they tap the glass – by all accounts, they seem to like Mr. Mommy. Additionally, they’ve both seen me shuttle wolf spiders from inside the house to the outdoors. We look at spiders on my phone and we talk about how jumping spiders are cute (seriously, if you didn’t know this… look at pictures of jumping spiders. Jumping spiders have a pair of large front eyes that make them adorable). However, I guess they forgot.

An adorable jumping spider. Photo by Opoterser–own work, CC-BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5066311
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The Fog

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 41st Annual Meeting (SciCon2), 15–19 November 2020.

A guest post by Eric Peterson, Texas Tech University

Imagine driving down a country road on a clear, beautiful summer evening, when you see what looks like fog across the road in front of you. As you drive closer and closer, your car becomes engulfed, and you can no longer see the telephone poles in front of you. After a few hundred meters or so of this “fog,” you emerge on the other side, and it is once again clear. While it may sound like a scene out of the Stephen King novel The Mist, and more of a science fiction scenario, it is actually a phenomenon that occurs on a nightly basis all across the High Plains of the United States of America (US). The true culprit of this “fog” is actually dust emanating from beef cattle feed yards on a nightly basis.

Cows look at the photographer against a backdrop of thousands of other cattle. Industrial equipment is blurred in the far background.
Beef cattle feed yards typically house thousands of cattle in relatively tight areas and can cover two square kilometers. Photo credit Eric Peterson
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Getting to the Root of It: Why Plants Matter and How We Can Best Protect Them

The following post previews the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting, held virtually as SciCon (3–7 May 2020).

A guest post by Verena Sesin, Steering Committee member of the SETAC Global Plants Interest Group

From our backyards, to parks, nature areas, and agriculture – plants surround us! We often forget that plants not only look pretty, but they are also vital for our daily lives. Plants are key parts of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In rivers, wetlands, grasslands, forests, agricultural fields, and various other habitats, plants provide shelter and food for many animals, from tiny microbes and invertebrates, to large mammals – including us humans. And, don’t forget, plants use the light energy from the sun to produce macromolecules and oxygen – a very special skill that supports all life on our planet. Continue reading

Can Polymers Represent an Aquatic Risk—What’s Known and Unknown?

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting, held virtually as SciCon (3–7 May 2020, formerly to be held in Dublin, Ireland).

A guest post by Hans Sanderson, Anna Magdalene, Brun Hansen, Scott Belanger, Kristin Connors, and Monica Lam

Polymers are most known for their use in plastics (e.g., polypropylene), and while it is true that all plastics are polymers, it is not true that all polymers are plastics. Polymers have a much wider range of origins and uses and contain a wide variety of materials with differing structural attributes, functionalization, and physical and chemical properties.

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One Health: Connecting wildlife, environmental, and human health

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Helsinki, Finland (26–30 May 2019).

A guest post by Frances Nilsen

TriadWhat is “One Health”?
“One Health” is an organizational framework encouraging interdisciplinary collaborations in education, research, clinical practice, policy, and communication stemming from the recognition that the health of people, animals, and the environment are linked. One Health partnerships are growing internationally, mainly emphasizing prevention of infectious zoonotic diseases (those that can be passed between animals and humans), but the environmental quality connections to human and animal health are often less developed in One Health collaborations. Continue reading

Towards a Sustainable Development of River-Sea Systems (RSSs) and Coastal Areas

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Helsinki, Finland (26–30 May 2019).

A guest post by Josep Sanchís

Coastlines and estuaries are complex ecosystems that are located in the nexus of marine, riverine, terrestrial, and air environments. In such intersections, it is common to find valuable natural parks and reservoirs, often treasuring delicate environments and unique life forms. This is particularly true in the case of estuaries and the surrounding wetlands, whose brakish waters serve as home for a variety of amphibian species, specialized plants, migrant birds and many others. Humans rely on estuaries for food and recreation, and these ecosystems can be found among the most productive in the world. Not surprising, 22 of the 32 largest cities can be found on estuaries. As a result, estuaries are stressed by multiple anthropogenic pressures. The marine nearshore also provides important socio-economic resources that support fundamental sectors including, for instance, aquaculture, fishing, tourism, oil and gas extraction, power generation, and naval activity. Because of all this, the preservation of these ecological, cultural, and socio-economic resources is a priority on a global scale that joins efforts from governments, regulatory agencies, and academia. Continue reading

Can We Protect Future Generations from the Hazardous Past?

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Helsinki, Finland (26–30 May 2019).

A guest post by Jana Asselman

Through a significant series of scientific discoveries, we now know that certain aspects or traits will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. Our DNA not only determines the blood type or eye color of the next generations but may also determine their sensitivity or predisposition to certain diseases. Yet, an increasing number of studies has suggested that we pass on much more information to the next generation that we would assume. Indeed, while we all know that exposure to chemicals and other environmental factors can significantly affect us, we often do not realize that we can also pass on these exposure effects to future generations. Continue reading

Environment Exposure to Microplastics and Affiliated Toxic Chemicals

A guest post by Mai Lei

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 29th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California (4–8 November 2018).

Can you imagine our beautiful planet becoming a “plastic planet”? In the BBC documentary film Blue Planet II, members of the producing team noted that plastic waste is ubiquitously floating in the sea, including fishing lines, plastic packages, and plastic bottles. Marine organisms can be trapped by plastic waste that is everywhere in the oceans, even in the deepest and most remote parts. So it is essential to carry out intensive studies of plastic waste. Large plastics can either be physically or chemically broken into fragments after having been in the water a long time, traveling long distances. Such fragments, coupled with ones that were released into seas as fine plastic particles (smaller than 5 mm), are collectively called microplastics.

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Surface water trawling for floating microplastic collection on the Pearl River estuary in China.  Inset pictures are pieces of microplastic (fragments, pellets, and lines) from the trawl.  Credit: Lei Mai.

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California Oil Spills: Impacts on Habitat and Wildlife

A guest post by Ashley McConnell

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 29th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California (4–8 November 2018).

The Gaviota Coast in southern California is a precious resource to people and wildlife; a scenic stretch of coastline home to a wealth of biota, sand beaches, intact habitats, and natural drainages that allow the undisturbed flow of water between land and ocean. On 19 May 2015, eyes around the world turned to this stunning stretch of coastline, as newspapers and television screens flashed images of crude oil seeping into the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Continue reading