Category Archives: SETAC Meeting

Why Are Nebraska’s Birds Turning White?

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 42nd Annual Meeting (SciCon4), 14–18 November.

A guest post by Lauren Gillespie, Central Community College-Columbus

A block of four different photos of birds, two showing white feathers, one showing asymmetrical tail feathers, and the fourth showing a swallow with normal coloration.
Photo 1: A. The first barn swallow with partial leucism we caught in 2018; B. An example of the white feathers we have found in many individuals; C.  An example of tail streamer deformation and asymmetry; D. A barn swallow with typical melanin coloration.

I teach general biology at Central Community CollegeColumbus (CCC-C) in Nebraska, where I hold ecology lab courses at a nearby creek with students in waders performing water quality tests. This “creek” is a glorified agricultural drainage ditch, bordered by farmland in a state that crop-dusts on a regular basis throughout the summer months. I saw birds nesting underneath the bridge once and decided on a whim to mist net during a lab session. Mist nets are used to capture birds and can only be purchased with proof of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife collecting permit. As students took samples, I extracted the bird—a barn swallow (photo 1, A)—that started this project.

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Radioactive Waste Cleanups After the Manhattan Project: Lessons Learned

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 42nd Annual Meeting (SciCon4), 14–18 November 2021

A guest post by Karen Keil, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Nuclear contamination warning sign
Nuclear contamination warning sign, Adobe Stock Image

Radioactivity was first discovered over a century ago (circa 1890s). Within 50 years we were harnessing that incredible power to build an atomic bomb, in an effort to end World War II. However, the Manhattan Project left a legacy of radioactive waste sites. Over the last several decades, we have spent billions of dollars cleaning up the environmental impacts of this waste, with efforts still ongoing. What have we learned from this process? Although radioactive waste products are now considered “legacy” contaminants, back in the day they could have been classified as “contaminants of emerging concern”—substances whose recently discovered environmental consequences pose challenging problems to environmental scientists. What have we learned from the cleanup efforts for legacy radioactive waste? Can we apply the lessons learned to new contaminants?

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Evolution by Pesticides: Evidence of Evolution in American Alligators Affected by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 42nd Annual Meeting (SciCon4), 14–18 November 2021.

A guest post by Yeraldi Loera, Ph.D. student at Princeton University

Baby alligator rests in open palm.
Solo gator. Photo courtesy of the author.

Instances of environmental pollution by manufactured contaminants are widespread across the globe. Pesticides are commonly used in agriculture to combat pests, but can also harm other, non-targeted organisms. Exposure to some pesticides can lead to disruption in the endocrine system, altering reproductive development and fitness. One study showed this kind of disruptive effect across populations of American alligators (Alligator mississipiensis) that were exposed to a pesticide (DDT) spill in Lake Apopka, Florida. Surprisingly, another study in the same region showed a rebound in the population following their exposure, suggesting possible evolved resistance to pesticide contamination.

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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