Blog 13: BARCELONA! The true story.
We all know the old saying, “What happens in …., stays in …”. Well, not this time! Lots of great stuff happened in Barcelona at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting. Great science, great workshops, great symposia, great networking, and great food & wine all in a beautiful, vibrant city on the Mediterranean Sea.
My week in Barcelona started with two days of SETAC World Council (SWC) meetings. Now, before you start chanting “borrrrrrring” at the screen, let me say that in my nearly nine years serving on the SETAC-NA Board of Directors, SETAC-NA President, and SETAC World Council I have never been bored at a Board meeting. If you look back at Blog 12: The Jobs-That-Never-End List, you’ll read that I revel in “the fun and exciting part of work and life: the planning, designing, implementing, and celebrating of something new, cutting edge, or different.” This is the heart of the discussions of SWC.
From my perspective the most important topic we discussed was how to close the gap in membership between the government sector and the business and academic sectors. Though the gap is most acute in our newer geographic units, it is also a noteworthy concern for SETAC-NA and SETAC-EU. Our tripartite composition gives us credibility with decision makers and legislatures at all levels because it opens a dialogue on both urgent and “wicked” environmental problems as viewed by all parties and the science needed to solve them. Our discussions weren’t just about the gap, why it exists, and why we need to address it. They were also about solutions: How to get tripartite science into the hands of regulators, decision makers, and legislatures to impact actions at the city/ county/ federal implementation level; How to use the Horizon Scanning Project to put our perspective on the most important environmental challenges of the future into both the global and national arenas; How to engage all of us to bring our best scientific expertise to the table.
A little about the great science in Barcelona. As a SETAC Officer you don’t get to see nearly as much science at annual meetings as you would like, but I did manage to squeeze in a few sessions and posters as well as a pre-meeting workshop. Sunday was spent in a workshop: Application of Weight-of-Evidence (WoE) in Risk-Based Ecological Assessment Frameworks. This is a science framework that challenges risk assessors, decision makers, and legislatures globally. Presentations informed the participants of how WoE is being applied in environmental programs around the world, case studies gave examples of application, and discussion of the common aspects of the approaches and how SETAC can provide a path forward for all interested parties. All of this will feed the upcoming WoE Pellston Workshop scheduled for this fall.
I spent some time in the “Nano” session on Monday learning about silver accumulation in Northern Pike and Perch and collaborative work for impact at the population level and benthic community structure, as well as the impact of nano-plastics on immunity in Fathead Minnow. In the Metals Advisory Group (MAG) meeting I heard a well delivered and received presentation on Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOP) as a framework to organize mechanistic data into outcomes regulators and decision makers care about. On Wednesday I listened in on the “Nitrogen & Phosphorus” session to hear about accounting for nutrients at a dairy farm and the N&P “leakage” to both groundwater and air; aquatic eutrophication from phosphorus used in crop production; and, new for me, a substances flow analysis on agricultural nutrients that looked at N&P flows in and out of Japan to and from the rest of the world. This last one was so clearly explained and had me so fascinated I couldn’t even take notes!
The SETAC Annual Meeting is also prime networking time for everybody. For me the Sunday night reception is a reunion with friends and collaborators that I only get to see once or twice a year. It is also a time to introduce students and first time attendees to your professional and friend networks and make them feel welcome in what can be an overwhelming environment. Of course dancing at the reception is the great equalizer; we spent three hours, solid, on the dance floor!
I had a great time with the students and my fellow mentors at our table during the Student Mentor Lunch on Monday. As a mentor you get your brain-picked about what it is like to work in different sectors, how to find science jobs, and which skills to hone. In return you have the opportunity to show how many different ways there are to practice science, the range of career paths, and of equal importance for those of us well into our careers, the opportunity to take a deep breath of student enthusiasm.
Tuesday was the “Tweet-up.” The SETAC student leadership gathered up a bunch of us less-than-tech-savvy Presidents and Executive Directors in the SETAC Square for a 30 minute question and answer session via Twitter. The questions were tweeted in and someone who knew what s/he was doing tweeted our answers back out. It was fast and it was fun. Kudos to all that participated. Particularly the person responsible for tweeting on our behalf!
Wednesday was the SETAC Science Slam – a standing room only, do not miss event! Wow, is all I can say. All of the entries were exceptional and the competition fierce. But in the end there can only be one winner and it was a hysterical, gutsy, live singing performance about pyrethroids in salmon that brought down the house. Wednesday was also the conference banquet and the Aussie contingent adopted me for the evening. I reconnected with SETAC-AP members I had met at their inaugural SETAC meeting in Darwin, Australia five years ago and finally met others I had only spoken to through conference calls and email. Hoping Ross, President SETAC-AP, doesn’t mind, I’ve included a picture of us outside the Mariners’ Museum where the banquet was held.
It all came to an end on Thursday at the closing ceremony. The science of the week was summarized, recognition given to students for best platforms and posters, the GU Presidents gave a plug for their upcoming annual meetings (Salt Lake City is coming up fast – is your abstract in?). Some folks were on their way home or off to other European destinations and others were sticking around for a few more days in hopes of seeing more of Barcelona than the inside of the convention center. I finally did get ankle deep in the Mediterranean, more on that in another blog.
To everyone, be you organizer, presenter, mentor, SETAC staff, or participant, thanks for a great week.