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Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group (EARAG)
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Scope, Operating Guidelines and Purpose

~ November 2011 ~

Introduction

As Sparling (2010) observed, compared to the nearly three decades preceding 2000, considerable progress has been made in developing new information on the ecotoxicology of amphibians and reptiles over the past few years. Since 2000 total publications in both vertebrate classes have exceeded those appearing in the interval from 1972 to 2000 reviewed earlier by Sparling et al. (2000). For the most part, however, the increase in publications stems from the expanded interest in ecotoxicology of amphibians, as indicated by the increased research activity focused on the contaminant ecology of amphibians. Gains have been made in certain areas of amphibian and reptile ecotoxicology during the last few years; for example, research findings related to the effects of contaminants on reptiles have increased in numbers, although the number of papers that are published annually on contaminants and reptiles remains very meager. In contrast to the increased numbers of contaminant-related papers focused on amphibians, there has been no comparable surge in work linked to the ecotoxicology of reptiles.

Much more work must be done to expand our understanding of contaminant effects on amphibians and reptiles, especially the latter. For example, Sparling (2010) encourages that we expand our efforts beyond collection of contaminant residue data for reptiles, which has largely been the historic focus reflected in the data available on body burdens or residues of persistent organics and metals/metalloids. More information on the effects of contaminants on reptiles must be gained, including development of laboratory studies to take a retrospective look and determine if the reported burdens could have been detrimental to individuals or populations. Additional research on the interaction between chemicals with other stressors is of equal importance. Environmental chemicals will likely exert negative effects expressed in populations in subtle ways in consort with disease, predation, competition and food availability. Similarly, development of biomarkers needs to be further developed in both vertebrate classes. Indeed, the list of research needs is long and the efforts of a few researchers to cover these needs is challenging.

Introduction to SETAC

SETAC (www.setac.org) is a non-profit professional society founded to promote the use of multi–disciplinary approaches in the study of environmental issues. SETAC represents nearly 5000 environmental toxicologists, chemists, risk assessors, and engineers worldwide. The Society was founded on the principle that it is important to have a membership comprised of equal representation of persons from academia, industry, NGOs, and government agencies. SETAC members are involved in diverse areas, such as education, research, environmental management, manufacturing and distribution of products in commerce, and regulatory activities.

Science Advisory groups

The establishment of Advisory groups is based on defined needs with regard to a specified topic.They have open-ended time frames of operation, are relatively broad in scope, and will manage processes to advance the science and application of a specific topic. The group should intend to be recognized as an authoritative expert in its field.

Scope

The scope of Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group (EARAG) focuses on the range of issues identified in the literature, e.g., Sparling et al (2000, 2010), that concern amphibians and reptiles, and the role that chemical exposures have played and will continue to play in shaping their life on earth. Scientific coverage of EARAG includes all fields pertinent to the study of amphibians and reptiles, including the effective environmental risk assessment and management of species occurring in a wide range of habitats worldwide. Collaboration with other SETAC advisory groups will be encouraged, and through its broad membership and EARAGwill strive for cooperation and information exchange with international organizations to establish strong links that assure multi- and interdisciplinary approaches to improved characterization of the ecology and toxicology of amphibians and reptiles.

Mission and Purpose

Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group exists to serve as a scientific resource to all stakeholders interested in the ecotoxicology of amphibians and reptiles, and will strive towards the following mission and purpose:

  • Serve as a focal point within SETAC as a means of involving the membership in research and discussions.
  • Stimulate critical assessment in order to establish the best available science.
  • Encourage the worldwide incorporation of the best available science and strategic approaches.
  • Advance overall understanding of the role that chemicals play in maintaining sustainable populations of amphibians and reptiles worldwide.
  • Provide scientific support to facilitate effective regulatory decision making.
  • Provide a neutral forum and focal point for collaborative identification, evaluation, and resolution of scientific issues.
  • Provide a forum for organizing sessions at annual meetings and organizing workshops to address scientific issues associated with the ecotoxicology of amphibians and reptiles.
  • Provide a mechanism to publish journal articles and books associated with the ecotoxicology of amphibians and reptiles.

Roles and Responsibilities of Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group

To achieve its mission and purpose, the activities of Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group can include:

  • The organization of temporary "projects” in order to extensively elaborate on a specific task suggested from interested parties within or outside of the group.
  • Preparation of technical papers (general information, issue specific)
  • Developing a specific area of the SETAC web site for EARAG
  • Developing an active presence in the SETAC community forum
  • Holding targeted (subject-specific) discussion groups at annual meetings or workshops.
  • Implementing short courses, for example in advance of either SETAC or other conferences.
  • Presentations to government agencies.
  • Publishing news and information in the SETAC Globe
  • Publishing papers in the SETAC journals or in SETAC books.
  • Providing educational materials for the public and school systems.

Operating principles

  1. Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group is a consensus-based group, and uses a consensus-based decision-making process.
  2. By linking SETAC and other herpetological organizations worldwide, EARAG will be aware of and foster discussions that take place in SETAC and the scientific community overall, as well as combining expertise and experience from various organizations. The links will be established primarily by personal interaction and exchange of documents. It is anticipated that there will be liaisons and interactions with government and non-government organizations interested in amphibians and reptiles, particularly the role that chemical-biota interactions play in maintaining sustainable populations of these animals worldwide.
  3. An effort will be made to maintain an equal balance on the EARAG among academia, government, business (industry and consulting), and non-profit or private sectors.
  4. The EARAG plans to hold meetings during the SETAC North America Annual Meeting, the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting, the SETAC Latin America Annual meeting, and at the World Congress events.
  5. EARAG encourages the volunteer nature of SETAC. SETAC believes that, in order to progress, it is important to have individuals present at meetings. As such, SETAC recognizes that individuals occasionally might need to obtain subsistence on a case-by-case basis. Approval of such will be granted on a need basis subject to funds being available and granted by the SETAC office.
  6. The community forum will be considered for communication among members, exchange of documents and discussion of current topics of interest to EARAG.
  7. The steering committee for the EARAG will establish ground rules to address how the steering committee and full AG work together. The EARAG steering committee and EARAG itself agree to work together in the following manner in order to accomplish the EARAG mission and purpose:

I. Maintain Respect for People

  • Listen fully
  • Test your understanding of assumptions
  • Problem solve together
  • Be tolerant of each other's perspective
  • Be open, honest, and candid
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Be mindful of the complexities presented by conference calls
  • Work to be inclusive of the full membership

II. Conduct organized meetings

  • Utilize a written agenda (old business, new business, ongoing business)
  • Start and end meetings on time
  • Come to meetings prepared - review pre-meeting reading materials
  • Publish minutes as soon as possible following meetings
  • Stay focused on the topic
  • Utilize a reminder system to return to issues that arise

III. Operate effectively

  • Do not over promise and under produce
  • Follow through on meeting action items

IV. Decision Making: Use consensus as the primary decision-making approach

  • Test for consensus before moving ahead with the agenda
  • Manage challenges consistently. Use the following process:
  • Identify the issues
  • Identify and verify the basis of any conflicts
  • External consultation and independent assessment
  • Focus on the science to seek consensus
  • External review and appraisal
  • In cases where consensus cannot be achieved, clearly indicate the issue and outcome in the minutes

Funds

Funding for the various activities during the SETAC conferences is through SETAC, which is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. EARAG, under the auspices of the SETAC world council, will manage its funds.

Oversight

The SETAC World Council will provide regular review to evaluate the effectiveness and performance of the EARAG, including the Steering Committee structure and activities and, if necessary, will offer guidance to ensure compliance with established policy.

Through meeting minutes, annual reports, and face to face meetings, Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group will regularly report the activities of the EARAG to the SETAC World Council, other SETAC AGs, and other professional/amateur societies.

SETAC relationship

The Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group reports to the SETAC World Council through the Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group Steering Committee. The Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group is committed to advancing the purposes of SETAC while fulfilling its primary mission and purpose.

Program, task forces, and working committees

Specific activities such as workshops, conferences, and educational materials or "white” papers undertaken by the Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group are approved by the SETAC World Council. The SETAC NA and/or Europe Offices serve as a coordinators and disseminators of AG activities.

The Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group may, as needed, solicit assistance from various SETAC committees to help EARAG activities. For example, technical activities are conducted through the SETAC Science Committee, educational activities through the SETAC Education Committee, and publication and dissemination of technical information through the SETAC Publication Advisory Council.

Membership

Any individual who conforms to the scope, purpose, and operating guidelines in good standing may be a member of Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group. EARAG may accept individuals who are not members of SETAC as long as they do not form part of the steering committee (see SETAC By-Laws).

Membership in the Steering Committee is intended to achieve balance and will follow the basic SETAC guidelines, and will strive to maintain representation from academia, industry, government, and non-profit organizations. The Steering Committee will be comprised of no less than six and no more than fifteen individuals. Balanced representation from the various SETAC geographic units should be made to the extent possible. Individuals selected to the Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group Steering Committee must be SETAC members in good standing.

The SETAC Executive Director or designee will serve as an ex officio member of the Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group.

The President of the SETAC World Council, based on the recommendation from Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Groupmembers, appoints the chair of the EARAG Steering Committee from among the Steering Committee members.

Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group Steering Committee members will serve two-year terms.Any steering committee member can serve only for two consecutive terms, after the term of the founding EARAG Steering Committee.

The founding Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group Steering Committee will serve a two-year term starting in May 2011. At the end of two years, the founding Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group Steering Committee will begin to stagger their leaving the EARAG Steering Committee to ensure a turnover of approximately one-third members per year.

When new members are to be appointed to the Steering Committee, the SETAC office will announce the vacancy at least four (4) months prior to the appointment date. Anyone who fits (1) sector category (academia, industry, NGO, government), (2) has institutional or personal support, (3) has expertise or interest in herpetology environmental issues, and (4) has a commitment to the mission and operating guidelines of the Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group can express their interest in being considered for appointment to the EARAG Steering Committee. A name must be placed into consideration at least one (1) month prior to the appointment of new members.

In instances where a Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group steering committee member must leave before completing his/her term, and when there are more than six months remaining in the term, the EARAG Steering Committee will identify individuals from the departing member’s sector to fulfill the term. Individuals will be identified to the EARAG steering committee at least two weeks prior to the appointment of the replacement.

Budget

An annual budget will be prepared by EARAG. This budget will be submitted for inclusion in the overall annual budget for SETAC.

Program, task forces, and working committees

The SETAC Office serves as a coordinator of AG activities while Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group-related activities specific to other organizations (e.g., professional/amateur herpetological societies) will be coordinated by those organizations, in communication with SETAC. SETAC and collaborating organizations will disseminate EARAG activities in their respective newsletters, as those outlets are available.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group Steering Committee Members

  • Identify and utilize opportunities to advance the EARAG ’s mission and purpose through generating ideas, making decisions, and taking action
  • Aspire to establish the EARAG as being recognized and sought as an authoritative expert body
  • Communicate with external thought leaders and decision makers to advance the effectiveness of the EARAG
  • Monitor progress in achieving the EARAG scientific objectives and elevate scientific performance as needed
  • Monitor and elevate the performance of the EARAG in order to identify areas that need improvement
  • Ensure the EARAG operating principles are consistently applied
  • Report to the SETAC World Council at least annually on EARAG activities and plans
  • Coordinate with and/or inform the SETAC offices regarding all Group activities

References

Sparling, D.W., Linder, G., Bishop, C., and Krest, S. 2010. Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Second Edition. SETAC/Taylor & Francis. Boca Raton, FL.

Sparling, D.W., Linder, G., and Bishop, C. 2000. Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles. SETAC Press. Pensacola, FL.

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