18 Apr 2024

Highlights from the SETAC South-Central Chapter 2024 Annual Meeting

Chris Distel, Schreiner University and Local Host

On 12–13 April, the SETAC North America South-Central Chapter met at Schreiner University in the Texas Hill Country. This year’s dynamic and well-attended event coincided with a meeting of the Texas Water Symposium on 11 April, also at Schreiner. We welcomed 68 attendees, most of whom were from academia and included a fantastic showing of students. They represented Texas Tech, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Baylor and Schreiner, in addition to two businesses. The chapter meeting started with a social at the Trailhead Beer Garden on campus, after the Water Symposium, where we gathered together over cornhole and conversation to decompress after long drives.

On 12 April, the meeting began with a welcome from the Schreiner provost and the outgoing chapter president, Ramon Lavado. Then, 16 separate platform presentations covered a wide variety of topics, including pesticide-induced physiological and behavioral implications, microplastic uptake and breakdown, several talks on PFAS, the utility of different fish models, ecological toxicity of invasive chinaberry, heavy metal interactions, and PAHs. The platform topics complemented each other nicely, leading to great discussions during breaks and at that evening’s second social.

Plenary speaker Jon Doering from Louisiana State University (LSU) led the participants through his journey of connecting in vivo data to predictive modeling, reducing the need for in vivo trials in the future. This lecture drew in all kinds of interests, from fish diversity to transgenic cell lines and gene expression to PAH toxicity with lots of great stories along the way. Doering is also the new South-Central Chapter President. He will be the local host of the 2025 South-Central Chapter meeting at LSU, and he is also part of the Program Committee of the SETAC North America 45th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 20–24 October in Fort Worth, Texas.

After platform presentations concluded, we shifted to our poster session, with 24 posters presented on toxicity toward sharks, crayfish, birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and zooplankton. The setup of the poster session allowed easy movement between posters, so conversations were comfortable and enthusiastic. We continued the evening with a banquet and awards ceremony, then adjourned to the Trailhead again.

The next morning, students were invited to a free workshop titled, “Using AI to your advantage in academics and research,” led by Thomas Woods from Schreiner University. This was well-attended, and students left feeling empowered to make some modern advances in their scholarship.

DiBona is presented her award for 2nd prize, best platform presentation

Students could also compete for the Best Student Presentation Awards, and we are excited to announce this year’s winners:

Student Awards for Platform Presentation

First Place: Esmirna Cantu, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 
Second Place: Elizabeth DiBona, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
Third Place: Cameron Collins, Louisiana State University

Student Awards for Poster Presentation

First Place: Justin Dubiel, University of Lethbridge
Second Place: Tamara Rivera, University of Texas Marine Science Institute 
Third Place: Mackenna McGraw, Baylor University

The chapter business meeting included officer selection and a partial changing of the guard. Frauke Seemann rolled off as immediate past president, with Ramon Lavado taking on that role. Jon Doering officially became the new chapter president, and the new vice president is Kerri Lynn Ackerly. We are very grateful to Seemann and Lavado for their leadership the past few years! We are also very grateful to our treasurer and secretary, Jim Dobberstine and Kristin Nielsen, respectively, who agreed to continue on in their roles for the coming year.

This conference was supported by both sponsors and contributors. Gold-level sponsors included The Welch Foundation and Exxon-Mobile Biomedical Sciences Inc. The Silver-level sponsor was the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. The Bronze-level sponsor was the Baylor University Department of Environmental Science. The conference was also made possible by in-kind support from The Schreiner University Field Station, Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Schreiner University. Thank you to all of these sources of support!

Author’s contact: [email protected]