President's Report December 2023

Category: Our People

  11 Dec 2023

Dr Kathryn Hassell

SETAC AU President

December 2023

Hi everyone, here we are rapidly approaching the end of what’s been a very hectic year for SETAC. It has been a year full of lots of SETAC AU activity, most notably our biennial conference, Townsville which was our first in person conference since COVID and our largest to date – with 4 concurrent sessions over 3 days, plus post-conference workshops and field trips. Co-chairs Shelley Templeman and Sarah McDonald, plus their hard working local organising committee put on such a great event for us, so thank you to all involved. There are always some nerves before a big event like that, but im very pleased to see it all came off as a wonderful success and will turn a small profit for the Society as well! The post-conference workshops were a real hit and we had great participation over the 4 different topics, as well as a follow up Temporary Waters workshop. This was the first year we offered an Indigenous Travel Grant, and I am pleased that Francis Joyce, a Senior Ranger working across Mamu Country in Far North Queensland was our inaugural winner. Congratulations to all presenters at the conference and workshops and in particular to our student members who recieved conference travel awards and presentation awards.

Congratulations to all of our other student award winners for 2023. The 2023 Postgraduate Research Publication Award was awarded to Gwilym Price (University of Technology Sydney, CSIRO) for his paper “Natural organic matter source, concentration, and pH influences the toxicity of zinc to a freshwater microalga”. There were two winners of the 2023 Thesis Prize, Hannah Faraone (RMIT University) for her Honours thesis “The impact of pollution on biofilms, zooplankton, and macroinvertebrate communities in constructed stormwater wetlands” and Anthony Evans (La Trobe University) for his Honours Thesis “Application of bioavailability models to predict the toxicity of zinc to the cladoceran Ceriodaphnia dubia in Australian natural waters”.  Now into it’s third year, the 2023 Peter Teasdale Memorial Award winners were Kate Fergusson (Monash Univeristy) - "Impacts of pharmaceutical pollutants on congnition in wildlife" and Gabriel Melhado (Monash University) - "Synergistic effects of pharmaceutical pollutants and temperature in fish, with a focus on their behavioural and immune responses".

SETAC AU also recognise the 2023 winners of our most prestigious prizes, the Early and Mid Career Researcher Medals and Technical Staff Award. The winners this year were: Dr Darren Koppel (AIMS, 2023 Early Career Researcher Medal Award); Dr Brad Clarke (University of Melbourne, 2023 Mid Career Researcher Medal Award); and Karen Thompson (NIWA, 2023 Technical Staff Award). Well done to all whether successful or not, since as usual we had a very high standard of applications across all award and prize categories. I encourage all our members to consider applying for, or nominating someone else for one of the many awards and prizes we offer throughout the year.

One of the major activities SETAC AU Council have been working on this year is a review of our governance arrangements, with a view to changing our structure to be better aligned with other similar Australian professional associations, and to ensure our governance and legal responsibilities are up to date with current Australian corporation laws. At the recent BGM in Townsville, I presented our proposal to the membership, whereby a vote was held and we gained approval to proceed with making the changes. We are currently in the process of getting all the relevant documents and policies updated with a view to having the process completed during the second half of 2024. At that time, we will dissolve the current Council, and hold elections to establish a new Board of Directors and multiple sub-committees (i.e. membership, finance and risk, indigenous engagement, policy).  At the same time, SETAC AP are planning to go through the same process of Incorporation, so I will be working closely with SETAC AP President, Carlos Arias-Berreiro through this time.

Concurrently, SETAC World Council are undertaking an organisation-wide review of governance structures, with an intent to implement change and create a more consistent and streamlined governance structure for the global society overall.  Association Management Center (AMC) has been engaged by SETAC to review the Society’s current governance structure and work with a SETAC Governance Review Task Force, to identify recommendations which support SETAC’s goals and are aligned with best practices for associations.  The Task Force is made up of Council and Board members from multiple SETAC GUs and Chapters, including Presidents, Past Presidents, World Council members and others. The timing of this is ideal for the governance restructure of SETAC AU and SETAC AP, as we can incorporate all the recommendations of the global review into our new structure, ensuring they are up to date with both SETAC requirements for GUs and Chapters, as well as most up to date with Australian corporation laws. Over the next few months I will continue to provide updates to the membership as they happen. In addition to the global SETAC governance review, there is also a major change that has recently commenced within SETAC, which is the implementation of the new membership system.  There are three levels of membership available: Free, Explorer and Full, and membership fees/currency for payment will vary based on student status and income status (high, low-middle) of the country registered in.  To access full benefits of SETAC membership, such as discounted conference registration fees, make sure you choose the Full membership option.


Planning in underway for the 14th biennial SETAC AP Conference, to be held in Tianjin, China in September 2024.  The conference co-chairs will be Hongwen Sun and Lingyan Zhu of Nankai University, China, and former SAP President, Jing You will also be involved. This biennial event aims to bring together leading researchers, scientists, and industry experts from around the globe to share the latest advancements, foster collaborations, and promote knowledge exchange in the field of environmental science and toxicology.


Whilst Brad Clarke’s Envismart online seminar series took a hiatus this year, the annual Emerging Contaminants Workshop (ECW) went ahead as a hybrid event on Tuesday 14th November.  There were several online participants as well as a room full of enthusiastic people in a lecture theatre at University of Melbourne. In it’s third year now, the ECW event had a fantastic line up of presenters, including international keynote speaker, Robert Bilott (of the movie ‘Dark Waters’ fame), as well as speakers from DCCEEW, Minderoo Foundation and University of Melbourne.  The dominant themes were measurement methods and monitoring of PFAS and microplastics.  SETAC AU were pleased to be a sponsor of this event again this year.


The next What’s In Our Water (WiOW) symposium is scheduled to take place in Canberra 29 Oct–1 Nov 2024. The event will be co-chaired by Anu Kumar and Glen Walker, and the venue will be the Black Mountain Discovery Centre. It is still in the early stages of planning, with a symposium theme yet to be decided, but the proposed structure of the symposium will include pre- and post-symposium workshops, two-day, single-track format keynote and general presentations.  More details to follow as they become available.


The 44th annual SETAC NA conference has recently finished in Louisville, Kentucky, with a conference theme of ‘One Environment, One Health’. The abstract book is available for download from the website. In 2025, SETAC NA will be held in Fort Worth, Texas 20-24 October, whilst SETAC Europe will be held in Seville, Spain 5-9 May, 2025.


The 4th International Conference on Environmental Pollution, Restoration, and Management (ICEPORM) will take place March 4-7, 2024, ICISE, Quy Nhon, Vietnam.

Its been a big year for everyone, and I would like to wish all SETAC members and their families a safe and happy festive season.