President's Report December 2022

Category: Our People

  06 Jul 2022

Dr Kathryn Hassell

SETAC AU President

Hi everyone. Well, here we are again, another year rapidly drawing to a close and everybody seems as busy as ever.  My reflections, along with several others I have spoken to are that 2022 has been another challenging year of pandemic-related disruptions to work and life, and 3 years in many are feeling quite exhausted.  In addition, the year has also seen many parts of Australia affected by severe weather events and our thoughts go out to everyone that has been affected.  In the last edition of Endpoint I put out a call for any members that have been impacted by severe weather events to reach out to our SETAC network if you require assistance of any kind, and Id like to repeat that call again here.

There has been lots of activity amongst SETAC Council recently, in particular the planning for our 2023 in person conference in Townsville! This will be our first face-to-face event since 2019 so the organising committee are putting much thought into both the scientific and social programs! Shelley Templeman and Sarah McDonald are the conference chairs and will be working with ASN Events again to deliver a 3 day conference plus workshops during August 2023. The theme of the conference is "Source to Sink: Engaging with Stakeholders to Protect our Environment". Keep your eye out for announcements coming very soon regarding a conference website and call for abstracts!  Jules Jasonsmith and team also ran another successful workshop on soil assessment, geology and groundwater, which was held at University of Canberra in October and supported by SETAC AU and EIANZ. 

Congratulations to all of our student award winners for 2022. As usual, we had a very high standard of applications and it was a hard task for the assessors to pick a clear winner.  Im pleased to announce that the 2022 Postgraduate Research Publication Award has been awarded to Drew Szabo (University of Melbourne) for his paper in Environmental Science and Technology entitled, “Field-Based Distribution and Bioaccumulation Factors for Cyclic and Aliphatic Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in an Urban Sedentary Waterbird Population.” Congratulations to Drew and also to his fellow lab mate in the ALEC lab, Subharthe Samandra (University of Melbourne), who is the recipient of the 2022 Thesis Prize for his Masters thesis entitled, “Identifying microplastics in various environmental settings and consumer products” (Master of Industrial Research; Chemistry).

For a second year now, we have offered the SETAC AU and ACEDD (Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors) Peter Teasdale Memorial Award, which was established in honour of the late Professor Peter Teasdale.  Peter made significant contributions to SETAC and was passionate about supporting research students and early career researchers. Im pleased to announce the 2022 recipient of this award is Sharmin Akter (Australian National University), working on PhD project: “Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Soil Microbial Community Affecting Soil Health”.

The SETAC Asia Pacific virtual conference took place 5-8th September and Mandy and Carlos did a great job pulling together a really interesting program.  With the theme “Reconnecting across the Asia-Pacific region, improving outcomes for the environment” the conference did exactly that, by bringing together invited speakers from Australia, Japan, China and Singapore and delegates from countries across several time zones.  Michael Warne was awarded a lifetime achievement award and gave a plenary talk on his team’s extensive work on pesticides and the Great Barrier Reef and Andrea Hinwood, who is the United Nations Environment Programme Chief Scientist (and former Chief Scientist at EPA Victoria) spoke about some of the various monitoring programs that UNEP are involved in around climate change, biodiversity loss and chemical pollution and waste. She acknowledged the important role that SETAC can play in informing UNEP of issues around chemical pollution, which of course is already underway with the SETAC Global involvement in the Science-Policy Panel OEWG.     

The UN environmental assembly (UNEA) has recently established an independent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Panel (SPP) on chemicals, waste and pollution.  The Panel is an international network of academic scientists from all regions of the world supporting environmental and human-health protection from chemical pollution. Read more about The International Panel on Chemical Pollution (IPCP).  SETAC Global is an accredited stakeholder and involved in the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) Science-Policy Panel, and you may have seen a recent call for members to join the SETAC panel.

SETAC AU are a member of Science Technology Australia, and in October some council members attended the STA Leadership Dialogue and Post-Budget briefing where, amongst other things the updated National Science Research Priorities were discussed, with a focus on innovation/entrepreneurship and commercialisation.  The priorities are all very relevant to the SETAC AU membership, including supporting stronger action on climate change, harnessing the potential of emerging technologies and investment in First Nations perspectives on science, technology and innovation. The STA AGM was also recently held, and I am pleased to see that whilst the outgoing Chemistry Cluster Representative finished his time on the board (Tom Cresswell), his role has been filled by Francesca Gissi. Congratulations Francesca on this new role!  

Science Meets Parliament 2023 has been announced and will be held in two parts: an online series of workshops over 3 days in March (7-9th), followed by an in-person event in Canberra on 22nd March which will include meetings between SMP Delegates and Members of Parliament, attendance at Question Time and the National Press Club Address, and of course the National Gala Dinner in the Great Hall at Parliament House.  Council will soon be opening the SETAC AU Science Meets Parliament Ambassador Award, to support two members attendance at this event. 

Its also great to hear that several of our Regional Reps have been able to organise end of year get togethers for our members and I strongly encourage you all to take the time to meet with your SETAC colleagues for a social catch up and celebration of the year that was. Finally, I would like to wish all SETAC members and their families a safe and happy festive season. I hope you can all enjoy some time away from work but use that time to think about the abstract you will submit for the 2023 SETAC AU Conference in Townsville!