Open for all! Two guest lectures on the environmental impacts of oil spills and the evaluation of contaminants

CEES Extra seminar/AQUA seminar by Nancy Denslow and Peter Hodson


First talk. Combining Molecular Approaches with Analytical Chemistry for Evaluation of Contaminants

Nancy Denslow, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Abstract: Evaluating toxicity of emerging contaminants is important for risk assessment. Of special concern are chemicals that may be additive (or synergistic) in their molecular activities and which may activate adverse outcome pathways, leading organisms towards decreased growth, decreased reproduction, increased susceptibility to disease or even death. In the past evaluation of toxicity has been accomplished by life cycle toxicity assessments, one chemical at a time. With the myriad of chemicals now identified in surface waters it is important to develop more effective toxicity tests that are high throughput and that link from the molecular initiating event to adverse outcomes in exposed organisms. Global gene expression and proteomics methods have been used to define molecular pathways that lead to adversity and to identify their molecular drivers. This information is being utilized to develop high throughput assays for easier screening and monitoring of contaminants. While still in their infancy, bioanalytical methods can be used together with analytical chemistry methods to monitor surface waters and eventually may be used in risk assessment. 

Short break.

Second talk. Oil in Water: The Behaviour and Environmental Impacts of Crude Oil Released into Aqueous Environments

A Report of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on Oil Spills*.

Peter Hodson, Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON

Abstract: The Royal Society of Canada struck an Expert Panel to conduct a comprehensive review of the chemistry, fate, behaviour, and toxicity of crude oil in aquatic environments, as well as spill modeling, response and clean-up options. The Panel reported its findings in November 2015, identifying critical knowledge gaps and research needs through consultations with industry, government and environmental stakeholders and detailed case studies of several spills. Because of widespread production, transportation and use of crude and refined oils, all regions of Canada are at risk of oil spills. Further, the environmental fate, behaviour and effects of spills are site- or spill-specific because of the diversity of oils shipped and of ecosystems at risk. A shift in the predominance of spills from marine (tankers) to coastal and inland waters (pipelines, trains) highlighted some key issues and research needs. These include the unique characteristics and sensitivity of Arctic and freshwater environments, the difficulties and delays in accessing remote spills, the potential interactions of oil with other pollutants (e.g., urban and industrial effluents), the unusual properties and environmental behaviour of some crude and refined oils (e.g., diluted bitumen), and the impacts of oil-spill clean-up techniques (e.g., oil dispersants). Barriers to progress were also identified, such as a lack of baseline data on pre-spill environmental conditions, organizational barriers to experimental oil spills and to research at ‘spills of opportunity’, little collaboration among government, industry and academic scientists, and an absence of up-to-date technical guidance for oil spill impact assessments. The panel recommended seven broad priorities for oil spill research, but these summarize many detailed research needs presented throughout the report, available at

*Full author list:
Kenneth Lee1, Michel Boufadel2, Bing Chen3, Julia Foght4, Peter Hodson5, Stella Swanson6, and Albert Venosa7

1 Director, CSIRO - Oceans and Atmosphere, Kensington, WA, Australia
2 Director, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ
3 Associate Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL
4 Professor Emerita, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
5 Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON
6 Swanson Environmental Strategies Ltd., Calgary, AB
7 Division Director (Retired), US EPA, Cincinnati, OH

Published Feb. 17, 2016 10:06 AM - Last modified Mar. 8, 2021 10:47 AM