Copenhagen: First in-person SETAC Europe Annual meeting after 2 years

After a long wait of 2 years, the 32nd annual meeting of SETAC Europe was held in Denmark IN – PERSON! Researchers from all over the globe participated in the meeting; a handful of them from University of Koblenz – Landau. In this blogpost, Verena Gerstle, one of those representing our University at the 32nd SETAC conference recounts the group’s experience in her own words:

“After two years of online meetings, we finally had the chance to present our research in person again at the 32nd Annual meeting of the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). Although the online meetings were also interesting, nothing comes close to the real-life experience of a large conference – especially when it comes to socializing and networking. Even if this meeting was organized as a hybrid meeting (meaning all presentations were also available online) most people participated in person. Among the 2250 researchers from all over the world, 20 PhD students and post-docs came from our institute and represented the iES Landau.

As expected, we were all very excited to pack our bags and head to Copenhagen on an early Saturday morning. The distance between  Landau and Copenhagen is about 1000 kms, nevertheless, we decided to take a train to Copenhagen. The train connection was very good as we only had to change trains once in Karlsruhe and in Hamburg. In general, taking the train was a comfortable option; some of us used the time to make some last-minute changes to the presentation, others were sleeping or listening to music. After 12 long hours, we finally made it to Copenhagen. We quickly realized that the central parts of Copenhagen were well designed in terms of public transportation and that you could travel anywhere with metro and bus – as long as you are not too far in the periphery. Copenhagen has a beautiful beach (Picture 1) from where you could see the Ørosund Bridge to Sweden. Also, the amount and size of bike lanes show how Denmark is focused on sustainable green transportation. Definitely a plus!

Picture 1: Researchers from University of Koblenz – Landau having a nice time at the Amager Strandpark (cc: Verena Gerstle)

The conference took place at the Bella Center in the south of Copenhagen (Picture 2 ). On Sunday afternoon the conference started with the opening reception and welcome drinks in the evening. Attending this conference was not only special because it was the first in-person conference after two years, but also because we finally got to meet many of our former fellow students from the Ecotoxicology Masters in Landau (Picture 3). With many of them we are still in contact, but there is quite some distance between Landau and their new jobs. Gesa Amelung and Annika Buck work at the German Environment Agency in Dessau, while Cedric Abele is doing his PhD in Stockholm and Edith Padilla in Neaples. It felt so good to catch up (work- and life-related) and it was very exciting to see where our studies led us.

Picture 2: The location of the conference – Bella Center (cc: Verena Gerstle)
Picture 3: Ecotoxicology Alumnis from University of Koblenz – Landau at the 32nd SETAC Conference (cc: Verena Gerstle)

On the first “real” conference day, we had the opportunity to listen to many interesting talks, to walk through the exhibition halls of the Bella Center to look at posters and to discuss research with a lot of nice fellow researchers. During the coffee breaks, you could connect with people presenting posters and exchange business cards (if you brought some). Our evenings were filled with exploring the city together (Nyhavn – Picture 4), having drinks (Islands Brygge – Picture 5) and cooking dinner in our Airbnb kitchen. Generally, Denmark is very expensive, but during the day we were supplied with a very delicious buffet from SETAC and in the evenings, we mostly cooked ourselves – so we were not bankrupt at the end of the conference and we managed quite well.

Picture 4: Our team of researchers at Nyhavn (cc: Verena Gerstle)
Picture 5: A couple of our researchers having drinks and a good time at the Islands Brygge (cc: Verena Gerstle)

Wednesday was probably the most exciting day for us all (after Tomás Duque already had his talk on Tuesday). There were two sessions from Mirco Bundschuh: the first one was about pollutants affecting microbial communities, where Sara Goncalves held a presentation about viticultural runoff and effects on leaf-associated microbial communities and shredders. Verena Schreiner presented her work on the deployment of standardized methods to investigate leaf consumption in the field. The second session was chaired by Mirco and Alessandro Manfrin  which focused on stressors across ecosystem boundaries. In this session, Sara Kolbenschlag and Alex Roodt presented their current research in the framework of SystemLink, dealing with pesticide effects on non-target chironomids (Picture 6 ). They all did an amazing job in presenting their research. The others had the chance to present their work as posters which they also did very well. Frederik Meyer, Tobias Schmitt, Sebastian Pietz, Eric Bollinger, Alexander Feckler, Sophie Oster and Verena Gerstle used this opportunity to spend lots of time talking to interesting people and even discussing possible future cooperations. Networking is crucial for conferences but hard to implement in online meetings, so for us, Wednesday definitely was the most exciting day since there were many ecology-focused topics. However, if you are interested in microplastics – this was, indeed, YOUR conference as there were at least two sessions about plastic pollution every day.

Picture 6: Sara Kolbenschlag (far left) and Alex Roodt (far right) presenting their research on pesticide effects on non-target chironomids; Verena Gerstle with Alessandro Manfrin (centre) presenting their poster. (cc: Verena Gerstle)

On the last day, we were all quite exhausted. But there was one last exciting thing to do to close the conference: Listening to Mirco Bundschuh’s speech as the newly elected SETAC Europe president (Picture 7 ). Afterwards, we explored the city, walked around the free commune of Christiania on the island of Christianshavn and through downtown Copenhagen to get some souvenirs. Tired but happy, we went to bed early that evening to not miss our (overly crowded) train back home early the next morning.

Picture 7: A team photo (left); Mirco Bundschuh giving a speech as the new SETAC Europe President (right) (cc: Verena Gerstle)

To wrap this experience up: Copenhagen is a beautiful city, in-person meetings are still a next-level experience and always a good way to meet old colleagues and friends from all over the world. Until next year!”