Lorna Dawson from the McCauley Institute was a guest speaker at the
conference and she kindly compiled a diary outlining the conference and her
experiences in Calgary:
Saturday 29th August
Today was a long and tiring day; it always is when you are gaining or losing
time through travel ... Dr Who, you have my sympathies! Flight excellent,
views as we flew over Greenland were tremendous. I imagined the pristine
glaciated land below where no man (or indeed woman) had ever walked.
View from the plane
Arrived at the airport to be greeted by a woman wearing the largest Stetson
you can imagine, driving a golf buggy and insisting that I hop aboard! Well that
was the way to travel within airports!!!
As I drove into Calgary city I was struck by the contrast between the browns,
greens and yellows of the flat Alberta breadbasket plains with the grey gridded
modern city sprawl. In the background I could see the Rockies beckoning.....
First afternoon in Calgary – 30th August
Walked the streets of Calgary and was surprised by the many homeless
people. Talked to some of the locals sitting enjoying the sun who remarked at
the many similarities with the UK. They talk about the House of Commons
here similar to the UK. The Senate equates to the House of Lords.... the good
guys apparently get into Senate here!
The Old Guys
The old town hall contrasts with the new glass building behind. A city of old
and new: living and dying. I wandered to the telecom tower but did not venture
up, what with my fear of heights! Instead I went into the gallery and museum.
Here I saw the spectacular art and cultural resources. They featured the
landscapes of the western Canadian Pacific Railway route.
Tall city scape
My favourite painting was of Lake Louise by Frederic Bell-Smith. The
chronology of the painting follows that of the development of the railway. The
Canadian people seem to feel at one with their great landscapes, and this is
also reflected in the designs and patterns on native goods. The Canadian
West certainly is a most majestic and awe inspiring place. The large herds of
buffalo that used to be here were destroyed for their fur and then their bones
used as fertilizer! However, like a lot of exploitation of natural resources, it was
not controlled and as a result numbers dwindled.
As I was walking back out into the sun, I glanced into the education centre
and then was persuaded to take part in a creative art production. I made a
moving film of my impression of the Canadian landscape through the windows
of a train. Maybe an idea for schools work back home? And then I got roped
into helping with the visiting Canadian school children. KE indeed!
Helping at the national museum
Afternoon- Sunday 30th August
The International Network of Environmental Forensics (endorsed by the Royal
Society of Chemistry), see http://www.inefconference.com/, held in downtown
Calgary, got off to a good start. There are over 119 delegates from 11
countries; with over 10 time zones spanned! My body still thinks that it is 7
Day 2-Monday 31st August
Fantastic organising committee…Great group and so helpful...
Good talks; the day started with one from Brian Murphy from Chicago on
appropriate methods for detecting sources of chlorinated solvents, additives,
degradation products and the use of isotopes. Isotopes have been used to
distinguish manufactured TCE from TCE formed from the degradation of PCE.
The next talk was from Zhendi Wang from Ontario, a world expert on the
analysis of spilled oil. There is an oil spill every week, somewhere in the
world. Examples shown were those of the Detroit river spill, and the 2004
HMCE submarine fire accident. He showed how integrated oil fingerprinting
methods characterise and distinguish the different hydrocarbon sources in
spill oil samples when mixed with other hydrocarbons, such as tracing the
sources of the spilled crude oil from Hurricane Katrina.
Marion Stelling, from the Netherlands Forensic Institute, gave a presentation
on sampling strategies in criminal cases, and showed the need for experts to
Yvan Razafindratandra, from Adamas in Paris, gave a legal perspective in his
talk on environmental law as a two way process, arguing that science and law
development must work together. Our legal system has origins in Roman law,
guided by two arts: the art of discourse and the art of observation.
Environmental forensics belongs to the latter art.
This entails the fact finding, analysis and construction of gathered facts. The
European Liability Directive sets up a system for soils, water and protected
species, not the air. The organisation taking decisions on environmental
damage and remedial action is vested primarily in the relevant administrative
authority, NOT the judge. Discussion about this and the Water Framework
Directive stressed the increasing importance of environmental forensics.
My keynote started off the afternoon session and was well received (I think,
although it still felt like I was jet lagged).
The next speaker was Paul Philip from Oklahoma. He showed that while
stable isotope analysis will not necessarily provide the silver bullet, it can give
additional information that will be beneficial. It can provide a tool to identify
source discrimination and the extent of natural attenuation particularly for
groundwater contaminants. He also showed the benefits of 2D isotope
analysis (i.e. C and H isotopes) in evaluating mechanisms of degradation. It
can distinguish abiogenic from biogenic sources.
Thomas Boyd, from the naval research labs in Washington DC, talked about
hydrocarbon source apportionment using compound specific C isotope
analysis to identify apportionment of blame when there is more than one
potentially responsible party. He used multivariate statistics at spatial and
temporal scales to assess which well most likely released the hydrocarbon
contaminant. Challenges are that groundwater models are not helpful, and
fractionation due to degradation is not predictable.
Julie Sueker, of the company Aracadis, considered the issue of dealing with
small sample sets. For many constituents, the abiotic and microbial
degradation results in a shift in the isotopic composition as the main process
is ongoing. Sorption, dilution, and volatilisation have a negligible effect.
Predicting this degradation is not yet currently possible. Using case studies,
she showed CSIA for nitrate, sulphate, chromate, benzene, MTBE and
chlorinated solvents, and that 15 N and 18 O were good indicators of nitrate
There is so much work going on in the field of environmental forensics, much
of which is directly relevant for our work at the Macaulay. It is good to see that
we have much in common.
Sculpture in the park
Tired, I headed home early (for Canada; still late for the UK!) to my hotel and
then found myself being chased back by a group of junkies! Yes, I had got
myself lost in the Chinese zone of Calgary last night (even in a grid-based city
a geographer can get lost!) ... I crashed out in my room exhausted and slightly
scared. However, it had been a great day of networking. Great people at the
meeting! Gwen and Tina were so helpful; thanks both!
Day 3- Tuesday 1st September
Packed up now and ready for my last day here in sunny Calgary.
The first talk of the day was from Leo Rebele from Gannett Fleming on 3D
modelling. Complex lithology and multiple responsible parties all makes
forensic work difficult to demonstrate. 3D modelling can be very compelling
and effective for communication, with examples of the use of such tools for
both investigation and analytical side rapid assessment methods, such as
laser induced fluorescence etc. These methods can help prioritise further
strategic sampling. The tools are now accepted by regulators and can replace
traditional approaches, and indeed can be used for developing a conceptual
site model rather than costly soil sampling.
Environmental visualisation tools however are not quantitative. ArcGIS is
being used for displaying multiple layers of data, with outputs from kriging
analysis to help direct areas of further drilling. This helps represent where
sites are in relation to the position of a flume.
Other papers considered:
(i) the sources of contaminants in soils using chemometric techniques,
using chemometric approaches for analysing paddy fields and looked
for faecal contamination sewage sites;
(ii) the use of receptor modelling to apportion sources affecting chemical
composition of particles at the Black Sea. Results of the analysis
showed that the main components of the aerosol population included
soil particles, sea salt and particles from a power plant on the Black
Sea coast of Turkey. This was made up of metal rich particles and
particles from traffic emissions which could be sourced to Ukraine,
Russia and several Balkan countries;
(iii) arsenic in apatite grains at levels which have been under-represented
in past estimates. Arsenic concentrations in background native soil
were compared to native mine tailings and paint sludge disposal sites.
The arsenic in native and background soil did not correlate with any
other soil constituents and there was no association of arsenic in
native soil with mine tailings or paint sludge arsenic. The use of a
discriminant analysis picked out differences between the groups and
results showed a strong separation of all 3 groups largely based on Ba,
Pb, Zn, Ti. Undisturbed native soil did not show any indication of
contamination from leaching. There was not a good separation
between mine tailings.
(iv) Rachel Mohler from Chevron Energy spoke about the appropriate use
of statistical tools to improve confidence in analytical conclusions.
Brian Keating of Calgary zoo gave the lunchtime talk about his visit to
Borneo. He spoke about Canadians being 'polar people'. While he was in the
dark humid life of the tropics (searching for the orangutans!) he kept his sanity
by reading the story of Shackleton. He made the parallel to the age of heroics
in Shackleton's time. The story was an example of how Shackleton's
leadership enabled their survival. Scott by contrast perished through top down
leadership. The way to lead is to work alongside group members to gain
mutual respect as Shackleton demonstrated. Shackleton knew that humour
was important to create bonds and keep one healthy. They had a party where
half the men dressed as women! This was called the ‘Ritz party’.
Ernest Shackleton took 4 months to rescue his men from Elephant Island.
However, back in Britain they were considered not to be heroes but draft
dodgers. The talk ended with shots of the albatross and expressions of
optimism and enthusiasm for the environment of our planet. He was a man
ahead of his time!
Brian Keating at his book signing
It was hard for any man to follow such an enlightening talk. However, Raul
Cano gave an excellent overview about microbial source tracking (MST) and
its application. He showed how MST methods are being applied in the
development of total maximum daily loads (TMDL) as part of the requirements
of the Clean Water Act. He talked about how molecular methods are now
being applied to improve our waters by identifying problem sources, and to
determine the effects of remedial solutions which had been implemented.
Christopher Kitts of California Polytechnic presented an example of the use of
MST techniques for use at Pismo Beach, California. Results were presented
from faecal ocean mapping and the detection of e-coli, and the use of new
TRFLP source tracking. Through a transect along the beach bird droppings
appeared to be the main source of faecal contamination. Dogs defecated on
the beach and this was often left. A pigeon survey showed 218 sitting, 117
roosting and 124 were sitting on neighbouring buildings. Michael Black
showed that hot spots of faecal indicators were near the pier areas. They
designed a sampling system which avoided the area beneath the pier. Sample
analysis depended on time after collection. Several beach failures occurred for
coliform and e coli. MPN tests were carried out and the spikes over the e-coli
limits correlated with times of peak tide. As tide goes out numbers drop. This
shows the importance of time and tide for sampling. Who is pooping at Pismo
Pier? People, pooches, ponies? Exclusion netting for pigeons is the next likely
approach which is right in line with local public opinion.
Zhenhui Goa then gave an interesting summary of the process of automation
of visual management
Zhenhui Goa and his team share the platform
It was a great day again and lots of useful information exchanged. It is good to
see that in chemical, modelling approaches, statistical, analytical and
biological we are up there in our use of techniques along with our peers.
Then we went to sample a traditional cowboy café… not for the vegetarians
Talk by Paul Boehm of Exponent Inc, identified that a proper environmental
forensic study in soil or sediments depends on a three part approach: 1 the
right representative set of samples, 2 the right set of target analytes with the
right quality and 3 the right data analysis approach. Up to 53 compounds are
now used. The use of tight SOPs is important. Trained operators are important
as GC operator must draw the appropriate baseline. Standard reference
materials are essential.
Petrogenic, biogenic and pyrogenic sources can often be difficult to ascertain.
Multiple lines of evidence (i.e. statistical data analysis) provide the best
approach for the use of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in
Patterns, PCA plots and ratio and double ratio analyses can all be equally
informative. Quantitative apportionment techniques is also another approach -
source driven is better than sample driven.
Antoine Assal from Bob Kalin's group at Strathclyde showed the great
potential of stable isotopic fingerprints of PAHs by GC IRMS. Working on a tar
works case it was illustrated that such methods can help decipher new
degradation pathways of lighter PAHs. The use of heavier PAHs are more
reliable. They do not fractionate.
Results suggest that C and H are subject to the same degradative processes.
Position specific isotope analysis is a new development which will help
environmental forensics. 'Isotopic fingerprinting' is this term relevant? It
implies that they are unique but they have been shown not to be unique.
The distribution of PAHs in urban soils in the US from over 500 sites and 42
population centres was presented by David Mauro of META environmental Inc.
The site use was recorded, most being on municipal and heavy residential.
Heavy industrial sites were not focussed on. This background data allows
regulators to identify sites outside the background signatures. PAHs come
from asphalt, pavement sealers, roofing materials, automobile exhausts
(modern) as well as more ancient sources. Fluoranthene to pyrene ratio was
helpful for identifying sources. However when it was plotted against
benzanthracene to chrysene ratio better groupings were identified. The oil and
gas industries have an interest in the ability to predict biodegradation of
A good day with lots of interesting presentations. Food for thought about how
these approaches can transfer from one application such as environmental
forensics to criminal forensics.
Last day in Canada
...So sad that I missed the Rockies this time… they were calling me from the
horizon as they shot up into the deep blue sky...the rest of the group were
lucky enough to be able to stay on after lectures… I had to come home....
However, the last evening was bliss with great company and good food...a
warm sunny evening with squirrels running about our feet…never mind, I am
sure I will be back...and thanks Gwen and Tina …and all the rest of the
organising committee. It was a great conference - lots of exciting methods and
approaches soon… and keep in touch!
And then the local beer and seafood…