Sascha Nicklisch is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Toxicology at UC Davis. Dr. Nicklish's lab focuses on how drugs and environmental chemicals enter and accumulate in humans and other organisms. We asked Dr. Nicklish a few questions to introduce him to the NorCal SETAC community.
To learn more about his work, join us at our Winter Social on February 11 in Davis, CA. Details here.
What research are you currently working on? What excites you about it?
Our research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of drug and chemical uptake and distribution in humans and other organisms. In my previous research position, I have shown that environmental chemicals found in seafood can block protective proteins in the body that typically fend off toxins and toxicants. The Nicklisch Lab seeks to develop new high-throughput screening assays to identify more members of this novel class of environmental chemicals, to provide meal recommendations based on current levels of these compounds in food, and to guide the future design of green chemicals that are better eliminated from human bodies.
What excites me about this research is that it has both a fundamental science and applied science component to it. Investigating the molecular mechanisms of pollutant bioaccumulation through our food demands an interdisciplinary approach, including collaborations between biochemists, molecular biologists, ecologists, biomedical scientists and nutritionists. The development of toxico-nutritional guidelines and meal recommendations as another outcome of this research connects our research with the interests of the general public.
What led you to your line of work?
Throughout my career, I have been working with proteins and in particular on membrane transporters. I was always fascinated by how these molecular gates regulate uptake and distribution of molecules into and between cells. During my Postdoc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography I was further exposed to a specific class of transporters, the so-called drug transporters. These proteins are considered the bouncer of the cell: They specifically recognize molecules that are foreign to the cell and kick them out before they can enter and possibly damage the cell. Surprisingly, some foreign chemicals, the class of Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs, can bypass this crucial defense system and ultimately bioaccumulate in organisms. Understanding the mechanisms by which these chemicals avoid cellular export and ultimately accumulate in our food and bodies has been my primary research interest ever since.
Why are you drawn to the field of environmental toxicology?
Environmental Toxicology is a broad field of research that allows the investigation of toxicological impacts on flora, fauna and humans from a macro-scale of global pollution down to the microscale of nanoplastic and other industrial chemical uptake into organisms. I personally felt drawn to this field since I felt that there was a gap in research concerning the biochemistry underlying the effects of pollution in organisms. While global assessments of animal and plant diversity decline on an economical, biological and genetic scale are popular strategies to evaluate acute and chronic effects of man-made pollution, I am genuinely interested in investigating the biochemistry that allows these chemicals to persist in the environment and to accumulate and cause injury and damage in all organisms of the food chain, including the impacts on humans.
How do you see your role as a scientist in contributing to human/ecosystem health and sustainability?
As a faculty in the ETOX Department, I consider myself as a scientist, teacher and research ambassador with a clear mandate to do high-level research on pollutant bioaccumulation and their effects on humans while also disseminating and discussing my findings with other researchers, governmental officials, businesses and local communities alike. Specifically, I think that breaking down the erratic pollution-->disease model with a fresh biochemical eye can help scientists and the general public to better understand some essential things:
Please join the Green Science Policy Institute and our partners working to reduce harm from toxic chemicals at the Flame Retardant and PFAS Dilemma. Since 2007, these meetings have educated decision-makers in science, government, and business to protect our health & environment from Six Classes of chemicals of concern. Register HERE.
When: Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM
Where: Banatao Auditorium, 330 Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley (2594 Hearst Ave., Berkeley, CA)
Cost: $10 students; $25 non-profit, government, academia, etc; $50 corporate & business.
(Costs cover the venue, continental breakfast, lunch, & snacks.)
Thank You for Attending #NorCalSETAC19!28th Annual Meeting of NorCal SETAC
May 2-3, 2019
California EPA Building
1001 I Street, Sacramento
A look back:
A new Inclusive Diversity SETAC North America committee is being spearheaded by Latonya Jackson and Austin Gray, with a kickoff Meet and Greet to be held at the Annual Meeting in Sacramento in November! As the Northern California chapter president, I am very excited that this committee is getting started, and our entire Board of Directors is looking forward to working with the committee to figure out how we can better support and serve underrepresented groups in environmental sciences in our region.
This is an important issue for me because I recently made a transition from working in consulting and government to an environmental nonprofit job, and after having lived and worked in the highly diverse San Francisco Bay Area for many years it has been an eye-opening experience to see how little diversity there is in most environmental nonprofits. Environmentalism is often seen as an elitist movement, and in fact historically people of color were often excluded and marginalized from this movement. It is time to change that. Like most of you, I am interested not just in the science side of things, but in utilizing my work to make the world a more sustainable place to live. In order to develop innovative solutions that will be implemented on a large scale with popular support, we need to include people from all backgrounds on our teams, and to value the diverse perspectives they bring.
We encourage all of you to come to support the committee and provide your input. Please note that you do NOT need to be a member of an underrepresented group to attend and show your support – all are welcome! You will have the opportunity to meet those involved with setting up the committee and find out more about it, and you can sign up to become a member, representative, supporter, or collaborator. In addition, many members of your local NorCal Chapter Board of Directors will be present, and we would love to hear your ideas on how we can improve inclusion and diversity in our chapter!
NorCal SETAC is attending the Bay-Delta Science Conference September 10th and 11th
There is certainly a great deal of crossover between the interests of the 10th Biennial Bay Delta Science Conference and the expertise of the NorCal Chapter of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). This year’s theme of “Our Estuary at an Intersection” highlights the crossroads of many disciplines in the management of the Bay-Delta. From ecological fluctuations in sensitive habitats to understanding the impacts of environmental contaminants in the waters of Northern California, our society’s members have regularly shared their work at this conference put on by the Bay Delta Science Program, the Bay Delta Stewardship Council, and the US Geological Survey. This year we are inviting our Bay-Delta colleagues to join us at the 39th Annual SETAC North America Conference being held right here in Sacramento this November 4th-8th.
Several of our board members are attending the Bay Delta Science Conference next week and in an effort to promote our upcoming SETAC North America conference, NorCal SETAC will be hosting a table at the poster presentations and socials at the Sacramento Convention Center. We are inviting our chapter members who are also planning to attend these sessions to stop by our table and help us welcome other conference participants and let them know SETAC means to you. It will be fun evening full of what NorCal SETAC does best: science and networking! We will have chapter representatives and some sweet treats available at our table during the following times:
Monday, September 10th
5:15 pm - 7:15 pm
Board members in attendance:
Tuesday, September 11th
5:15 pm – 7:15 pm
Board members in attendance:
Please email Bryand Duke at Bryand.Duke@wildlife.ca.gov for more information on these events. See you there!
More information about our upcoming SETAC NA conference in November can be found here. There is still time to register for SETAC NA! Stay tuned for conference details and highlights by checking this page or signing up for our mailing list here.