Risk (postdoc)

Integrating ecological models in risk assessment and risk management

Agnieszka Hunka, Postdoc, Roskilde University, Denmark
Contact: Enable-Javascript@To-Read-E-mail-Address

This project systematically addresses the ways in which risk assessors and risk managers in different EU countries assess ecological risks in actual practice and, on this basis, identify where and how mechanistic models can play an important role.

The European Union legislation sets general standards for environmental protection aiming at achieving and maintaining high biodiversity and sustainable populations, thus ecological risk assessments of pesticides have to be conducted. However, standard tests are usually limited to organism-level endpoints, and risk assessments are given in a form of hazard ratios, which seem to be far from the population level. One of the ways to increase the realism of risk assessment is to employ ecological effect models together with laboratory and mesocosm studies. Although modelling is widely used to simulate the fate of pesticides, the approach to effect models amongst stakeholders seems to be cautious and often sceptical. We can speculate that such a situation is not only caused by technical constraints, but also by a number of social factors, like the perception of pesticides, for instance. Therefore the aim of the RISK project is to study and uncover social factors underlying current processes of ecological risk assessment and management. The project also contributes to the CREAM modelling guidelines for industry, regulators, and other stakeholders bridging gaps between different risk assessment communities. RISK is important for the success of the other ESRs’ projects because it helps to understand different mindsets prevailing in different sectors. The outcome of RISK will help ESRs to design their projects and present their results in a way that is easily accessible and usable by representatives of the other sectors (industry, regulatory authorities) in a large number of European countries.

Some of the questions I am trying to answer are:

  • How is a decision (and agreement) to include new risk assessment methods in the guidance reached – what are the implications for ecological modelling?
  • How does the general public’s view on pesticide and risk perception affect risk assessment guidance?
  • What are the challenges for risk communication among experts?
  • How can we improve communication of risk management decisions to the general public?

 RISK project publications now available:

 Hunka A.D., Meli, M., Thit, A., Palmqvist A., Thorbek P., Forbes V.E. (2013). Stakeholders’ perspective on ecological modeling in environmental risk assessment of pesticides – challenges and opportunities. Risk Analysis 33 (1), 68-79.

Hunka A.D., Palmqvist A., Thorbek P., Forbes V.E (in press). Risk Communication Discourse among Ecological Risk Assessment Professionals and Its Implications for Communication with Nonexperts. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management

Are you interested in public risk perception, trust in information sources, and the role of scientists in risk communication? If so, we invite you to take part in our study.  The survey fully respects your privacy (no sensitive data are stored or collected) and takes less than 10 minutes to complete: https://www.survey-xact.dk/LinkCollector?key=R6NA4EEXCJ15

Thank you very much!

Supervisor: Valery Forbes (RUC)
Co-Supervisor: Pernille Thorbek (Syngenta)
Associated partners