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Population Modeling as a Critical Instrument in Ecological Risk Assessment

Posted by Jenn Collins on December 15, 2020

Chances are, if you’re working with ecological risk assessment issues, then you have noticed the process has been undergoing a shift from an individual organism-level focus to a population- or ecosystem-level focus. While not an overnight change, it is a welcome one as regulatory bodies and technical experts from across industries have long recognized the need for direct evaluation of risk to populations, rather than just extrapolated risk estimates from individual organisms. 

This shift has created an ever-increasing need for more complex modeling tools, such as population modeling, in the context of higher-tier risk assessment. Unsurprisingly, we’re also seeing a rise in the need for modeling approaches at the individual-level of assessment, including dynamic energy budget (DEB) models. DEB models are capable of bringing various physiological processes of individual organisms across the life cycle into a single modeling framework, and can represent combined effects of multiple stressors on organisms. DEB models can also be included in population models. Population and other ecological modeling approaches use data of species biological characteristics, and can examine exposure and effects relationships on higher levels of biological organization.

Waterborne has been swift to respond to this growing need. We are delighted to announce our partnership with the University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.  Through this collaboration, postdoctoral associate Chiara Accolla, Ph.D., will be working with Waterborne’s Amelie Schmolke, Ph.D., to help address our clients’ population-level issues through population and ecological modeling approaches. 

Chiara has an impressive background in modeling ecological systems. Her work has focused on model development to extrapolate effects of stressors, inter- and intra-species interactions at population, and higher levels of biological organization. Chiara’s specific experience in the examination of predator-prey interactions and the analysis of chemical effects on producer and consumer dynamics as well as her unique experience in DEB modeling make this partnership especially beneficial.

Chiara and Amelie have recently collaborated on a population model publication for Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management with co-authors from the University of Minnesota and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Leipzig, Germany. This article, featured by Prof. Valery Forbes at last month’s SETAC SciCon2, highlights the implementation of population models for ecological risk assessment. 

We at Waterborne are excited about this collaboration and have already seen the impact of Chiara’s expertise on our population modeling projects!

If you have any questions or comments about our population modeling services, please contact contact Amelie Schmolke, our Senior Ecological Modeler at schmolkea@waterborne-env.com.