SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  14 February 2013
Volume 14 Issue 2

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SETAC Winter School “Mechanistic Effect Modelling for Ecological Risk Assessment of Chemicals”

Volker Grimm, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig

Mechanistic effect models (MEMs) have high potential to improve the ecological realism of current risk assessment procedures. They comprise ecological and organism-level effect models. Ecological models, for example of populations, allow modellers to extrapolate effects on individual organisms to the population level, to provide more precise estimates of exposure, and to identify relevant spatial and temporal scales for risk assessment. Organism-level models, for example TK/TD models, allow predictions of the concentration of toxicants within organisms over time and how they affect the organism.

MEMs are increasingly discussed among stakeholders involved in risk assessment as one of the most promising and important elements of future regulatory risk assessments. Still, few stakeholders have background or training in developing and assessing MEMs. Therefore, the EU-funded training and research network CREAM set out to train 20 PhD students and three postdocs researchers both in effect modelling and risk assessment and to develop prototypes of MEMs that can be developed into regulatory tools.

CREAM is in its final year and organized, to transfer its know-how to further stakeholders in Europe, the first SETAC Winter School on “Mechanistic Effect Modelling for Ecological Risk Assessment of Chemicals” at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Germany, 14-17 January 2013.

The course was given by Volker Grimm (UFZ), coordinator of CREAM, Jürgen Groeneveld (UFZ), one of CREAM’s project managers, Andreas Focks (Wageningen University/Alterra), one of CREAM’s postdocs, and Benjamin Martin (UFZ), one of CREAM’s PhD students. Pernille Thorbek (Syngenta) substantially contributed to preparing the course.

The 21 participants were from 10 European countries and from the different sectors involved in risk assessment: regulators (6), industry (2), consulting firms (2) and academia (11); eight participants were PhD or master students.

The course started with an introduction into the principles of mechanistic modelling and an overview of relevant model types. Then, the free software platform NetLogo was introduced, which was used to implement a first, stylized population model including the application of a hypothetical pesticide. This model was taken to demonstrate principles of model analysis, in particular sensitivity analysis. A short overview was given over TK/TD and Dynamic Energy Budget models, and then a model of the wood mouse in arable fields was presented, developed by Chun Liu, another PhD student of CREAM. Scenarios of how this model can be used in regulatory risk assessment were discussed. Finally, TRACE, a new framework for documenting MEMs and their development, was explained. TRACE is the core element of the Good Modelling Practice that CREAM wants to help establish.

More details about MEMs and CREAM can be found on the website. The SETAC Europe 23rd Annual Meeting in Glasgow, United Kingdom, will include several sessions related to MEMs, and CREAM will host an open conference in Leipzig, Germany, 10-14 June 2013. We hope to see you there!

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