This course introduces ecological risk assessment (ERA), describing the basics of how ERAs are most often conducted by governments and environmental consultants. In the U.S. the process often follows that of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but Canada and Europe use somewhat different approaches. A wide range of assessments exist dealing with chemical-specific criteria development to the remediation of small to mega-sites exceeding $1billion in costs. Common shortfalls often made when conducting ERAs, such as failing to adequately link stressor exposures to biological effects will be discussed. Case study examples will demonstrate the state-of-the-practice and new approaches that decrease uncertainty associated with the ERA process. The important linkage of ERA issues to decision-making in the risk management process will be emphasized, with real-world, high visibility case studies discussed by national experts.
In addition, this year we will utilize a new component to the class – premiering the Michigan Sustainability Class project, in partnership with the U-M School of Public Health. Our case example will focus on the Gelman industry contamination of the Ann Arbor aquifer. Students will "enter" the immersive case environment as an assignment (readings, watching videos, listening to interviews) for a couple of days. The in-class case discussion offers a chance to digest and debate elements of the case, after which there will be an engaged learning exercise. We will consider the environmental, human health, and political complexities within which specific quantitative, spatial or other skills are nested in many sustainability situations.