25 Jan 2024

Bayesian Networks Take Center Stage at the SETAC North America 44th Annual Meeting

Wayne Landis, Western Washington University (WWU); John Carriger, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA); Jannicke Moe, Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA); Mariana Cains, U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

The Bayesian network (BN) session at the SETAC North America 44th Annual Meeting was conducted for the sixth consecutive year. Since its inception in 2018 during the SETAC North America annual meeting in Sacramento, the BN session has grown into a multi-faceted platform for the presentation of research on probabilistic risk assessment and management. The platform and poster sessions were held concurrently on Monday, 13 November. This year’s presenters and co-authors represented countries in North America, Europe, Africa and Australia and brought case studies from different parts of the world. One major feature of the session has been the engagement and encouragement of first-time users and early career researchers. Half of the presentations were first authored by graduate students. Session chairs have developed and presented training sessions at prior SETAC conferences and continue to engage others with BNs and their capabilities. The 2023 BN session marked an inflection point demonstrating the growing spread of the use of BNs in risk assessment and environmental management.

This year’s presentations demonstrated the expansion of the session as a whole into new areas and themes that are highly important to the future practice of risk assessment. Critical problem areas to the SETAC membership were covered, including microplastics (Cynthia Kuhn, WWU) and pollinator decline (Paul Glaum, Waterborne Environmental). Gordon O’Brien, University of Mpumalanga, presented an instructive BN approach to managing a large watershed in South Africa with stakeholder engagement as one of the many features of high interest. Multiple stressors were also a major theme across presentations including pesticides (Jannicke Moe, NIVA), multiple chemical contaminants (Emma Sharpe, WWU), and physical, biological and chemical stressors (Melissa Wade, University of KwalZulu-Natal). The impact of climate change in conjunction with multiple stressors was a much-needed priority with case studies on endangered species in Eastern Washington (Wayne Landis, WWU) and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (Sophie Mentzel, NIVA). Along with multiple stressors, case studies also exhibited a large spatial extent including the mercury risks in the Mackenzie River watershed (Una Jermilova, Trent University), pharmaceuticals across Norway (Sam Welch, NIVA), and multiple stressors across the Limpopo River Basin in South Africa (Gordon O’Brien). Expansions also included new problem areas, such as injury assessment approaches (April Reed, WWU) and the development of assessment tools with structural causal models (John Carriger, USEPA). As the application and research areas expand, the audience continues to grow. Both sessions were well attended and continued the enthusiastic discussions on BN and environmental assessments.

Author’s contact: Carriger.John@epa.gov