Methods of Environmental Decision Analysis
Offered fall semester.
Decisions involving environmental resources and environmental health require both technical input and a complex balancing of outcomes, priorities, and uncertainties. This course will introduce students to tools for balancing conflicting priorities (such as costs versus human health protection) and evaluating uncertainties when making environmental decisions, either in government agencies or private industry. The goal of the course is to learn how to provide structure to “messy” decision problems. By the end of the course, students will have learned new methods and tools for structuring such problems and providing advice on alternative choices to decision-makers. Students will learn to build decision models using spreadsheet add-on tools (PrecisionTree) and stand-alone software (Analytica).
Environmental Risk Assessment
Offered spring semester.
Risk assessment fundamentally involves the integration of knowledge across numerous disciplines. Epidemiology and toxicology are used to understand the health risks of coming into contact with a given level of a harmful chemical or microorganism. Exposure levels can be estimated through field measurements or mathematical models of pollutant fate and transport and can sometimes include information about human physiology to better understand the actual dose delivered to an organ. A formal risk assessment mathematically combines these and other pieces of information with a careful consideration of the relevant uncertainties to arrive at estimates of risk useful for decision-making.
In this course, we aim to explore all of the major components of risk assessment, learning how to make the critical calculations but also exploring the underlying assumptions and considering the implications for policy and public health.