Introduction

The Data 61 Ecological and Environmental Risk Assessment (DEERA) team are one of only a few groups around the world performing probabilistic risk assessment in environmental domains. We aim to meet the highest scientific standards in our assessments, complementing these wherever possible with monitoring strategies designed to test the risk predictions. We adopt a coherent Bayesian approach to uncertainty, supported by carefully structured expert elicitation. We have experience across a number of application domains, most notably synthetic biology, biosecurity, shipping, coal resource development and major coastal developments.

The team

We are a specialised team of risk analysts, modellers and statisticians, with over 80 years of combined experience in hazard analysis, probabilistic risk assessment, statistical modelling and mathematical modelling. We are nationally and internationally recognised for our expertise in probabilistic risk assessment and monitoring designs, and have contributed by invitation to the activities of the Australian Academy of Sciences and the United States National Academy of Sciences Engineering and Medicine .

  • Scott Foster, Statistics
  • Jeffrey Dambacher, Qualitative modelling
  • Geoff Hosack, Risk & statistics
  • Nicholas Beeton, Biological modelling
  • Jessica Ford, Statistics
  • David Peel, Statistics & software
  • Adrien Ickowicz, Statistics
  • Keith Hayes, Risk & team leader

Our operating procedures and principles

The DEERA team adhere to a set of operating procedures and principles that are designed to minimise motivational bias and ensure that our risk assessments maintain a high degree of transparency and objectivity. These procedures and principles are in addition to, and augment, the specific behaviours and ethical standards required of all CSIRO officers.

DEERA Team Standard Operating Procedures [docx · 1mb]

Project Portfolio

The DEERA team develop and implement probabilistic risk assessment methodology across a range of application domains. The following project portfolio is not exhaustive but rather provides some insight into the breadth and depth of our capability.

Genetic control of malaria vectors

We are conducting probabilistic risk assessments for the importation and controlled field release of malaria vector mosquitoes modified with a Homing Endonuclease Gene . These mosquitoes are the first stages in a development pathway of a gene-drive technology designed to eradicate malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. The risk assessments are used by Target Malaria to support their biosafety applications, and are funded through the United States Foundation for the National Institute of Health (FNIH) with funds provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Image courtesy of Paul Thomas and Chandran Pfitzner, University of Adelaide

Hazard analysis for mammalian gene drives

We are implementing systematic hazard analysis methods to identify Adverse Outcome Pathways associated with the development of synthetic gene drives designed to control populations of non-native mice on islands. This work is being completed in collaboration with North Carolina State University, the University of Adelaide, Texas A & M and the United States Department of Agriculture. This work is funded through the United States Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) safe genes programme , as part of a proof of concept of genetically contained synthetic gene drives in mammals.

Coal resource development

We helped to design, develop and implement a methodology for a landscape-level, cumulative, probabilistic risk assessment to support the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia’s Bioregional Assessments . The Bioregional Assessments are used by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development  to help provide advice to the federal government on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) and coal mining in Australia.

Environmental monitoring and ecological indicators

The team has been instrumental in the Marine Biodiversity Hub , playing key roles as Theme and Project leaders and participating in the overarching Science Leadership team. Our contributions include developing survey designs and Standard Operating Procedures for monitoring in Commonwealth Marine Reserves , developing a national blue print for monitoring Key Ecological Features , together with contributions to the National Marine Science Plan White paper on research and development priorities for Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Health.

Environmental shipping risks

With funding from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, we have evaluated the effectiveness of control options designed to reduce the risk of vessels grounding or colliding in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone . Through the Marine Biodiversity Hub, we have also examined the risk of vessels colliding with marine fauna. This work is being used in Australia’s National Strategy for Reducing Vessel Strike on Cetaceans and other Marine Megafauna.

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