Advancing exposure assessment approaches to improve wildlife risk assessment

Christy Morrissey*, Clémentine Fritsch, Katharine Fremlin, William Adams, Katrine Borgå, Markus Brinkmann, Igor Eulaers, Frank Gobas, Dwayne R.J. Moore, Nico van den Brink, Ted Wickwire

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The exposure assessment component of a Wildlife Ecological Risk Assessment aims to estimate the magnitude, frequency, and duration of exposure to a chemical or environmental contaminant, along with characteristics of the exposed population. This can be challenging in wildlife as there is often high uncertainty and error caused by broad-based, interspecific extrapolation and assumptions often because of a lack of data. Both the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have broadly directed exposure assessments to include estimates of the quantity (dose or concentration), frequency, and duration of exposure to a contaminant of interest while considering “all relevant factors.” This ambiguity in the inclusion or exclusion of specific factors (e.g., individual and species-specific biology, diet, or proportion time in treated or contaminated area) can significantly influence the overall risk characterization. In this review, we identify four discrete categories of complexity that should be considered in an exposure assessment—chemical, environmental, organismal, and ecological. These may require more data, but a degree of inclusion at all stages of the risk assessment is critical to moving beyond screening-level methods that have a high degree of uncertainty and suffer from conservatism and a lack of realism. We demonstrate that there are many existing and emerging scientific tools and cross-cutting solutions for tackling exposure complexity. To foster greater application of these methods in wildlife exposure assessments, we present a new framework for risk assessors to construct an “exposure matrix.” Using three case studies, we illustrate how the matrix can better inform, integrate, and more transparently communicate the important elements of complexity and realism in exposure assessments for wildlife. Modernizing wildlife exposure assessments is long overdue and will require improved collaboration, data sharing, application of standardized exposure scenarios, better communication of assumptions and uncertainty, and postregulatory tracking. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2023;00:1–25.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674-698
Number of pages25
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Exposure estimation
  • Risk assessment
  • Screening-level assessment
  • Uncertainty assessment
  • Wildlife


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