Researchers Receive Top Honors For Risk Analysis Paper

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC (February 16, 2010)A collaborative effort among USDA Forest Service, North Carolina State University, and Canadian Forest Service scientists recently received top honors from the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA). Researchers co-authored a paper titled, Evaluating Critical Uncertainty Thresholds in a Spatial Model of Forest Pest Invasion Risk. The paper explores the role of increased uncertainties in pest risk mapping and was among five papers selected in the 2009 Best Paper Awards category. The award was presented at the SRA’s December annual meeting in Baltimore, MD.

Society for Risk AnalysisCo-authors Frank H. Koch (North Carolina State University), Denys Yemshanov (Canadian Forest Service), Daniel W. McKenney (Canadian Forest Service), and William D. Smith (Forest Service, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center) published the paper in the SRA journal Risk Analysis (September 2009). Using Sirex noctilio, a nonnative woodwasp recently detected in the United States and Canada, the researchers analyzed how uncertainty in risk models could change a risk map’s outcome and, consequently, its reliability as a decision support tool. Risk maps are used by forest land managers, decision makers, and regulators to address quarantining, monitoring, and controlling invasive species.

Bill Smith notes, “The most important aspect of this research is to facilitate the Agency’s compliance with the Data Quality Act that ensures the quality of statistical information disseminated by USDA agencies.” The authors believe their analysis of the uncertainties associated with an invasion model’s underlying assumptions, especially given the spatial context, is unique and innovative. The research also encourages additional investigation regarding severe uncertainties, including the role humans play in facilitating non-native forest pest spread.

“This is an outstanding honor,” says Danny C. Lee, Eastern Threat Center Director. “Risk mapping is an important decision-making tool that enables land managers to anticipate potential forest threats and respond accordingly. Advanced research to refine these tools encourages long-term forest sustainability."

For additional information about risk mapping, or to download the paper, please visit

For More Information

Contact Frank Koch at (919) 549-4006, email


Established in 2005, EFETAC is actively developing new technology and tools to anticipate and respond to emerging forest threats. Headquartered with the Southern Research Station in Asheville, the Center also has an office in Research Triangle Park, NC. Visit for additional information.

About SRA

The Society for Risk Analysis is a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society that provides an open forum for all those who are interested in risk analysis. Please visit for more information.

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