Spring 2023 - REM 625 G100

Risk Assessment and Decision Analysis for Management of Natural Resources (5)

Class Number: 5140

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 9:30 AM – 11:20 AM
    AQ 5020, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Permission of instructor.



Use of quantitative methods of risk assessment and decision analysis to explicitly take uncertainty into account when making decisions in management of natural resources. Methods of quantifying uncertainty and the resulting risks. Examples from management of forests, wildlife, fisheries, water resources, energy, and toxic chemicals. Communicating information about uncertainties and the resulting risks to resource managers, the public, and scientists. Advantages and limitations of various quantitative methods. Includes computer laboratories.


Environmental decision-makers need to make explicit choices about regulating harmful activities, developing resources, and investing in restoration to meet biological, social and economic objectives across a broad range of stakeholder values. Decisions can be made via ad hoc approaches, usually in response to problems and conflicts as they arise, or by applying the formalism of structured decision-making that anticipates potential problems by explicitly considering objectives, alternative actions, uncertainties, and risks.


REM 625 introduces risk assessment and decision analysis concepts and techniques by covering a broad range of examples, including (1) conservation of birds, large mammals, and fishes, (2) air and water quality, (3) pest control, (4) toxic chemicals, (5) forest and wildlife management, (6) land use, (7) water-use planning, (8) fisheries management, and (9) monitoring program design.

Class discussions and lectures provide students with a broad perspective on risk assessment and structured decision-making approaches, while hands-on computer labs and assignments provide practical experience applying quantitative methods to realistic decision problems. After completing REM 625, students will be able to:

1. Describe primary sources of uncertainty in environmental systems and management;
2. Explain how uncertainty contributes to risk for environmental management;
3. Quantify uncertainties using Bayesian statistics;
4. Use quantitative decision analysis to rank alternative management actions while taking uncertainties into account;
5. Apply sensitivity analyses to evaluate robustness of decisions;
6. Set research priorities by estimating the value of future research and monitoring information;
7. Assess the advantages and limitations of quantitative decision methods;
8. Communicate uncertainties and risks to scientific and non-scientific audiences.


  • Participation in classes and labs 10%
  • Facilitating seminar discussion 10%
  • Project assignments (3) 70%
  • Research presentation 10%



1. All students will require a laptop in classes and tutorials. The SFU library has free, 4-hr loans of laptops: 

  • https://www.lib.sfu.ca/borrow/borrowmaterials/laptops-equipment/borrow-laptop
  • The campus-wide demand for library laptops is high and the library often runs out quickly. If you need to use the library laptops, you should show-up early at the library check-out desk.

2. MS Excel installed on laptop prior to the first class.


Morgan, G. and M. Henrion. 1990. Uncertainty: A Guide to Dealing with Uncertainty in Quantitative Risk and Policy Analysis. Cambridge University Press, 332 pp.
A digital version of the text can be purchased at: http://www.sfu.ca/bookstore/coursematerials


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html