Individual-based models (IBMs) predict how dynamics at higher levels of biological organization emerge from individual-level processes. This makes them a particularly useful tool for ecotoxicology, where the effects of toxicants are measured at the individual level but protection goals are often aimed at the population level or higher. However, one drawback of IBMs is that they require significant effort and data to design for each species. A solution would be to develop IBMs for chemical risk assessment that are based on generic individual-level models and theory. Here we show how one generic theory, Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) theory, can be used to extrapolate the effect of toxicants measured at the individual level to effects on population dynamics. DEB is based on first principles in bioenergetics and uses a common model structure to model all species. Parameterization for a certain species is done at the individual level and allows to predict population-level effects of toxicants for a wide range of environmental conditions and toxicant concentrations. We present the general approach, which in principle can be used for all animal species, and give an example using Daphnia magna exposed to 3,4-dichloroaniline. We conclude that our generic approach holds great potential for standardized ecological risk assessment based on ecological models. Currently, available data from standard tests can directly be used for parameterization under certain circumstances, but with limited extra effort standard tests at the individual would deliver data that could considerably improve the applicability and precision of extrapolation to the population level. Specifically, the measurement of a toxicant's effect on growth in addition to reproduction, and presenting data over time as opposed to reporting a single EC50 or dose response curve at one time point. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.