< Return to Projects

Development of a Protocol to Use the Mink as a Bio-Sentinel Mammal for Assessing the Impacts of Multiple Stressors in the Great Lakes Basin

Year Awarded: 1995
Awarded: $310,000
Team Leader:  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

This team created methods to monitor and use mink as a bio-sentinel in the Great Lakes basin (the team used mink as one indicator of progress in ecosystem restoration). Team members evaluated ways to directly monitor mink population, contaminant exposure, health, size and age structure. They also evaluated options to identify sites where mink populations were extirpated (where mink became locally extinct), as well as methods to collect comparable baseline data throughout the region.

The team created several monitoring methods including: stable isotope analysis, DNA fingerprinting, health assessment of mink populations, health assessment of mink habitat and PCB and metal contaminant monitoring in mink of Hudson River, New York. Ultimately, the team found that monitoring mink health was an ineffectual method to study ecosystem health in already-contaminated systems. However, this project demonstrated the ability of scientists to study the health of certain species as one method to gain insight into the health of a broader ecosystem.