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Wetland health evaluation program (WHEP)

What is WHEP?

Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP) is an environmental monitoring program focusing on assessing the condition and health of wetlands.

Since 1997, WHEP volunteers have been monitoring wetland health throughout Dakota and Hennepin Counties. They provide important information to city and county planners, engineers, resource managers and others. Teams of citizen scientists assess local wetlands by identifying and quantifying the biological communities of each site. Volunteers collect aquatic macroinvertebrates, including insects, leeches, small crustaceans, and snails. Teams also focus on wetland vegetation by inventorying the plant community.

Macroinvertebrates and vegetation are influenced by physical and chemical properties of wetlands. Some invertebrates and plants are more tolerant to poor water quality than others. Certain species will flourish in healthy wetlands while others will not occur at all so monitoring these communities helps assess water quality.

Why wetlands?

Wetlands are an essential component to our environment. They act as filters for pollutants and nutrients in water as they absorb excess water therefore recharging groundwater. Wetlands are also a major resource for amphibians, mammals and birds while migrating or raising young.

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What can I do to help wetlands?

Join a team of other interested citizens who are concerned about wetlands in your area. Teams are organized and named after their sponsoring city or watershed location.

By participating with a team, attending informational workshops, you will get the skills to help you match your interest and commitment. You can be directly involved in collecting and submitting important, meaningful data to your community leaders. To sign up for WHEP, fill out the Environment and Energy volunteer application.

Hennepin County works with sponsoring organizations to monitor specific wetlands within that community. Volunteers will be matched with a community team closest to their home or work. Teams usually consist of 6–12 volunteers with each volunteer dedicating between 20 and 40 hours throughout the summer. Each team visits five sites three times, collecting invertebrates and identifying plants. All teams have a team leader that provides all direction and schedules the sampling events. Sampling occurs during the evening hours and on select weekend days in June and July.

Current teams are monitoring

  • Minneapolis
  • Bloomington
  • Eden Prairie
  • Minnetonka
  • Elm Creek Watershed (Champlin, Corcoran, Dayton, Maple Grove, Medina, Plymouth, Rogers)
  • Shingle Creek Watershed (Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth, Robbinsdale)
  • West Mississippi Watershed (Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Champlin, Maple Grove, Osseo)
  • Pioneer/Sarah Watershed (Independence, Greenfield, Loretto, Minnetrista, Medina, Maple Plain)


  • City of Bloomington
  • City of Eden Prairie
  • Elm Creek Watershed Management Commission
  • City of Minnetonka
  • Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
  • Mississippi River Fund
  • Mississippi Watershed Management Organization
  • Pioneer/Sarah Watershed Management Commission
  • Shingle Creek Watershed Management Commission
  • West Mississippi Watershed Management Commission

For the past two decades, WHEP has provided a great opportunity for Hennepin County residents to connect with the wetlands in their communities and become advocates for their sustainability. Watershed management organizations and cities contract with Hennepin County to administer volunteer water quality monitoring programs. WHEP is designed to collect data and provide hands-on environmental education experiences for volunteers. Thanks to all 2020 participants and volunteers!

See a summary of the data collected and the stream health assessments in the 2020 WHEP report (PDF).

These resources, including videos, show you what we do in the field to collect macroinvertebrate and vegetation data.

MPCA Citizen's Guide to Biological Assessment of Wetlands

Safety fact sheets

Ensure workplace safety. Learn how to avoid and treat these potential hazards.


Safety while monitoring should be kept in mind at all times. Keeping yourself and your team members safe is everyone’s priority.

Macroinvertebrate survey

This video illustrates the dip net method that we use for all of our macroinvertebrate sampling. Three complete efforts are done to ensure a good sample size.

Vegetation survey

This series of videos walk you through the process of conducting the vegetation survey. Working with team members, you then establish a sub-section of the wetland to conduct the inventory.

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