In my Ph.D. project I determined how the invasive American mink (Neovison vison) adapts to a pristine-island ecosystem on Southern Chile, and assessed the impact that this new invasive species has on the native biodiversity. Invasive species are the second most significant driver of biodiversity loss. Islands are the most vulnerable regions to invasions because the evolutionary isolation generally results in a lack of behavioral responses to predation by the local biota. The American mink is a mid-sized, semi-aquatic mustelid native to North America that was recently introduced in Navarino Island, southern Chile, a region recognized as one of the last pristine areas of the world. The American mink have no competitors or natural enemies in Navarino, making it a new top predator in this fragile ecosystem, threatening local biodiversity. By studying American mink ecology in this island I expect to better understand how they adapt to new environmental conditions, which species are being affected by its predation, and how these prey species respond to the new predatory pressure. The information generated will assist local agencies realize the conservation goal of controlling the American mink population on the island, ensuring protection to the local biodiversity. Also, this project will provide training opportunities to Chilean students willing to learn field techniques and data analyses in ecology. At the end, these students will become the future generation of scientists facing conservation problems in the region.
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