During the past thirty years, researchers have been documenting the concentrations and effects of persistent toxic substances, such as DDT, PCBs, dioxins and furans, in populations of Great Lakes organisms. In designing the International Joint Commission's Workshop on Environmental Results, the organizers on the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board started from the premise that the selection of indicator organisms for long-term trend analysis requires that the causal relationships between the observed effects and the putative cause should be demonstrated and believed. However, the causal relationships that have been documented have generally been met with skepticism by fellow scientists and by regulatory officials resulting in no agreement on valid indicator organisms. To overcome this skepticism, wildlife, fisheries and human health researchers have adapted the epidemiological criteria used by medical and veterinary researchers for synthesizing the causal evidence. Brief reviews of several candidate species and of their suitability as long term monitors are presented, and the adequacy of monitoring programs for determining trends in the incidence of chemically-induced effects is assessed.