Conservation Canines: Good for the Dog, Good for the Environment!
The power of a dog's nose is well known. the anatomy of a dog's nose allow them to breathe and smell odor at the same time. Dogs sense of smell is anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times that of a human. Where we might be able to smell a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee, a dog can smell a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water.....roughly the size of 2 Olympic pools! A dog sees the world through its sense of smell.
Wildlife science is evolving as well. Research is moving in the direction of more non-invasive techniques where wildlife is handled less and less, making it safer for both the animal and the researcher. In many cases, it is difficult for scientists to find rare or cryptic species. Many animals are also "trap shy", which makes it difficult to capture them using common techniques. The use of scent detection dogs in these cases can mean less time and money spent by the researchers to find these species. What may take a human several days to sample can be sampled in a fraction of the time using a scent detection dog.
And because of the way the dogs are trained to do this work, it is nothing more than a game for them. They are tapping into their natural ability to use their nose to see the world and then are rewarded for that with lots of play time and positive reinforcement. The dogs we use in our training and research programs are often those dogs that are left at shelters because they are considered "hyper" or overly energetic. When given a job to do, though, they become man's best friend both at home and in the field!