Finding Lost GPS Trackers Using Dogs with Sho Rapley

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Sho Rapley about dogs finding GPS trackers.

Science Highlight: Diving in Nose First: The Influence of Unfamiliar Search Scale and Environmental Context on the Search Performance of Volunteer Conservation Detection Dog-Handler Teams

Where you can find Sho: Twitter, Research Lab

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Science Highlight Summary: “Diving in Nose First…”

  • Objective: Evaluate trained volunteer conservation detection dog teams’ effectiveness in unfamiliar environmental contexts.
  • Key Findings:
    • Scaling up search areas affected search sensitivity and false alerts.
    • A 20% decrease in sensitivity observed in initial move to an unfamiliar search, followed by a 10 to 20% increase after seven weeks of training.
    • Increased false alerts after training in larger novel areas.
    • Complex field conditions led to decreased sensitivity and efficiency.
  • Limitations:
    • Potential influence of human scent on dog behavior.
    • Dogs may alter search behavior based on expected target densities.

Project Introduction:

  • Sho’s research focuses on restoring degraded ecosystems, particularly reintroducing locally extinct species like the Bush Stone Curlew, with the aim of understanding their behavior outside protected reserves for broader conservation efforts.

GPS Tracker Technology:

  • Sho describes lightweight GPS trackers used on birds, detailing their features such as accelerometers, temperature, and light sensors, and their attachment using backpack harnesses with consideration for bird comfort and safety.
  • GPS trackers range from $1,000 to $5,000 each, and retrieving detached devices is crucial for data collection but can be challenging, requiring extensive search efforts.

Dog Training Approach:

  • Sho trained her dog, Koda, to find detached GPS trackers gradually, rewarding successful finds with a frisbee to leverage Koda’s natural motivation.
  • Sho and Koda work together systematically, with Sho guiding Koda based on ecological knowledge to potential areas of interest, where Koda checks under likely hiding spots for concealed trackers.
  • Sho emphasizes safety, especially in areas with wildlife threats, working with Koda on a long leash and using a handheld GPS to track their movements.

Navigating Information Overload:

  • Sho reflects on discerning reliable sources amid information overload in dog training, valuing evidence-based approaches and podcasts as valuable resources.

Tailoring Training to Individual Dogs:

  • Sho and Kayla discuss the importance of adapting training methods to suit individual dog temperaments and preferences.
  • They highlight the value of questioning traditional training practices and experimenting with alternative methods for optimal outcomes.

Empathy in Conservation:

  • Sho emphasizes the importance of empathy in reintroduction science and enhancing scientific rigor, especially in fields where individual variations matter greatly.
  • Kayla reflects on the significance of longitudinal observational studies and shares insights from Toni Proescholdt’s work with sheep.

Fieldwork Experiences:

  • Sho recounts memorable fieldwork experiences, including successful retrievals with Koda and challenges faced during deployments, emphasizing perseverance, financial stability, and the importance of research investment.

Advice for Newcomers:

  • Kayla offers advice for newcomers, encouraging them to stick with conservation work despite challenges and emphasizing the need for research investment for sustainability.

Transcript (AI-Generated)

Sho Rapley 

I’m recording this podcast from Ngunnawal, Noona wall and every country. And we’d like to pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging. And I’d also like to acknowledge the connection that First Nations people have had with their dogs for millennia.

Kayla Fratt 

Hello and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss detection, training, welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of the co-founders of K9Conservationists where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies, and NGOs.

Kayla Fratt 

Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to be talking to Sho Rapley who is a conservation biologist from Australia with a special interest in birds. She’s currently doing her PhD on the reintroduction of a locally extinct bird, which is called the Bush Stone Curlew. Her other research interests are in waterbird, ecology for water allocation, reintroduction of mammal species and ecological monitoring in remote areas. Sho and I are going to be talking about how she trained her dog to find GPS trackers that have fallen off of the back of her her study birds, which is just a really cool application for dogs, and I’m really excited to have her on the show.

Kayla Fratt 

But first, as always, we’re going to pivot into our science highlight. So this week’s article is titled “Diving in Nose First: The Influence of Unfamiliar Search Scale and Environmental Context on the Search Performance of Volunteer Conservation Detection Dog-Handler Teams.” It was published by Nick Rutter et al. in Animals in April 2021. And our summary today is from our lovely volunteer Maddy Stephens. The basic question of this research was do do trained volunteer conservation detection dog teams work at an effective level when trialed in unfamiliar environmental contexts. And what they found was one area of dog behavior, which many of us are familiar with is how the physical area which we train and work in can drastically change dog behavior and training outcomes. This study published in the journal animals in 2021 examined how scaling up unfamiliar search areas with teams of volunteer detection dogs and handlers affects the sensitivity and efficiency of the team. Part one of this experimental setup included two assessments. The first assessment sought to understand how handler dog teams would perform in a standard 25 by 25 meter field after a single familiarization session in the novel area. And then after 12 weeks of training. The training included the teams learning how to search larger areas, eventually culminating in the final assessment of searching that unfamiliar area of 50 by 100 meters, and measuring how search sensitivity and false alerts were affected. It was found that there was not a statistically significant difference in search sensitivity between the initial familiarization and post training trial, but the false alerts rose after the training period. These results are counterintuitive and could explain and could be explained by the familiarization training and pre trial run throughs of the setup. The second half of the experiment focused on examining how teams which succeeded in the prior experiment would take on complex field conditions, and how it would affect sensitivity and false alerts. The setting for part two of this experiment was also on a 25 by 25 meter square and a 50 by 100 meter area of woodland. The process began with a single familiarization exercise as in part one, except in this time, the team is trained on a set board to set the baseline of behavior. As part of the baseline assessment the dogs were asked to search the 25 by 25 meter area with a time limit of 10 minutes, then the 25 by 100 meter area with a time limit of 25 minutes. Once the dogs were familiar with the scent boards and baseline assessments were complete, the training moved to a more typical scenario, but scent HUDs placed around the landscape and over natural objects. Once the dogs completed the seven week training in this new context, they were assessed again. The teams were assessed in two field sizes on two non consecutive days with non target and distractor sense present. It was found that the initial move from a familiar search to an unfamiliar search caused about a 20% decrease in sensitivity. And after the seven week training in the unfamiliar context, the teams demonstrated a 10 to 20% increase in search sensitivity, and we’re up to finding about 80% of the targets. The overall sensitivity between the two trials indicated that the teams lost a significant amount of sensitivity and efficiency between the simple and complex field conditions. And that searching in larger novel areas has a negative effect on search team efficiency and an increased incidence of false alerts. So as always, we’ll finish up with some potential limitations of the study and the main limitation of the study related to how the samples were placed and feel the conditions. The experimenters placed the samples and it is possible that the dogs were tracking the humans to the target or alerting to some residual odor from the humans. Although I’m sure they were wearing gloves we hope. efforts were made to minimize this such as walking and loops and having many humans present in the search area. But the second limitation includes unintentionally exposing the dog to expected densities of targets, therefore causing them to search harder or more lazily when they felt that the density did not meet their preconceived idea. So, overall, just really interesting. And I find it interesting that actually that training increased false alerts, incidences, but then in that more complex case that they were able to get a 10 to 20% increase in search sensitivity over a couple of weeks, which fits with roughly what I’m aware of.

Kayla Fratt 

So anything that you want to jump in on with this one show, I know you were also at the conference where Nick presented on this, on this topic?

Sho Rapley 

Yes. So one of the things that really stuck with me is Nick made the point of the conference that there was really big, individual variation in the dogs. And the conclusion he took from this is, is it actually appropriate for us to be reporting means when we’re talking about efficiency? Or should we really be talking about the range that we’re getting across a group of dogs? And I found that really interesting from a scientific perspective, because usually, you’d report you know, this is the mean, and it kind of varies by business, either side, but that’s the much more homogenous groups of things. Whereas we know with our dogs, they’re super variable. And so I really liked that suggestion.

Kayla Fratt 

No, I love that. And I do remember that from the recording now. And that that makes total sense to me. I know I have been in search situations where one of my dogs is, or my dogs combined potential, they’re finding 17 to 25 targets almost every day. And then another team working in the same area is consistently finding three to five on it, all of the same days. And you know, occasionally something like that is just like let it happen because of differences in search area. But over the course of an entire season, you can actually really see that that was likely just a difference in dog sensitivity. And yeah, so if we were reporting that as a mean, you say the difference between five and 17, you’re ending up somewhere in like the 12 range, when actually, you’ve got one dog finding five and one dog finding 17. That’s, yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.

Sho Rapley 

The other really practical takeaway I took from it is making sure that we’re training and field realistic scenarios. So I know for me, I have to be careful that in a training session, I might do five finds in maybe 100 meter radius, where in reality, we’re looking for one, and so I have to make sure that the expectation My dog has is going to be realistic when we’re out there.

Kayla Fratt 

Huh, yes, I know, that’s something I’ve been really working on. And I think the thing I was most I’m most cognizant of, as I’m preparing my dogs for some upcoming fieldwork in Guatemala is trying to ensure that both of my dogs are both physically and mentally acclimated to the idea of working in tropical lowland jungle, and just the incredible density of vegetation that they’re going to have to be getting used to, and the really high humidity, which is a physical factor. And it’s been really interesting to find myself. I’ve been struggling to train on it, because I know I’m getting a little bit perfectionistic about trying to get them into these realistic scenarios. And, you know, both in scale and kind of physical complexity of the landscape. So I keep finding myself not wanting to train because it’s not close enough to what we’re moving towards right now. So with all of that said, Show, I’d love to start out, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your work. And generally, you know, what are you doing with these GPS trackers? What are what are we asking about these birds? And what was the what was the problem with the GPS trackers? Why did you need help finding them?

Sho Rapley 

Yeah, so I’m currently doing my PhD in a research lab, where we specialize on restoring degraded ecosystems. And this is mostly in grassy woodlands in Australia. So they’ve been heavily degraded because they’ve been cleared for agriculture. And there’s been a lot of grazing pressure on them. So the natural resilience of these systems has been really reduced. So we’re trying to come up with practical ways that land managers can implement small tweaks that make a really big difference. And so that’s things like adding woody debris, managing herbivore densities, but the thing we’re probably best known for is we do reintroduction of locally extinct species, and these species can have a huge effect on the ecosystem. So so far at one of our sites, mulligans flat we’ve reintroduced Eastern Beteiligungs Eastern Qualls, Bridgestone curlers and New Holland mice, and I’m working on the Bridgestone cooler. So they’re kind of this tall, lanky woodland bird. They’re kind of looked like the Australian equivalent of a road runner, except their speciality is camouflage. So when disturbed, they adopt this lock position and they’ll stay amazingly still until the danger passes. their local indigenous name is Manyara or horrobin. They come in two colors. So there’s different names each color, and they went extinct in the Canberra area. So Canberra is in the Australian Capital Territory, which is like this little cut out of New South Wales, and they went extinct in this region in the 1970s. And that was probably due to habitat loss, and also invasive species, particularly foxes, and also to some extent cats, feral cats. And so we started reintroducing them here in 2014. And I started my research here in 2019. And what we really want to know is, first of all, how can we best reintroduce them doing it efficiently so that we maximize survival and establishment, but also do it in a way where the cost benefit is really working in our favor?

Sho Rapley 

But the other big question, and this is the focus of my PhD, is how are they going outside the reserve? So the place we’ve reintroduce them is a wildlife sanctuary with a predator proof fence. There’s been no foxes, cats and rabbits in there since around 2009. And these bits were introduced in 2014. And the really big question in Australian reproduction, ecology and conservation is, well, we’ve got all of these areas in the continent now where we’ve got these predator free zones and had great success, reintroducing these susceptible animals back into them. But how do we get those benefits and those ecosystem services back out into the big bad landscape. And curlers are a really great place to start understanding that because they actually taking themselves out of the reserves. Being a bird, they can fly. And when I first started fixing, fitting the tracking devices back in 2019, I very quickly realized they’re spending half of all days outside the safety of the reserve. So they’re proving to be really resilient. And so what I want to know from a PhD is when we’re in how are they doing that? And how can we leverage this knowledge in order to get the species back beyond the fence?

Kayla Fratt 

Gotcha. That’s absolutely fascinating. And so you’ve got these GPS trackers on these birds. What does a GPS tracker for a bird look like? I assume that it is not a big clunky color, like what I see on the grizzly bear is up in Montana. So what does that actually look like?

So GPS tracking for birds is really variable. And the limitation is primarily size. So the maximum we tend to want to go on any animal is no more than 5% of the weight of the animal. But smaller is better. So we kind of try and stick around to 3%. So I’m really fortunate with the bush don’t curlers is that they’re quite a large bird, they kind of range between six and 800 grams. So the devices that I’m putting on them weigh 20 grams, so they’re pretty tiny, but it’s amazing what tech they can pack into 20 grams now like the field of tracking science has just gone leaps and bounds in the last decade. So it’s got a solar panel, onboard battery and storage for months of data, accelerometer, temperature and light sensors. It’s actually incredible. Whereas some of the other birds we track, like likely snipe that migrate between Japan and Australia, they’re a lot smaller. So they get tiny, tiny, two gram transmitters that tend to have fewer sensors. But still, you know, it’s amazing the advances we’re getting in our knowledge of these birds.

Sho Rapley 

So to your question about how we’re fitting them, that depends on the anatomy of the bird. So some really, really big birds, like stocks and swans and things they can actually use NET colors. But far and but the most common method for fitting GPS is to birds is with a backpack. And these are either ones that go around the wings, or around the leg. And so typically around the leg ones are used for birds with long beaks that could get stuck. If the if you imagine the strap is going across the keel brown basically on the breast, if they’re preening down the front and they could get their bill stuck. So like Snipes, and the spoon bills and things like that. We don’t want that to happen to them. So we use a lake harness. But the drawback of the lake harness is the GPS sits lower in the back and it’s more likely to get covered with feathers and cover the solar panel.

Sho Rapley 

Fortunately for me, the Bush Dunkaroos have a short stubby beak for running around stabbing insects and frogs on the ground. And so we use a backpack harness. And this is where as it turns out a lot of doing sciences arts and crafts because I’ve spent a stupid number of hours in my PhD painstakingly hand sewing these teeny tiny little backpacks because I want to make sure it’s comfortable on the birds for sometimes they wear them for years at a time. So we use this slippery Teflon material that’s tubular Which means there’s nothing rough sitting on the bird, it’s completely smooth. We’ve put a lot of work into make sure that these are as ethical as we can make them.

Kayla Fratt 

Gotcha. And I just, I just had to look up a picture of these Bush stone curlers and wow, they’re very charismatic. They’ve got such a little, such a little angry face. Very stylish eyebrows. And yeah, I see what you mean about. Yeah, they don’t look like they’re at super high risk of getting their bills stuck. So. So yeah, do these. So these transmitters, are they? They’re not made to fall off then. But they do every so often. And am I am I understanding, right? It’s not like they’re glued on the way, I’ve got a friend who has done some stuff with some upland game birds in the US, and they will kind of intentionally set them with glue, so that as the chicks age, it will fall off at a given point. But it’s more just that these birds lose them. Am I following you correctly?

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Sho Rapley 

Yes, so we inbuilt a weak link into our harness design. And that’s because we want to make sure that when the device falls off, it falls off really cleanly, so it can’t get entangled in something. So where the harness joins on the keel, I stitch that with a weaker thread. So it’s going to be the first thing that overtime degrades, and then the whole thing can just peel off. So eventually, these devices do come off for us. But otherwise, if something happens to the bird, they are a prey item. So if they get eaten by something, or, you know, die of natural causes, these devices then end up out in the field for me to go retrieve.

Kayla Fratt 

I see. Okay, and how much do these devices cost? I assume this is a pretty costly thing to replace.

Yes, they are pretty expensive, so the devices are used cost around $1,600. Australian, and they’re not even the most expensive one. So some of the transmitters that we use on other projects cost a couple $1,000 each. And it really depends on the tech. So my devices transmit the data to me using the mobile network service. And that’s because the curlers often coming in and out of where there’s mobile reception, but for our Stronach Ibis that are going into, you know, far northern Queensland where there’s no data, they have to transmit the information to us using GPS and using like the algo satellite network is a lot more expensive, and the devices is a lot more costly. So these things kind of range from $1,000 to sometimes $5,000 per piece of equipment.

Kayla Fratt 

Gotcha. Yeah. So they’re expensive. They fall off. Tell us about your dog and then tell us a little bit about how did this idea come about that you you decided to start trying to train her to help you find these, these dropped? transmitters?

Sho Rapley 

I’ve got two dogs, they’re my entire world which I imagine a lot of people can relate to here. So the first dog I got and my first dog ever in my life. I never had dogs growing up was coder so she’s a Kelpie cross. And she’s nearly two now and then we not too long after that got a second dog because you know one is great two must be better. Right and so she is a one and a half year old Kelpie Staffy mix called Mirri. Mirri means dog in a few indigenous languages here in Australia like Wiradjuri. Koda is, she is three quarters Kelpie, a bit of Border Collie, and then some mutt-y kind of out-mixture. And she came off a farm litter and she really wants to work. So when I first had her as a puppy, before I knew much about the detection dog scene, I was constantly coming up with kind of new ways to engage her and work with her. And we quickly got on to scent stuff just you know, finding treats and things and she loved it. And I was really, really fortunate because one of my supervisors for my PhD is Dr. Heather McGinnis. And she is a dog person has always had dogs has worked with sledding dogs doing dog sports agility sent work, and one of her previous dogs. Rollin used to do some transmitter finding for her. And so she suggested to me she was like, you know, you could actually train Koda to do this. And I went, huh, that’s pretty interesting. So we tried it out. And Koda just took to it like a duck to water. And she, she’s extremely motivated. And a favorite thing in the world is a frisbee and you can basically ask her to do anything for throw the frisbee. So it just became something that we were doing at home for fun to engage her. And then when I saw how much code I loved it and how eager she was to work, I thought, oh my god, we could actually use this. This is deployable. and it kind of grew from there. And that’s when I started to try and find out. Okay, so this is an actual industry, I’m on the periphery of it, let’s find out what’s going on here.

Sho Rapley 

And I attended the Australasian conservation conference at the end of last year. And that was an absolute game changer for me. And now I’m pretty much obsessed. And I kind of feel that if I had my time again, my PhD would probably have a focus of this in it. But alas, I’m already halfway through that. So I just kind of sneakily making my research interests more and more dog focused.

Kayla Fratt 

I imagine several people in the audience can relate to that sentiment as well. And how cool Yeah, so you, you really came about this and a little bit of I don’t want to use the word roundabout, but I haven’t thought of a better one quite yet. But okay, so we’ve got this kind of crazy dog, we’re kind of doing some network stuff with her, just to take the edge off anyway. And then yeah, I mean, what luck that your advisor had already done something like this, because I know, occasionally we get. We get a lot of people who come to us who are really interested in using dogs or exploring dogs for whatever application. And it can be hard to get support from bosses or advisors in their jobs. So or in their in their masters or PhD programs.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. So tell us a little bit about you know, how did you how did you go about pairing this item? I assume you’re using that frisbee as a reward. But you know, that’s this is one of the things that’s really interesting to me about this GPS tracker? Is that is not a super smelly item. So how were you? How did you actually go about and pair it for her?

Sho Rapley 

Yes, so I probably went about this a really non conventional way. But it’s kind of the beauty of the fact that I didn’t know anything meant that the way I was tailoring my trading, it was I was just trying to get inside coders brain. And I used to be really self conscious and going, oh, gosh, like I didn’t do this, like, quote unquote, a legitimate way. And actually, it wasn’t until I went to the conference and spoke to people that I was comfortable going, you know what this, this is actually legitimate like, and maybe it’s useful to try and think this way of instead of Alright, what’s always been done, it’s what does my dog need. So, for Koda, the way we started was, I just wanted her to be super interested in the devices. And so we started by just doing in an indication on the device. And so that’s a drop in point with the nose. And then she’d be rewarded for it and gradually making it more and more difficult. So we started out just around the house, and it’d be just on the floor somewhere obvious where she could see it. And then I saw the flooding places she couldn’t see it, hiding it like in fabric under the couch. And then we started moving outside with more and more distractions. And we’re at the point now, she’s been doing it for over a year, and she will search for probably, like 10, 15, maybe even 20 minutes uninterrupted out in a woodland to find this device. And originally, I noticed that the reward for her was, yes, I get the Frisbee. But now she’s kind of self rewarding. She finds it and her whole body is just exuding this idea that I did energy, which is just beautiful to watch.

Kayla Fratt 

Oh, I love that for God, I can totally imagine that. Yeah, it definitely sounds like she has gotten the hang of the game then. And I love that the conference was also so validating for you as because I think sometimes in some industries going to a conference can have the opposite effect. So I love that the Australasian team has been able to put together a conference that really what brought you around to the other way, because you absolutely are, uh, you know, you are in this industry, you’re not necessarily training a dog currently to go and work on a bunch of other people’s projects. But I don’t think that’s any less than. And in fact, I think there’s a lot of people who are really interested in using dogs that way and not doing it the way that you know, we’re doing that Rogue Detection, that Working Dogs for Conservation does that where you’re just a dog handler, and you get hired out that that can be a really tough, specific lifestyle. And for a lot of people working long term on a singular project with their dogs would actually be more ideal. So I love that we’re getting to highlight that sort of project.

Kayla Fratt 

So my next question, and I do want to kind of circle back to that sentiment in a moment. But first I want to I want to dial in a little bit more on this search. So when you were when we met because you joined Patreon and when we were in the call, you mentioned that you actually were able to because what you’re looking for is a GPS, you have a pretty well defined search area. So you can you tell us a little bit about you know, what is the data that you have? Have before you go out and start your search and how does that affect your search strategy with Miss Koda.

Sho Rapley 

So what happens is the GPS device comes off the bird for whatever reason, and it’s still pinging me saying I’m out here in the field. Unless, of course, it runs out of battery, if it’s rolled over not getting in the sun, but typically will at least get the first couple of days off, it’s there. And these devices are amazing. They take a point every single minute. And so if the transmitter has been stationary for a day, I’ve got something like 8000 points, so I can kind of figure out with some degree of accuracy where ish it is. But with GPS is there’s always some error. And so typically, it means that I know where the device is in somewhere between like a 50 100 meter radius from a point, which, in retrospect, is like the perfect kind of search area to train a dog because it’s this known quantity. And so when I’m going out with Koda, we kind of, I’ve got an idea of what it is. And I might sometimes guide her towards where I think it is. But I give her a bit of free rein to head out through that search area and get a sense of things.

Sho Rapley 

And what’s super interesting, as she’s using other clues in the landscape as well, which aren’t things I’ve necessarily trained her on, but she might take interest in the smell of the Curlew feathers on the ground, which she smells on my clothing all the time when they come home from fieldwork. So they’re clearly interesting to her. And with the GPS devices themselves, you mentioned this earlier, and so I can circle back to it, the scent plume is really little. So maybe on a particularly warm day with a bit of a breeze, she might be searching, and then I’ve seen her with her head back towards it from maybe four meters away. But she’s not going to get it from a distance like something stinkier. And so that’s when it’s really important for me to make sure we’re searching kind of methodically and so we’re going around this 50 ish meter search area, and checking under likely things. And so I’m drawing quite heavily on the ecology of the bird and also the predators to go, Well, maybe a carcass is stashed to the log, let’s sniff along this log and put your nose in here and there, or maybe it’s under this tacit grass. And so we’re just working together. And code is checking some parts of the landscape that are interesting to her. And I’m asking her to check parts a landscape that interesting to me. And yeah, that’s how we narrow it down and find the devices.

Kayla Fratt 

Wow. Yeah, that’s, uh, that’s, I mean, definitely a huge advantage to have something that you do, you know, within reason have a pretty good idea of what your search area is. Although, yeah, I mean, with a scent plume like that, you know, four meters on a good day is definitely you do have to be really, really methodical. So are you do you don’t tend to search on leash and just kind of grayed out the search? Do you spiral? Do you walk transects? What is kind of your your go to strategy? Or does it vary a little bit based on the topography and vegetation? It’s?

Sho Rapley 

Yeah, so it can vary on vegetation. I’m quite safety conscious. And in the places where I’m working, there are snakes being Australia, we’ve got brown snakes around. And so I always work Kota on a long leash. And that’s also because I’m working in a wildlife sanctuary, where there are threatened fauna that are extinct on continental Australia, right. So just agreement I’ve got between me and the Rangers that she’s on a leash, I’ve got no concerns that she would take any of these animals she’s never taken anything and doesn’t have interest in that she probably just go look this up, be cooler be here, mom have a look. But yeah, I still work on the long line, mostly for safety. I have a handheld GPS. And I’ll have a cluster of the last points of the GPS on there. And in my head, we’re kind of spiraling this radius where we start out and kind of circled in towards where that point is. But I’m not strictly doing anything. I really follow coders lead and her knows when we’re out there. But if we’ve searched an area quite thoroughly, and we’re not finding anywhere, that’s probably when I’ll take stock, I’ll have a look at the GPS points and triangulate down and go okay, let’s move here and try again in a different spot.

Kayla Fratt 

That makes sense. And certainly, I think generally when I’m working on something where I know I need to be working in such kind of tight spacing and we’re working with something with such a small odor plume on leash makes more sense anyway, and especially when you’re going to be in and out of Nature Preserve so much.

Sho Rapley 

And I don’t want to let her get too far ahead of me because you know, eight meters is pretty good where I can see what her nose is doing. And also because I don’t want to be too far away in case she does find a find. So then I can come up check it and reward her really fast. So keeping her within that kind of areas really useful for that.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, definitely. Did you have any struggles as you went along through your training or, or into that? As as we hinted out in our science highlight kind of transitioning from training into the field or was that something that went pretty smoothly for you all the whole way through.

Sho Rapley 

So, the journey has been really difficult for me, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. And part of that is because I’ve never had dogs before. And in some ways, that’s really great, because I don’t have a whole lot of received wisdom that’s ingrained. But it also means that I don’t have, especially when I started, I really struggled with trying to set up that chain of communication between me and the dog, it didn’t come naturally to me. And that’s partially because both my little brother and my mother have a fear of dogs. And so growing up, if we were walking around, and we saw a dog like 100 meters away, my brother would climb up the nearest thing, which was usually me in complete terror. So I kind of had, I wasn’t afraid of dogs, but I had this kind of the same respect, you have the stakes, where I’m like, I’ll see you, that’s okay, I understand that you’re an awesome creature. But I’m just happy over here.

Sho Rapley 

And so, when we got Koda, I knew that my partner wanted to get a dog. So she was actually originally his dog, but she’s kind of become my dog tell him I said that. I’m definitely the primary handler and trainer for I was away in the Simpson Desert, doing some remote area data collection, we were working with camels out in places where you otherwise can’t get to. And I knew that I might come home to a dog. So while I was there, I was reading. It was the puppy primer, by Patricia McConnell. And that was basically all I had to go off. And when I got home, I was just desperate for this dog to like me, I was like, this dog is not even going to like me. So I started off in this really difficult place. And so Koda was the one that really built the confidence in me, you know, we we work together. And I think that set us up really well to do this detection dog. Because we’ve been a team this whole time. Like, as much as I’ve been trying to guide her to find her place in the world and to feel confident and fulfilled. She’s also been doing that for me in our relationships.

Sho Rapley 

So it’s, it’s been a real journey. And the other thing that I struggled with is knowing what advice to trust and to value because there is so much information out there. And pretty much as soon as I got a dog, and I was Googling stuff about my dog, my social medias, which is filled with like, info on dogs, and how to train your dog, and quickly realize that there’s not everything makes sense. And not all of it is coming from the science of what we know about animals and behaviors. And so that’s why resources like this podcast, and also the Conservation canine podcast with James Davis, they’ve been just incredible resources for me to really be grounded in stuff that’s evidence base, and also is based in compassion, you know, people that are coming to this work with real empathy for the animals and for the relationship, this evolved relationship between us and our dogs.

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Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, gosh, I can definitely, definitely empathize with that amount of just being totally overwhelmed with the amount of information and I know, so I had one dog growing up, who died several years after I got Barley. So I’d really only had the one dog and then I worked as a dog trainer for a couple of years, but I had had not had my own dog. And then when I got Barley, I just remember feeling so overwhelmed with his level of energy and his need to work. And even though I had grown up with a field line lab, who absolutely would have made an incredible working dog. Barley, I think maybe partially because of being a shelter dog had just more tics. And just, I was just telling the story the other day of he, a couple of months into into having him he at one point, his counter surfing had gotten so bad that he had pulled down a like two liter container of olive oil that I had just brought home, you know, $40 of olive oil or something like that. He pulled it off the counter and drank every last drop, like there wasn’t a mess to clean up. He drank it all. And I just, you know, it’s like curled in a ball on the floor crying because I didn’t know what to do with this dog. And I didn’t know how to give him the outlets he needed and we still have not fixed the counter surfing other than I’m just better at preventing him from getting into stuff. Yep, it’s hard. Dog stuff is hard.

Kayla Fratt 

And you’re totally right. i It’s always fascinating to me. I was just trying to get into some YouTube video to send to a client and like the YouTube ads I was getting. We’re now at this stage in my career. I know that those ads were not things I would be interested in. But you know, I’m about to send this video to my client and the training being advertised on YouTube was not something I I would be comfortable with them. Following at all, and it’s just really, really hard to wade through.

Sho Rapley 

Mm hmm. I just had a couple of thoughts from what you said, which is extremely validating right to know that other people go through the days when you just cry and going, why can’t I get this right? But yeah, for me, I tell people that I’ve got two copies, and then they find out that they’re my first dogs. And people think that I’m insane. It’s not an easy place to start. And there’s days where I’m definitely like, Oh, I could you know, just get an oodle, but these dogs are like their drive to work and work with me, just it’s made my world so much richer. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Sho Rapley 

And you know, my approach when it comes to science and conservation of field work is I’m best suited to conditions where it’s difficult. I’m such a type two person, I love going out for weeks at a time and really challenging conditions. And because you get the most out of the environment, you get to really feel it on that sensory level. And so I’ve kind of inadvertently done the same thing with my dogs getting thrown in the deep end.

Sho Rapley 

And the other thing I was gonna say about information out there is even sources that you feel like should be trusted aren’t always right. So when I got Koda, my partner wasn’t really interested in going to puppy school or anything, because his approaches and he’s always had dogs, he’s like, no, just do it with feeling. You just wing it, you just go with the flow, whereas I’m much more of a well, I read this book, and I reading the literature, and I think we should do that. And so we took her to puppy school. And like, I took her for a couple of weeks. But I had this sinking feeling like in my heart that I knew it wasn’t right for her because she was being asked to do these really stiff commands with like, a stupid amount of treats. And it was just like trying to strip back to obedience, this dog who was already like, vibrant and wanted to work with me, and it just didn’t sit right with me. And so one of the hardest decisions I made really early on was we stopped going to puppy school. And I was like, I feel like this is crazy. But I know that it’s not helping her. And so we ended up just doing a lot more work just based on what she wanted. And I’m so glad we did is because that’s how we got to the scent work was going what does this dog need?

Sho Rapley 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I know, well, and even thinking back and I give a lot of credit to the first nosework trainer I took classes with with Barley, which was very much so I think I’ve said this before, but Barley and I were on the waitlist to get into an agility class. And I wanted to get in with this very good agility coach in the Denver area. And her waitlist was like six months long or something for beginner agility courses. So in the meantime, I was just kind of browsing around, and I found a nosework course, like, find the sounds boring as hell, but like, I’ll do it. And here we are. And I did it. And I remember the two pieces of advice. And again, our instructor was really lovely. But she was very good at kind of coaxing search skills out of shyer, or lower drive dogs and hadn’t worked with a lot of dogs like Barley.

Kayla Fratt 

So first, I came in, and I asked if we could use a toy. And she said, Absolutely. And she went home. And she watched a bunch of videos on how to do that. And then kind of came back and she gave me some tips based on how the narcotics handlers do it. And she was like, you really have to throw the toy from behind him, he can’t see you throw it, and you have to throw it so it hits the scent, and then bounces back in his face. And I tried that like three times. And I was like, this is never going to work. And then we switched over to a clicker. And I would just click, and he would return to me for the ball. And that I was told would absolutely never work and was absolutely the wrong way to do it. And that was back in like 2016, 2017 I think. And now I think it’s much more common to do things that way. It’s not as crazy and you know, it wasn’t it wasn’t that she was giving me dangerous advice or anything, it just the I’m not that good of a shot with a tennis ball.

Kayla Fratt 

And then the other thing she told me to do, and this again, I think is a logical place to start for most dogs if she told me to bring his favorite toy to class next week if we wanted to play with toys and I said actually, I think I’m gonna bring his least favorite toy and she you know, we like went back and forth on that a little bit and I was just like, really trust me if I bring it to a tennis ball he is not going to be able to move he will just get totally stuck in like herding dogs, the pupils dilated mode so I brought his least favorite toy it was like a rubber Kong bone sort of thing. And he worked for that beautifully and then over time as he got better and better at searching.

Sho Rapley 

Yes, absolutely.

Kayla Fratt 

Now we do use his favorite toy in the world but you know it’s just it’s just interesting these like little things. Oh, there goes barley. Joining the podcast you Um, that, you know, may or may not, may or may not like these things that range potentially from full on harmful either to the dog physically or to your relationship to just things where, you know, I don’t think my nosework instructor would have caused any damage to barley or like his searching necessarily would have even progressed more slowly, might have gone a little bit more slowly at first. It just quite worked for us. So

Sho Rapley 

Not to go too far down this tangent. But yeah, often going with the lowered drive thing for these high drive dogs seems to work really well. So I remember early, I was given the advice of like, oh, we should always try and get a dog that’s just food motivated, because they’ll just be easier to train. And I was like, devastated at the time, because I was like, oh, Koda wants to do was catch the Frisbee. And now that I know more about general I’m like, actually, this is beautiful. Like, you know, how lucky am I that by complete accident, I’ve ended up with a dog that, you know, would be chosen for this kind of work. Like, she just loves it.

Sho Rapley 

Whereas my other dog, Mirri, she is so food motivated, but to the point where I very rarely use food in her training, because she’s so desperate for the treat that she’s really not thinking like, you know, I’ll ask her to do something. And she’ll just throw every trick out of the box in the desperation to get the food that she knows that guy. If I’m working with a ball with her, and she loves playing with the ball, but it’s not food, like she’ll be more methodical, she’ll listen and like I can tell that like she’s working with that part of her brain. So yeah, I totally on board with you here.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s Yeah. And that’s interesting. And I feel like, I’ve also talked to plenty of people who I think if they want to get into the detection dog world, they come to me and they say, Okay, so I’ve got a dog who’s got great food drive, and their toy drive is kind of so so they like put holes, but you know, not so not, they’re not going to die for their toy? Do I have to get another dog before I can even try entering this field? And I would say, No. Like, I know plenty of people who are successful in this field, with dogs that can work for food. And I know some dogs that pretty happily work in this field for very little reward at all, at least anything that’s delivered by the handler, because it can be really intrinsically rewarding. You know, that’s, that’s a little bit trickier to train and a little bit trickier to channel, but it’s not unheard of. And I think, you know, there’s, there’s so many, so many hard lines. And yet, I think Dr. Susan Pittman calls it cultural fog in our world. And I think it’s always worth kind of questioning and just just looking around a little bit, maybe maybe hitting the head, maybe hitting the target with the ball precisely without your dog noticing that you’ve reached into your backpack is not the most important skill to practice for six months before you ever get to touch a dog again.

Sho Rapley 

Yeah, and I think that’s what I love about this podcast is quite often I hear you guys testing those received wisdoms. And I really liked that, because it’s such a scientific approach to go well, we we’ve heard this, this is some something that we quote, unquote, know, but have we ever actually really tested that. And it’s a really big thing in my field, like in conservation and reintroduction, science, especially, there’s a lot of received wisdom. And anecdote is becomes the basis of a lot of the things that we understand rather than really testing stuff. And so that was one of the things that I really, really loved about attending the conference is because it highlighted these scientific approaches to really get into the nuts and bolts of why is this working and getting under the hood of well, we understand that this is happening. But why is that? And how can we make sure that what we’re measuring is actually what’s going on in the field. So yeah, it’s just a beautiful industry. And the people that are involved are so curious and resilient to to the pushback you get against this. So yeah, I just admire, admire everyone so much.

Kayla Fratt 

Oh, you’re making us all of us collectively blush, I think. And, yeah, I mean, I, I love that we are in a field that is so receptive to questioning things and exploring in so many ways. I know. I mean, there were several reasons that I decided to pursue this, this over other working dog industries, you know, the main one being I was an ecologist, for for a while, and, you know, it was just the mission that spoke most to me, but I definitely had pretty serious chunks of time where I considered a military or police instead, if I wanted to be a canine handler and, you know, wanted to be paid. And those sorts of, you know, frivolities but one of the things that I knew would be really, really, really difficult for me and my personality would be to be in a much more hierarchical that This is how you do it, you are going to spend, you know, six months click treating a brick before you’re ever handed a leash to work with a dog and those sorts of things that I think there’s certainly value to, you know, getting your mechanics, right and all that sort of stuff. I’m not saying that but I think not having enough room to question and play around and color outside the lines, which would have been extraordinarily difficult for me. And I’m really grateful to be in a field that tolerates that much more.

Kayla Fratt 

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Sho Rapley 

The other thing I really value about this field is there’s this beautiful balance between that scientific approach that is so important, but also like empathy and gut feel. So I sometimes would be self conscious about the fact that when I’m doing research, because I’m such an empathetic person, I do things that would be non standard, like, for example, I name all of my birds. And I really feel like they’re friends of mine. And I know them, like, I can tell you everything that’s happened to Frodo, since he was released in 2015, and name all of his kids and all that kind of stuff, which some people would say you should never name animals, you should use, like, do 613, you know, be really rigid about these things.

Sho Rapley 

But for me, like, especially in reintroduction science, where you’re working with really small pools of animals, and the variation in the individuals matter, being able to be empathetic, I think actually enhances my ability to be scientific. And the same thing happens with the dogs. So it was really validating, again at the conference to see people approaching science with empathy, and with the utmost of care for the dogs who are our colleagues and having the curiosity to go, I feel in my gut that this is right, so I am actually going to follow that. And that is such a powerful thing to do to really push back on the idea that science has to be non feeling. But instead, understand that, you know, we’re humans, we can’t just be robots doing science, we are animals, and we are empathetic, and it’s okay to combine those two parts of what makes us human, which is being curious and questioning and also caring,

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, no, and I think that’s one of the things again, that really drew me to this set of this side of ecology. And I think, you know, I just recorded an episode with my friend Toni Proescholdt that they look up, either come out right before or right after this. But you know, she also works in a program where they have been studying the same groups of sheep for over 40 years now. And they know, they know who she was grandparents are, they all have names, and they know them all by sight. And there’s something really, the whole episode we recorded with her was kind of about the sort of data that you get from these really, longitudinal observational studies. And actually, the point of the episode with her was some of the data that dogs can’t detect, you know, stuff that we can’t get from scat.

Kayla Fratt 

But I also think that you know, that empathy, empathy and connection is so important. And I know for me, one of the things that drew me to working with detection dogs, as I hinted at was that regardless of my relationship to my study species, or even if I’m working on an invasive plant removal project, where, you know, I jet most invasive plants do not fall under my by definition of charismatic. I still get to have that really deep empathetic connection with my dog. Yeah, and that was something that really, really spoke to me, especially, especially early on, but it’s still really important to me now.

Sho Rapley 

I can absolutely relate to that.

Kayla Fratt 

So do you have any favorite stories from the field any particularly exciting finds that Koda made whether it was her first one or just a particularly challenging one? I’d love to just hear a little bit more about some of your work as we’re wrapping up here.

Sho Rapley 

Yes. So one interesting find and the reason this is really interesting, because it answered a few questions for me. We you had a really fun to stormy day at home. And so we wanted to do a bit of training inside because there was some Cabin Fever, some crazy zoomies, and I thought, okay, let’s do some scent work. Let’s just get the crazies out. And so I had some trackers in the house and Koda found and indicated on a Gameboy handset and I didn’t reward a straightaway because I was just looking at it like, what? That’s a good boy. And she was adamant she was pointing her nose at it going, yep, I found it. Please give me the reward. And I had to give it to her because she was right. She found the components that I had trained her to find So it had all the same kind of electrical materials and the inside and the plastic used to construct it. And so that’s when I really clicked for me that oh god, she’s like really finding these electronics. And subsequently, she could generalize a bit too, so the brand of transmitter I use for all anatella devices. But we’re getting ready to deploy her to find other transmitters for the CSIRO, which is our national science agency. And they’re different different brands. And so the first time I brought one home to try it out with her, I hit this device pretty easily. And she found it and she’s, she’s sniffing this device. And she kind of gives me a bit of side eye and then tentatively drops the bat on the ground. And I’m either ie Yes, that’s it. And so she was optimistic, right. But this other tracker electronic device was also the target scent. So that was super, super cool.

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Sho Rapley 

And then I guess, yeah, is I’ll just tell you quickly about our first deployment, and our most recent deployment. So the very first time I took her out, in retrospect, it was probably a bit early, she was nine months old. And one of my birds had been predated kind of far from the reserves. So north up on this farm countries, it was on some farmers property. And so I got in touch with them and was like, Look, I want to retrieve this device. Is it okay, if I bring my dog out? And they were like, Sure. So I arrived with this nine month old puppy who’s just crazy on the end of the long line, sniffing everything in sight, and the farmer kind of like raises one eyebrow to say like, Okay, this dog is gonna find your scientific equipment. I had to be like, yes, of course she will. But on the inside, I was like, I don’t know. And we got out there. And the spot where we were looking for the transmitter was this chest high phalaris, agricultural crabgrass. And it was one of those situations where me as the human, I was never going to find it. So I was entirely relying on Koda’s ability. And I just wasn’t seeing the focus from her, which is entirely fair, I took her out somewhere with spell of sheep and folks and all this interesting stuff. And so we were there for quite a while, like half an hour, and I was trying to implement the search radius. And i My heart was just thinking like, oh my gosh, like what have I done when just for a split second Koda got this look of extreme focus, like this tautness in her body in her eyes. And then the moment passed, and she moved on. And I walked up to where that moment was, and lo and behold, this transmitter, right, like, at ground level, and I pick it up, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, you did it. And we threw an absolute party. And the farmer was like, wow, okay, I didn’t think it was gonna happen. But here we are.

Sho Rapley 

And flash forward to just a week before last is when we did our last retrieval. It’s kind of just beautiful how well we’ve developed as a team. And I think a lot of that is just on me my skills to handle and trusting her. We just worked like clockwork, you know, when you just flowing so we went to this field site, and Koda immediately is on the job. And she’s so pleased to be working. And we did this sweeping loop towards where I knew the tracker roughly was, we came into the spot with some tacit grasses, no straight in, and she found it within a few minutes. And it was just beautiful. It was a beautiful day out. She like strutted home from that fight.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. Okay. Oh, my gosh, we should, we should just have a whole episode where we just ask everyone who is on in the field with their dogs to just send us like recent wins because that, like maybe that’ll be our annual holiday episode or something. I love these stories so much. Yeah, now I’m saying it in January. So maybe I’ll actually have time to get it together between now and December. Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much. So you said next up, you’re heading off to help out on another project to find their GPS stuff. Are those kind of the is that the big thing? That’s next for you and Koda. I know, you’re also still finishing up your PhD, I imagine that is going to take up some amount of focus.

Sho Rapley 

Yeah. So it’s actually good that we’ve got this work coming up, because I’m kind of at the stage towards my end of the PhD, where there’s a lot of analysis and writing to do, which I do find the analysis. So interesting, but my heart’s really in the field. So having these trips to look forward to and just being able to go and spend time with coda is, yeah, that’s what we live for.

Sho Rapley 

So we’ll be doing some retrievals across this vast area, which is the Murray Darling Basin, which is basically the main water flow for the eastern side of Australia. And it’s from Victoria through New South Wales, so the ICT app and the Queensland and so some of these devices are basically on the edge of the Simpson Desert, some of them in far western New South Wales, some of them are on the coast. So we’re planning, it’ll probably be a couple of Loop Road trips to pick these things up. So got a bit of practice involved in car travel in crating in the evenings and things like that before we go. But it’s going to be brilliant, because we’re going to get to see a whole bunch of landscape and work in a few different fields settings that I think is really gonna hone our relationship. And for me, like just going into different ecosystems, I love the desert, so it’s going to be nice to go back out. But we’ve just had to postpone it for a while, because with the current La Nina weather cycle, the Southern Oscillation Index, most of inland New South Wales is flooded right now. And a lot of the roads are closed, so it’s probably going to be next winter, which gives us this winter coming up gives us a bit of time to gear up and get ready. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it.

Kayla Fratt 

Oh, yeah, no, that sounds, that sounds like a lot of fun, and especially exciting for you guys to get to go out and get to do a bunch of these in a row. I know I love getting to wake up and go do this stuff every single day. And then I get to a point, usually after the end of about a three month deployment where I’m really ready to go home and be like, Yeah, I’m ready to go write a grant or something right now. And that feeling doesn’t last long. But I usually do get to there at some point towards the end of the field season.

Sho Rapley 

Yeah. And it’s good to have that motivation to actually get the desk work done. Because otherwise I had to sit at my desk every day. nothing would get done.

Kayla Fratt 

Totally. Yeah, no, I do love when I finally get to the point where I’m like, you know, I think I’m ready to sit in a chair, and not be sweaty for eight hours at a time. That actually sounds really nice. It’s nice to be able to get to that point, although I’m recording it El Salvador. So I am sitting in a chair, but I’m still very sweaty.

Sho Rapley 

Yeah, so for me, one of the places we go to fit these transmitters to waterbirds that’s on one of our other research projects, is we go out into flooded wetlands with a birds of breeding. And so to catch these birds, we’re setting snares, and we’re literally sitting on kayaks for 12 hours a day. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to go to the bathroom on a kayak, but it’s nomming baits sometimes, after two weeks of doing that, I get home and I just say oh yeah, a couch or toilet. Like I’m living the sweet life. So it’s, it’s really that dichotomy that really makes life interesting, right?

Kayla Fratt 

Oh, absolutely. Oh, my, the summer after my last year of high school, before I went off to college, I worked four days a week in construction, and three days a week as a sea kayaking guide. And I just remember that like every single day, seven days a week of just like hard outdoor work. It was crazy. I’m in the sea kayaking, Job was so fun. And honestly, construction was really fun, too. I had a great career that I was working with. And we were doing restoration on historical sites in some national parks. But I just remember every single day, I would come home and just literally, like lie on my back under the air conditioner. And just like adults, I don’t know about. Yeah, yeah. Okay. So as we’re wrapping up here, I feel like you and I could go on all day. So we will try to let our listeners go eventually. Did you have any questions you wanted to flip back at me about? What’s about anything? Go for it?

Sho Rapley 

Yeah, well, I’ve got two questions for you. The first one is, I’d love to know, what is the safety command or protocol that you find you use most in the field. I’m too far.

Kayla Fratt 

So both of my dogs I have taught them that if I yell too far, they’re kind of just basically supposed to stop moving away from me, or slow down. So it’s a it’s a really muddy cue, like it’s not superduper clear where they’re supposed to drop and hit the floor, or come back and hit me in the hand with their notes or anything like that. And I do use, you know, the drop in space and drop ins place or recalls those sorts of things. But really, probably every five or 10 minutes, especially with my younger dog Niffler, I have to kind of call out too far to have an again to him, that just means kind of slow down check in with me. And I will use that to kind of direct him and keep him from you know, ending up kilometers away from me.

Kayla Fratt 

That’s brilliant. I think that’s my favorite question to ask handlooms because it’s great to get a diversity in how you work safely with your dog. So yeah, I’ll definitely consider adding that one to the repertoire. Koda is pretty good though. She she does just kind of naturally check in with me. It has done since she was like, you know, 10 weeks old. So she’s pretty good.

Kayla Fratt 

Oh, that’s great. Yeah. We love that. And yeah, I I again, it’s mostly for Niffler at this point, just because he he likes running around at about 3000 kilometers an hour. And especially oh my gosh, he’s got he’s got legs. for days, and he’s only two and a half years old. So no matter how much exercise I give him, he always has steam to blow.

Sho Rapley 

Yup, relatable.

Kayla Fratt 

So yeah, and you said you had a second question.

Sho Rapley 

Yeah. And this one’s intentionally vague, given, I’m really new to the field. And I just want to soak up everything you have to offer. But what would be advice you’d give to new people coming on in this field?

Kayla Fratt 

Stick with it, I think would be the most important and kind of hardest thing. I think, and we’ve talked about this before on this show how hard it can be to break into this field to find success and stability in this field. And, you know, and with your dogs, it’s, it’s, it’s a challenging field. And I think, you know, he’s Smith says it really well, as well, where he says, you know, don’t just keep trying something that’s not working. You know, we don’t just need to keep doing a bad plan hoarder. But I do think, Yeah, stick with it, and try not to get too discouraged. With Yeah, with kind of a slow start, whether that’s with your dogs or with your finances, or whatever else.

Sho Rapley 

That’s really great advice. And I think, especially in the finances, because in conservation, generally, most of us are doing this because that’s, you know, what, what’s in our heart, that’s what we really care about. But it becomes easy, just to give our time for free. And so the industry is accidentally really exploitative. So I really admire, you know, teams like yours, who have managed to make it financially viable, because you you have to, and being able to subsidize your work for those really deserving causes is such a beautiful way of getting around it. But making sure we can, in the long run, continue to deploy this expertise means that, you know, we’ve got to bring in the funds to do so. So yeah, sticking with that really, really important.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, and honestly, I mean, I’m still not making, I don’t even think I’m making 50% of my income from K9Conservationists, on the average month, probably on an annual basis, I am because of just how much more money I make on the wind farm work than I do doing everything else. But I’m still I’m doing website design, I’m doing freelance writing, I do some private dog training. Still, though, I’m really trying to get away from that. And I know that’s true for a lot of people in this industry, who, you know, we we don’t talk about it that way. A lot of us have multiple jobs. But that’s still true. And it’s, I don’t want it to be that way. But I think that actually dovetails in, you know, one of the things that we’ve been talking about and thinking a lot at K9Conservationists is okay, so if, if we accept that for now, this is not a full time income for any one of us, let alone all three of us, what are some other ways that we can get creative beyond just paid field work, to help give us more money. So you know, that’s where like Patreon comes in. That’s, you know, that helps take the edge off. That’s part of where our course came from, you know, we’re really excited about education and outreach. And we really enjoy doing those things and are passionate about them. But it was also partially us kind of looking at it and thinking, you know, if we want to have, if we don’t want to all have three jobs. And therefore, we struggle to even have the time and the ability to really rent you know, it’s like this catch 22, where if we take up another job so that you can pay rent, then you don’t have as much flexibility to write the grants, you don’t have time to write the grant suit of energy, and you don’t necessarily ability to go take those field gigs. So yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s really, really hard. And I think we’ve all been lucky enough to figure out you know, like my freelance writing, I’ve got clients that are absolutely understanding and delightful if I say, Hey, I’d love I’d love to be writing two articles a week right now I’m not in the field. And then when I’m in the field for these dates, don’t count on me writing anything for you. And I’ll be back at this point. You know, that works really, really well for me, but wouldn’t work quite so well, if I was working. I don’t know kind of a more typical typical job as my as my backup income.

Sho Rapley 

And I think it’s really good that we’re able to talk about this stuff and especially for people that are new to the industry like that reality. It’s just one of the hardest things has been for me to learn is to just not give away expertise for free. And of course, I love volunteering on projects, like most of my holidays, are me like going to a different reserve to do like reptile traffic or something because it’s so much fun, but more like if government or another audit company or someone someone that does have the money should be paying for the expertise. I can’t just give it away like there there has to be that investment to like The agreement and protection of intellectual property to make sure that what we’re doing is sustainable and is in the best interests of both the researchers and the research.

Kayla Fratt 

Yes, absolutely. Well we’ve already gone a little bit over on time and again I could sit around and talk to about all of this for much much longer but I actually I think I need to go rescue a surf instructor from barley who is currently bawling him with a half metre long log that’s about as thick as my thigh oh my gosh, I had so much fun we might have to have you back on we might have to have you back on after your your big road trip walkabout picking up all of your all of your samples and let us know all your all your success stories and you know, hopefully a couple of fun ones as well of, you know, fieldwork fails. Nothing dangerous, but something funny would be fine. So shall where can people keep up with you on the internet if they’re interested in learning more other than, you know, just joining our Patreon and being able to bother you there.

Sho Rapley 

Yeah, well, I’m trying to be pretty chatty on Patreon now too. But um, you can find my Twitter. I’m @shobird. And I think that’ll be in the show notes. I’m not too great at keeping up to date with my socials. But you can find some really, really cute videos of my study species push down curlers, I’ve got camera track footage of them hatching. So first ones hatching back in this area for 50 years. So go check that out. And also the link to the website for that restoration project that I’m doing my PhD with. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

Excellent. Yeah, we’ll make sure that those all end up in the show notes. And again, thank you so much for coming on. And to all of our listeners, I hope that you’re feeling inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and skill set. And I hope that this episode helped you maybe come up with some ideas of how how that may look a little bit different for you. And maybe you’re feeling inspired as a biologist to give it a go with your own dog. Rather than trying to figure out how to find funding for you know, someone like us, though, we would love to work with you. And yeah, thinking a little bit outside the box. I really, really appreciate this conversation. So we’ll be back in your earbuds next week with another great episode and until then, goodbye!