Growing as Consultants for Scat Dog Teams: A Co-Founder Conversation

In this episode, we sit down with Heather Nootbaar and Rachel Hamre, cofounders of K9 Conservationists. We dive into the work we did in Kenya, especially what Heather and Rachel worked on after Kayla went home.

We also discuss what we found surprising, inspiring, challenging, and fun about working with Action for Cheetahs in Kenya. We talk about our future hopes for the team with Action for Cheetahs and what we’re hoping to do better next time we’re hired as outside consultants for a scat dog program.

As promised, here are some charts of the extinction work we did with Persi and Madi:

You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/k9conservationists.

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Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt 1:07
Hello, and welcome to the canine conservationist podcast where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss ecology, odor dynamics, dog behavior, and everything in between. I’m your host, Kayla Fratt. And I am a co founder of canine conservationists, where we trained dogs to detect data for researchers, agencies and NGOs. Right up top you may notice my voice sounds a little funny, I apologize. I’ve got a little bit of a cold, but we’re sticking to the recording schedule, because otherwise we are not going to stick to our publishing schedule. So we do apologize for that. Today I have the joy of talking to Rachel Henry and Heather Nubar, who are my co founders here at Canaan conservationists. And we’re talking about the work that we did with action for cheetahs in Kenya as kind of a project wrap up discussion. I’m really, really excited to get to this discussion. But before we get into it, we’re going to dive into our science highlight. So this week, we’re reading the paper sniffing out solutions to enhance conservation, how detection dogs can maximize research and management outcomes. Through the example of koalas who was written by Romain Christou, Russell Miller, and Selena Freyr. I may be getting some of those last names a little often, I do apologize. It was published in Australian zoologist in 2020. And the summary is that they selected trained, tested and deployed five dogs to four koala habitat, looking at call scouts, one for genetic sampling, looking at fresh scouts only, and one for the qual itself and one for quality disease, which is a chlamydia detection. So the dogs enabled both large scale and fine scale survey designed with 2370 surveys performed and 1479 genetic samples collected to date. detection dogs are subject to similar although sometimes much lower limitations in terms of survey biases, such as individual or environmental conditions. And importantly, detection dog handler teams need to be tested regularly for accuracy. Nonetheless, detection dogs can and are helping researchers and land managers collect more robust datasets, and better inform conservation decisions. alliances with unexpected partners in conservation such as police force, civilian science, and timeshare use of dogs might improve the democratization of their use enable conservation detection dogs to fill their assumption potential. So just a nice little reminder of all the interesting stuff that our dogs can do. Welcome to the podcast. Why don’t both of you go ahead and just say hellos? And remind us your name so that listeners can figure out who’s who.

Heather Nootbaar 3:34
Hi, I’ll start. My name is Heather nook bar. And I’m excited to be talking about our most recent project. Yeah.

Rachel Hamre 3:43
And I’m Rachel Henry. Great.

Kayla Fratt 3:46
So yeah, as we said, up top, we’re just talking about the Gosh, nearly four months that we’ve collectively spent in Kenya now with action for cheetahs. We are all back stateside and diving headfirst into our field season on wind farms. Heather, why don’t you kind of start us out with telling us how it went with your time in Kenya?

Heather Nootbaar 4:05
Sure. Yeah, with my time, I had the pleasure or the luxury of having to pick up where you left off. So you had started them off on a great foot and I was just kind of taking over all the good things you had started with them. We were in the same boot camp by the time I had taken over. So you had helped them adjust to you know, all the heat and what that was like so you kind of had a scheduler in place as well. So it was pretty seamless of the transition, I think. But for the some of the things that we worked on for general training, one of the dogs Maddie had a little bit of Stranger danger around people on walks or around camp that he wasn’t super familiar with just sort of counter conditioning and getting him used to people like that. And then Percy the Malinois had a little bit of prey drive So while we are on walks, implementing some recall practice and disengaging from all the wonderful little critters you might see on our walk, and then also worked on some husband crew related tasks, such as kind of taking time. And using treats for nail trims or getting them weighed weekly, also implemented enrichment meetings on their off day, or like engagement, enrichment activities, just so that they had a little bit of a mind puzzle to do while they were also relaxing. And then for the detection side, we incorporated more blink searches while I was there, kind of set it straight, so that everyone was on the same page for the various search patterns that they have at their disposal. And when we would use each one. And I think that was really important to get in place by the time Rachel came, because at that time, their search durations were way longer now that they were adjusted to the heat. So getting them actual practice of what a search would look like, having everyone on the page of grid searches versus one year, which we could go into more if we want to. And continuing the discrimination work that you guys, you started with them as well. That’s all I had for well.

Kayla Fratt 6:24
Yeah, just that much. Right. Rachel? Yeah, what did you end up taking over from Heather? And was there anything that you added that was new? Or were you mostly building on other stuff?

Rachel Hamre 6:36
Yeah, it was really nice to come in and have kind of a laid out schedule and things that we’re working on. I think I did a lot of continuing what Kayla and Heather had started, and kind of moving more towards more realistic practice searches. They’re a little bit complicated, and you kind of need a lot of people and some planning ahead. So we were really only able to do a couple of those. But I think that was probably the biggest thing for me while I was there was getting everyone comfortable with, for example, grid searches. And yeah, just kind of moving things towards more, I guess, more realistic searches. I don’t think I I guess I continued. I don’t know if we want to talk about the discrimination stuff yet. But I continued where Heather left off with the discrimination exercises, and was kind of starting to try out some new things with that. Like, for example, before that had been all off leash, and then just one time just to kind of see what would happen. We decided to do one of those on leash. And then we started incorporating multiple negatives with still one positive Chino scan in there. So kind of just Yeah, I think a lot of expanding on what Heather had already done. Yeah, and

Kayla Fratt 7:57
I don’t think we actually got into the discrimination work much in any of our previous episodes about Kenya. So for everyone at home who may not quite know what we mean by that is, because there’s a lot of different terms. And one of the things I did notice when we were in Kenya is sometimes they used, they certainly use some different terms than what we would use in the US for something. So with the discrimination work, essentially the problem that we were having is when I got there, both dogs really but particularly Maddy were pretty consistently alerting to Kara call and then slightly less consistently alerting to leopard as well in training scenarios. And there was an a consultant who had come to Kenya before us, Leo, who’s with nature’s showed Sunday, I believe, I might be pronouncing that wrong. But he had started some work on it. But they had really kind of hit a wall as far as trying to figure out what was causing and maintaining this behavior. Because essentially what was happening is when I got to Kenya, again, the dogs had and the handlers had only been working in Nairobi for the last six or eight months at this point. So the handlers had only been in Nairobi, they’ve never actually gone up. Samburu had done fieldwork, the dogs had had some experience during that. So they were really working in this pretty small set room. That’s probably about the size of like your average bedroom. Probably yeah, like smaller than 15 by 15. So that’s part of what Rachel was talking about, as far as we were expanding the search areas and getting them to more and more realistic searches. Because when I first got there, Naomi had never handled a dog. And Edwin had only ever really handled in that setup or on they had a soccer field that he had done a couple of very small searches on. And the protocol that they had kind of started with the dogs was if they put out leopard, and the dog alerted to leopard, they would say no search on the dog would leave leopard, go find the cheetah, they would reward and then move on. And the problem was over the course of the last several months, the behavior of the dogs alerting to leopard or Kara call was not decreasing. That approach was not really having a success. So we went through basically a full extinction protocol and Since my voice sounds like junk right now, Heather, do you want to expand on what that protocol kind of looks like and how we started taking them through that?

Heather Nootbaar 10:09
Yeah, I guess it’s helpful to know that we had a lot of training samples, they called negative, the care column leopard. And we had those, those are ones we did not want them to alert to. And we had cheetah. And we had a few different samples of that as well. So we would put out a specific cheetah and a specific negative in various places. And like Kayla said, we had like a little training area, one of them was kind of a bunch of rubble, I guess, for lack of a better word, or like a plastic container, rocks toppled on top of each other a bunch of sticks, just multiple hide locations. And so we would just do five reps, usually with each dog, and with each scenario, and if the dog were to false alert, the negative, we had instructed the handlers to just do nothing and wait them out. And Kayla was there when she noticed an extinction burst with Percy. And we have kind of nerded out and tracked all that data. So that was kind of the process. And we did see improvement over the time that all three of us were there. But that was kind of the process. And then once we waited them out whether that took minutes, or down to a few seconds, then we would see them alert on the cheetah scouts, and then they would get to reward the dog.

Kayla Fratt 11:35
Yeah, yeah. No, that’s excellent description. Thank you. Yeah, you know, I think it was one of those things where we’re pretty excited. We’ll talk about this a little bit more later on. But I have not seen many good examples in literature or really in training records of people really using an extinction protocol to go through with a behavior like this. I mean, I think we’ve probably all seen something similar for a dog who jumps up on guests. But I don’t know if I’ve seen something like this really well described for detection dogs that it really did seem like it worked, at least significantly better than giving the dogs the information. Of No, not that one search on because that seems like it just stacked the deck in the dog’s favor to at least try alerting because it couldn’t hurt. And yeah, so Rachel was kind of expanding on some of those next steps that she took. Rachel, do you have anything to add on that?

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Rachel Hamre 12:28
Yeah, so after that, kind of initial, those initial setups, where there was one cheetahs, scat, and one se Caracal, scat, then we kind of just started expanding on that, and moving that to say, newer areas, or like adding a lion scan. So there would be cheetah, which we wanted them to alert to. And then also Caracal in Lion. Yeah, we kind of just started trying a few different things to expand that data.

Kayla Fratt 12:59
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And we’ll put some of those graphs into the show notes, because it is pretty cool to see. You know, I know, we had a couple false alerts that were very, very long. If you were following along on our Instagram, you did also see some video of us working through that with the dogs. And then we did get to see even while I was there a pretty significant drop off in the intensity and duration of our false alerts and the number of false alerts. And we really started getting to the point where the vast majority of the trials, even with a variety of different scouts. And even with novel cheetah scouts and novel leopard and Caracal scouts, they were generalizing and really getting much more specific with their detection work. So that was really cool to see. And probably the biggest project that at least took up my last couple of weeks while I was there. So I think next that I kind of wanted to talk about is if there was anything that surprised you, Heather, and then Rachel about how this project went, what we ran into, et cetera.

Heather Nootbaar 14:01
Sure, honestly, I found it very surprising how natural some of the handlers were already with the dogs having only worked for a few months at that point. Like I think they started maybe February, March, and I was seeing them in May. And it was pretty incredible. I didn’t really know exactly what I was going to be walking into or where they were going to be at. But by the time I was there, and I had a few days overlap with Kayla meant that it was kind of Edwin who had kept me up to speed and showed me what their day days had looked like. And he was already just, I guess, very natural. So that was very surprising but exciting to see. And then it allowed me to kind of introduce different ideas here and there. But also it was like a give and take like I learned things from the dogs they’re having I really only worked with my dog Ellie exclusively. So it was surprising and fun, I guess to work with different dogs. They each have different styles, different behaviors, different drives and intensities. So, yeah,

Rachel Hamre 15:14
yeah, I completely agree with what Heather said about the natural handler skills. I hadn’t even realized that Naomi had never really done much dog handling before. Yeah, definitely some really cool natural talent there. And I didn’t really, I had like, a day or two with Edwin and I was kind of just learning the routine and stuff like that. So I was mostly working with Naomi. But yeah, I was really impressed with a lot of that. Also, I definitely went into the whole experience, kind of just without any expectations. Like I didn’t really say, um, I didn’t really know what I was going into or anything. So I was kind of, like, ready for whatever was going on when I got there.

Kayla Fratt 15:57
Yeah, I mean, I think for all three of us, it was our first time really coming in, in this outside consultant role. You know, we’ve all trained our own dogs, we’ve maybe helped to train other people’s dogs we’ve handled and, you know, we’ve deployed on her own projects, but it really is kind of a different beast to come in, and try to help this program. And when we were all interviewing and working with Mary and working with the AC K team, before we had even gotten to Kenya, you know, there were a lot of questions that we would ask that the answer would kind of be that they didn’t know, you know, the whole point of why they needed outside consultants to come in was because they had lost the entirety of their senior Scout dog team. And we’re starting fresh. So there were some questions that we would ask about expectations or what needed to be done. And we were kind of creating the map as we walked forward, you know, because there just wasn’t always that information. Organizationally, it was really cool to get to be involved in that. So yeah, and then is there anything that you found particularly exciting or inspiring about working with this team and working on this program?

Heather Nootbaar 17:06
Yeah, I think it’s really exciting. The enthusiasm that both Edwin and Naomi had, like we came in with new perspectives for them. I know, their previous consultants or advisors had sometimes come from different backgrounds, I don’t believe they were specifically conservation detection. Some of them were more like security or protection backgrounds. And so we had that difference that we brought in, and they seem to be very receptive to that. And, you know, when when we brought in our humane hierarchy, sort of ideas as well. Like, I remember meeting Naomi, because she didn’t come. She was on her off the whole week, prior to like, when I was just with Edwin, and so when she returned, she was telling me all the books she had been reading, and she was listening to a podcast and would pause and ask me a question. You know, she was like, very eager to learn, which was really exciting seeing, you know, such young handlers at the beginning of their career at an organization that I feel like can only go up from here. And from talking with Mary, there are a lot of other potentials for the scat dog program or uses in general in Kenya. That’s part of the main reason why she started her research in Kenya, because no one was, you know, helping cheetahs in Kenya. So now that they have a dog team there, there’s other guests that kind of gets to our next question of like, looking forward with AC K, but just kind of all the future collaboration in projects with other researchers she knows with, you know, leopard projects, or wind farms down there, just Yeah, I think it’s just really exciting. The possibilities of where it could go from there.

Rachel Hamre 18:56
Yeah, I definitely felt inspired to come back. And like kind of refreshed and inspired to come back and work on things with my own dog, since I relatively recently got a new dog. And overall, she’s amazing and wonderful. But of course, there are always little things that you have to work through. And so we’ve, you know, tried to work through some of those issues and have made a lot of progress. But there are definitely some things that I was feeling maybe a little bit frustrated with or had just kind of put on the backburner as like, well, it’s not a huge deal. So I don’t really want to work on it. But like watching Naomi’s bond with the dogs, and also watching the dogs progress with things really inspired me to be able to come back and work on some of those same things and some different things with my own dog, for example, watching Percy’s progress on prey drive. I was like, oh, yeah, like now I can see how all that effort that you put in really does pay off and so I was a little bit more inspired to come back and like, really win work hard on those things that might take a little bit of extra at first, but then it really does pay off. And I was definitely I mentioned a little bit earlier, but I was definitely inspired by Edwin’s and Naomi’s relationships with the dogs, the dogs just really seemed to like them and they liked the dogs and think it made for a really nice working relationship and also inspired me to come back. Not that I hadn’t before, but just like, reminded me to continue enjoying my own dog. Just the fun parts of it. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 20:30
yeah. Well, gosh, I mean, the way that Percy it looks at adwind. Like, I hope we can all maybe find a human who looks at us that way. But at least find a dog who looks at you the way that Percy looks at Edwin like, Good lord. Yeah, yeah, definitely. Those are really good points. I think for me, I was so frustrated with the caracal and leopard question, the negatives questions, distraction question. And had at one point basically been like, Okay, I mean, this problem has been going on for years, as far as we can tell from training logs, maybe you guys are just stuck with it, maybe you’re just in a position where you’re going to collect. So other other Scouts. They weren’t necessarily super concerned about that as a problem. But it was something that really sat poorly with me. And I was there for the longest I was there for nearly seven weeks. But I took about a week off when my mom visited and we went on a safari to the Maasai Mara. And I think it was definitely one of those things, we’re having that opportunity to be really deep in this problem and really focused on something and feeling a little stuck with it and then getting to leave, and then come back, I was able to then kind of come at the problem and be like no actually just ignoring this. And you know, we’ve been hired to come here, we flew all the way around the world to try to help this team out. We can’t just throw up our hands with this problem. And I think that’s also as you said, Rachel, a good reminder, sometimes with our own dogs, and with our own trading problems, I find that I often turn into the best version of my dog trainer self, when I asked myself what I would do if someone was paying me to solve the problem. Or if I was talking to a friend or a client or a loved one about their own dog, exhibiting some behavior, I generally are much better at dealing with stuff that I am and may just ignore stuff with my own dogs. I think we’re all really excited to see where AC K and you know, particularly Naomi and I would get to go in the future. What are some of the things that we’re looking forward to for them?

Rachel Hamre 22:33
I’m really excited to hear about their like, first real search.

Kayla Fratt 22:37
Yeah. And that first field find is going to be pretty exciting. i We better get the WhatsApp group message. Blow up for that.

Heather Nootbaar 22:45
Go ahead. Yeah, I’m excited just to like, be in touch with them. We have weekly meetings that we’re still a part of, and they actually have a potential new dog that could be joining the group, we’ll see how, you know, his assessment and beginning stages go. But I think that could be a good learning experience for them. And I know they’re both excited about the possibility. So both Percy and Maddie were already pretty much trained when they joined the program. So it would be a new challenge and exciting thing for them to start a fresh dogs and in print them on odor. And we’re all happy to be there. If they have any questions that arise. And I’m sure they will. But yeah, that’s an exciting thing. Yeah,

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Kayla Fratt 23:29
yeah, definitely. And especially, you know, I think sometimes we forget, like, at least all three of us. And I think many of the conservation detection dog folks here they were all handler trainers, we’ve not all of us, but many, many of us, we’ve sourced our own dog, whether it’s a rescue or a puppy, we’ve trained them ourselves, and then we handle them. And that’s not actually the model. In a lot of the working dog world. It’s pretty common to be a police canine handler, but you didn’t train the dog, it’s very common to be a Navy Seal, or, you know, bomb dog detection of the customs dog, whatever, handler but you didn’t train the dog. And it’s your job to kind of maintain. But you also intermittently or regularly meet with the trainer to problem solve and troubleshoot. And that’s not a bottle that any of the three of us have interacted with all of us own and have trained our own dogs. That doesn’t mean we don’t bounce ideas around. But it’d be really, really exciting to hopefully get to see Edwin and Naomi, whether it’s with this current prospect dog or with a future prospect on kind of to see them get to make that transition from handlers to trainers, because they’ve been doing a lot of great work that’s moving them in that direction, but there’s really no substitute for getting to work with a totally agreed dog.

Rachel Hamre 24:40
Yeah, and I just briefly met that dog kind of as I was leaving, I think the thought it was just starting to be bounced around of potentially starting to train him. But he’s really sweet and really smart. I think there’s potential there who knows we’ll see. But regardless of what happens with him, I think that’ll I’m really excited to hear about Edwin and Naomi working with him. And I think that’s a really cool experience for them as trainers. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 25:09
So we’ve just a couple more questions here. Heather, why don’t you start with? What are some of the things that you learned? Like, what did you learn either from the dogs from the handlers from the experience, kind of take that in whatever direction you’d like?

Heather Nootbaar 25:23
Sure. Yeah, I’ve kind of touched on it. But I think learning went both ways. Like I said, it allowed me to work with a different dog than my own and see what works, and what doesn’t work and in real time has to figure out what you could do. Alternatively, also, I got to see yeah, I’ve never worked with a Malinois before. So working with Percy, she really has the no Oscar wins. Even if you’re just like, petting her, if you stop, she’s on top of you for more pet. Yeah, just that intensity was really fun to work with. I also think it was very different from any other region or environments, I guess, that I have worked in before. We typically are in the Midwest for our wind farm searches. So you get, you know, the occasional risky animal as a snake, or I guess there are mountain lions around here. But yeah, you don’t have to have botters around for Lion or elephants, or, you know, any other insert any other African species out there. So aside from the wildlife, that you have to be cautious of just the weather, we really weren’t able to work. The dogs, you know, from maybe 10 3011 o’clock in the morning until four o’clock, it’s just way too hot and unsafe to work during the hottest times. So just getting used to that, and especially here like, or especially they’re just using or learning how they came up with the system that they use for searches, primarily being safety focused. But like I said, having spotters on either side to look out for those wild animals. And also, I think it was helpful that we were able to impart our little thin for what might be the best compromise that keeps everyone safe, but also, you know, suits the dogs, the best way possible. I know when we had first gotten there, they had their handbook showing the dogs start downwind. And we had kind of backwards problem solved, and figured out that they first wrote the handbook using resources from mine detection and search and rescue, which totally makes sense where you would want to start downwind and get to you your source as soon as possible. But in the conservation world, you typically want to start up wind, so you’re not overlapping or being pulled off your transect all the way up wind for an item where you’re older. So just kind of working together and collaborating on ideas. So a lot of give and take. Do you

Rachel Hamre 28:06
have, I was also going to mention working with a melon law for the first time. She was a lot of fun. I also think it was really interesting to see, yeah, how things were done differently, like their study design and their search patterns. I guess I feel like the grid search that Heather mentioned a little bit earlier that we kind of differentiated the different ways that they might go about searching an area. That seems like kind of similar to what I was expecting, but I wouldn’t have expected there to be. Yeah, I learned a lot of different ways that you could potentially do that. And yeah, just like different study designs are always so interesting. Yeah. And of course, just fun. Like, they also just do like fun agility with their dogs like jumping through tires, or going around a pool. And yeah, fun little daily things like that, also,

Kayla Fratt 28:59
yeah, I think one of the things that I really admired about what they did, and what they do really well was a lot of their husband drew work. And you know, the daily health checks, and some of the record keeping that they do is just, it’s really, really well done. And I think one of the weaknesses that at least I have as a handler, and I think is pretty easy to fall into potentially, when it’s your own dog is kind of a lack of some of that record keeping and husbandry and those routines that when a dog is owed by an organization or passed between handlers, by necessity, I think you tend to systematize that and you tend to get good at it. And it was kind of cool to get to see a lot of the stuff that they did and see how I can apply that to my own dogs again, even though I’m not necessarily handing my dogs off to other handlers or caretakers often, and the teamwork overall was really good and their communication and the systems overall were in a really good place that I think we could learn a lot from. And I think for me the flip side because I had lifted worked with a valid offer a while before and handled a couple of valid while. So Percy was not quite as new to me, but that he actually was because he is actually in a lot of ways kind of a lower drive dog than what you would expect for this line of work. He does work well for his toy, he’s very happy. And he’s an excellent worker, but really getting to see kind of at the opposite end of things when you’ve got a dog that you didn’t surely select for Drive, that goes off the charts, kind of seeing how successful that dog can be, was really, really cool. And you know that on that on that same side, I think seeing the really different backgrounds that Edwin and Naomi had and how green they both are as handlers, yet seeing how much they brought to the table and how much they were able to offer was also really exciting. So this might be the hardest question, but what are some of the things that we’re most excited to do better next time, whether that’s if we go forward with AC K and come back again in a year, I think we’re all hopeful and excited that that may materialize, or, you know, with future consultants type projects, are there anything that comes to mind for either of you there,

Heather Nootbaar 31:10
I guess I had one note, I mean, it totally would be project specific. But Mary had mentioned, it might have been a good idea to allow more time and space between each consultant coming in to let the handlers have some time off and also process and implement what they learned with that person. And then by the time the next person comes in, they may have specific questions that they learned while they had that hands on alone time. And then it can be, you know, something that you deal with the next person. And it seems to be helpful that we had three of us there. But yeah, that was just one thing I had noted for an improvement, possibly, but yeah,

Rachel Hamre 31:51
I definitely agree with that. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 31:53
yeah. Yeah, that is a good point, I think. Yeah, particularly because we also just, it was so much information so quickly, for all of them. That having those gaps, like I think for us, it was best to have those overlaps. I know, it made me feel really good to know that I wasn’t just going to leave like how there got there for a couple of days. And I was able to download and then and then go. But yeah, potentially for Edwin Adobe, it wasn’t actually best to do it that way.

Rachel Hamre 32:19
I feel like the three of us communicated pretty often, pretty well. But I mean, there’s always room for more. And I kind of wonder if we had done like a daily or every two days or every week or something like that communication with like, all of the consultants together, kind of saying like, these are the things that we worked on yesterday and today. And this is the progress we’ve made, I guess kind of just like a more like slowing more frequently updated communication of what we were doing. Maybe now I’m just brainstorming.

Kayla Fratt 32:52
Yeah. But one of the things that I noticed that I found was a little tricky was basically because of the internet slash cell service. Problems with the Samburu as a field site because Kenya is a country that has excellent cell service and Wi Fi in general, depending on where you are like Nairobi is a tech capital in eastern Africa. But when we were out in Samburu, it’s pretty limited. So while I was just praising their record keeping one of the things that maybe would have helped, but wasn’t really available to us as if we had had more of daily updated trading logs in Google Drive or something like that, where we could more easily kind of peek at things and share them back and forth and comment and, you know, maybe even work together more asynchronously through the cloud. But because of internet limitations, and Kenya, like most of their training logs were written in a notebook. So unless you’re physically there in Samburu, you can’t necessarily look over the training logs and get a grasp of what’s going on and what’s been happening in the days or weeks leading up to your work there. So that might be something that if we were to end up back in Kenya, we’ll prioritize trying to figure out a solution for and potentially with other projects that just won’t end up being as much of an issue because you might have internet there. The other things that I had kind of jotted down, and we did do a pretty good job of this. And, again, I don’t think this was a necessarily a failing on anyone’s part. But as I mentioned, because of the specifics of how and why we were brought in. There were a couple times where I found myself wishing that we had kind of some more clear success markers, goalposts key what is KPI stands for key something like basically, you know, something that performance indicators, key performance indicators, like it would have been really nice, I think to have some of that sort of stuff. And I think going forward, it will be really nice to try to ensure that we’ve got some of those things, whether it’s with AC K or as outside consultants elsewhere, because there was quite a bit of kind of coming in and looking around and trying to find the gaps and then triage on our own and that is absolutely What we were hired for, but there were times where I found myself wanting to get pulled down and working on a specific project or a specific question. And then realizing that the priorities for the program and what was important to Mary, or Edwin, or Naomi, or cosmos or whoever actually lay elsewhere, and that constant communication is key. And I think we did a pretty good job of it. But I think going forward, really ensuring that we know exactly what makes our time as consultants successful for the people that are hiring us, will be really helpful. And we did a pretty good job here. But having that extremely clear, it’s nice, you know, helps you really know what you need to work on, and ensure that you’re not getting off track and ensure that you’re doing the best that you can to serve the program and the dogs and their needs best.

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Heather Nootbaar 35:49
Yeah. And it’s kind of like you don’t know what you don’t know. So it is more on us to have that benchmarks are things that we want to instill on the new handlers because they’re sponges ready to take in the information, but they don’t know what they’re missing. without us having either experienced it in the field or have a checkbox or checkmark, or a box that we want to make sure we’ve covered with them. So totally Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 36:16
Yeah, I mean, like an example of this would be the first time I actually got to witness a full linear search was probably two thirds or three quarters of my way through my time in Kenya, and I never got to do a full grid search. So there was kind of a lot of working with the dogs and working with the handlers and trying to build up endurance and build up field skills without actually knowing exactly what that search setup was going to look like. As soon as we got out and got to do the full linear search. And I wasn’t just reading about it in their manual, that really kind of clicked into place for me a lot of gaps that we needed to work on over the remainder of my time, and then also passing off towards Heather and Rachel. And I think there’s always going to be hiccups like that anytime you’re coming in as an outside consultant, but certainly just trying to figure out, okay, let’s do a mock linear search sooner rather than later, let’s kind of really get out and figure out what this needs to look like at the end so that we can backfill and as consultants, you know, it is our job partially to backfill and figure out what needs to be done. But really knowing what success is going to look like will help us get there. I hope that makes sense.

Rachel Hamre 37:21
Yeah, I hadn’t put that into words in my head yet. But I think you’re totally right, that knowing what a successful endpoint or like a further along progression point looks like. Yeah, we could have wind things out a little bit better, or something like that.

Kayla Fratt 37:41
Yeah, maybe slightly more efficiently. And even, you know, still questions about, you know, they’re working towards getting the dogs ready to help with the National cheetah survey. And there could be things that still we’ve missed, because there could be husbandry and like life skill behaviors that the dogs are going to need as part of the I’m just thinking of this now like being on the road for the national survey that we didn’t even necessarily think of as far as like, oh, gosh, do we know for sure that person is ready to sleep in a tent with her handler. While they’re on the road? We don’t necessarily know that. That’s something we could have been working on. But they’ve got a year to work on it. So hopefully, hopefully, they’ll get there. Yeah. Well, is there anything else that we wanted to bring up? Or any fun stories you wanted to share about your time in Kenya before we wrap up here?

Rachel Hamre 38:24
I got related. Yeah, tell

Kayla Fratt 38:27
us about your giraffes, Rachel. And then Heather, jump in with whatever you had.

Rachel Hamre 38:33
Oh, yeah, the jury. So Naomi, and I were on our morning walk. And we were I think we had already turned around, we were walking back towards camp. And we stopped to take a water break. And I don’t even remember exactly how we realized that there were there. But we just saw some giraffe heads sticking just up above the trees in the distance, but not that far away. That was really cool. Also, not dog or wildlife related, but I got to see a totally dry river, go turn into a completely flowing river. And that was amazing to watch.

Heather Nootbaar 39:08
Yeah, I think it was just really fun to see even what we did on off days, like when it’s Saturday, it’s typically back day, which means to go down to the river and the dogs get to play in the water. And we collected water for camp. It also was interesting to see what camp life was like, just everyone living together, cooking meals together. How when Rachel was there, you know, they needed to have most of the team involved in a search to practice what real life searches would be like. So just really realizing it really does take a team to do the project that they have. Yeah, I guess the other thing that we wanted to mention is that I had said we were collecting data on each of those discrimination In trials and practice we were doing for that work. And we have cool real graphs that we’re putting in the show notes. And we hope to kind of consolidate the data analyze it is maybe something Rachel’s excited about, like, graphs. And we’ll see if we can get it published somewhere. Because like Kayla said, there might not be all that much out there. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 40:29
yeah. No, I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to figure out how to get that published. It it’ll be a different sort of paper, you know, I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. And we just haven’t seen it. But, you know, there’s so much of the published research in the conservation dog relevance, kind of like the science highlight we had today, which is like, yep, dogs can help with koalas. We just need more money. It seems like that’s a huge proportion of the type of paper that’s published. So I’m really excited to hopefully be able to share this and even if we can’t get it into a peer reviewed journal, I think we’ll be able to get it out and help others with that Intel going down the line. More and more. Yeah, I think my funnest Kenya story or my wild is canister is probably not it actually didn’t take place while I was with the AC Katie but is that while I was in the Masai Mara, through I’ve stayed with ni Dara camp and the this absolutely amazing guide to paying, he managed to get us to watch a full cheetah hunt from start to finish. So we were hanging out with there’s three male cheetahs left from a five male coalition that was known as the Masai Mara Fast Five, they’re about seven years old now. And unfortunately, the last year or two of them have passed on. But there’s three left and we were hanging out with them were actually they were attempting to meet with a female, the female snuck off, left the boys. And we kind of hung out with the boys for a little bit longer and paying our guide just kind of kept looking at their behavior, and watching how they were moving and what they were up to. And he kept saying, they’re going to hunt, they’re going to hunt, they’re hungry, they’re going to hunt, and we were like, okay, they’re gonna hunt. Cool, let’s do it. And it was probably two hours of really intensive, quiet observation before they did ultimately end up stocking a zebra herd and taking down a zebra calf, which is pretty unusual zebras are at the much the large, large end of prey for cheetahs, but they will these coalition’s of males will occasionally do it and yeah, actually getting to see a cheetah run full tilt and getting to see the strategy because we think of cheetahs and solitary hip hunters but these males do tend Taunton coalition’s it was a little gory and a little intense kind of towards the end, but actually, a lot of hurry up and wait, because as I said, it was about two hours of watching these Cheetos like every five minutes, they take one step, and then they lie down in the grass and disappear. So you’re actually just staring at the savanna and can’t see the cheetahs at all. And then it’s like, I can’t even tell you it’s got to be like less than 10 seconds of a chase of these animals running at 4050 miles an hour to take down something was just really cool to have the privilege to get to see these animals that we spent so much time we spent so much time with their poop. And then getting to see the animal itself was pretty neat. Did not get Sani cow calm or leopard, or any of the other pesky animals that were bothering us in our negatives work. But that’s okay. Hopefully next time, so well. I think without further ado, we’re going to give everyone a chance to go back to their Saturdays for everyone at home. I hope you enjoyed this podcast and learned a lot and you’re feeling inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and skill set. You can find shownotes donate canine conservationists and join our Patreon over at Canine conservationist.org You can follow Heather at smelly canine Lea as well as on the canine conservationists, Instagram. And Rachel do you want people to follow you on Instagram or are you a little more private

Rachel Hamre 43:55
there? Yeah, that’s fine. Yeah. How do you just go ahead and spell h a m MMRE. Not very good about posting on there but I need to post more.

Kayla Fratt 44:06
You might get some occasional Sookie pictures but we also all do share that um, that Cato and conservationists Instagram. So, again, thanks so much for listening, and we’ll be back next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai