Odor Discrimination Part 4: Moss Discrimination with Caroline Finlay

For our fourth episode of our odor discrimination series, Kayla speaks with Caroline Finlay from Conservation Detection Dogs Northern Ireland about moss discrimination.

Science Highlight: Relative abundance of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis mutica) based on scat-detection dog surveys

Links Mentioned in the Episode: 

Canine detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in laboratory and field settings

Where to find Caroline:  Website | Facebook | Instagram

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By Maddie Lamb, with the help of ChatGPT

San Joaquin Kit Fox Research:

  • A study in The Southwestern Naturalist (2006) aimed to determine the abundance of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox in California.
  • Spanning May 2001 to February 2003, the research revealed low abundance levels in the San Joaquin Valley, emphasizing the species’ vulnerability to habitat fragmentation.

Caroline Finlay & The Conservation Detection Dogs:

  • Launched officially in 2021, the venture took inspiration from red squirrel detection during disease outbreaks.
  • Their team, including dogs Rufus, Ziba, Monty, and Jasper, handle projects ranging from wind farm works (main funding source) to unique endeavors like moss detection.

The Unique Moss Detection Project:

  • Caroline’s team was approached for a unique project: detecting the slender feather green moss, a particularly rare species in Northern Ireland.
  • The challenge was twofold: the rarity of the moss and its similarity to other species, demanding keen bryophytologist expertise.

Training and Challenges:

  • Using double-blind testing with randomized pots, Ziba was trained to identify the specific moss scent while differentiating from similar smells.
  • Another hook moss posed challenges as it occurs in similar habitats as the target moss. While Ziba detected it correctly in the field, she faced issues in the controlled environment. The hypothesis? Potential contamination between the two mosses.
  • Solution? Starting afresh with new samples. Richard, the moss expert, was pivotal in this retraining, ensuring the samples’ authenticity.

Conservation Implications:

  • The slender feather green moss has a unique environment preference, thriving in neutral terrains. This specificity makes it vulnerable to external factors, such as fertilizer introduction.
  • The overarching goal is safeguarding regions where this moss prospers, ensuring its unique requirements don’t lead to its extinction.

What Lies Ahead:

  • With the reporting season ending this year, extensive surveys are in progress, aiming to discover this moss and other potential species.
  • Dogs, with their superior olfactory capabilities, accelerate this process, making the prospect of covering all of Northern Ireland and identifying other species a tangible reality.

Key Techniques & Future Endeavors:

  • Emphasizing the importance of robust training, Caroline noted the Kong method as an effective strategy, where the target scent is paired with a “Kong” (a popular dog toy) during the early stages.
  • Caroline revealed that a comprehensive paper on seabird detection is in the works, written collaboratively with experts from around the world.

Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt  00:09

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 cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies, and NGOs. Today we’re going to continue on our kind of mini series highlighting different cool projects and that involve discrimination work and how that has been handled with Caroline Finlay. But before we get into it, we’re going to go through our science highlight.  Today’s science highlight is titled “Relative abundance of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes (Volpes macrotis mutica), based on scat-detection dog surveys.” It was authored by Deb Smith and a bunch of others and published in The Southwestern Naturalist in 2006. This was prepared by our lovely volunteer Heidi Benson. So the question of this study was that while the kitfox has been listed for over 30 years as endangered, little is known about its relative abundance throughout its historic range, this study aims to assess kitfox relative abundance throughout their native range in California. This study took place in three distinct regions northern central and southern rages of the San Joaquin Valley in central California. Scott searches with detection dogs were conducted opportunistically from May 2001 to February 2003. And the dogs were detect, trained to detect kitfox red fox and gray fox got as the overall fox population and dynamic was of interest to the authors. In total 213 kilometers on 24 properties were searched in the Northern Range 222 kilometers on 18 properties were surveyed in the central rage, and 104 kilometers on nine properties were searched in the southern range. Route search surveyed at each property varied from one to 37 kilometers and include unpaved roads and vegetation. DNA results from 17 scats in the northern region came back as red fox. In the central reason three scouts came back as kitfox Five were red fox and two were great facts. No Fox scouts were found during surveys in the southern range, although several kitfox scats were located during prior surveys in this region, the author’s note that quote, Our combined results indicate that can foxes were either absent on the specific public and private properties we surveyed within their historical range, or only occurred intermittently in these areas and quote, overall, the study showed that kitfox abundance within their native California range is low and quite variable. The absence of kitfox from fragmented and or isolated areas in the southern range indicate that kitfox may be highly sensitive to habitat fragmentation, and therefore carry an increased risk of risk of extra patient in these areas, the author strikes that conservation efforts must be focused on maintaining habitat connectivity in areas with more robust populations. So as as always, we’ve got a little bit of a limitation here, the study was geographically limited to mainly public lands due to the difficulties of acquiring access to private lands.  So without further ado, let’s get to our interview with Caroline. So Caroline, why don’t you start with giving us a little bit of an introduction of yourself, the dogs you work with and kind of your general, what you’re up to these days, catch us up on on all that good stuff.

Caroline Finlay  03:12

Awesome. Thanks. Thanks very much for having to have me on. And so yeah, I run a small business over here called conservation detection dogs, Northern Ireland. And as you can probably tell, it’s based in Northern Ireland. And so I was working in conservation for biomass B 1015 years. I did my PhD in conservation. And then I was working on a project and there was someone, I was actually working on red squirrels. And there was someone in England who train their dogs to find Dad red squirrels during squirrel pox outbreaks. And I was like, Oh, my God, I have a Springer Spaniel. Maybe you’d be amazing at this, and probably how a lot of us start, like, Oh, we’ll get our dog involved in our work. And so I got in contact with them. And they put me in touch with this amazing organization over in England, who came over to help train me and a couple of other volunteers at the time, and it’s pretty much grown massively since then. So that was 2019. And then in 2021, I went full time, I got a lot more dogs. So I now have four dogs, three Springer Spaniels and one German Shorthaired Pointer. And yeah, we do a range of projects are me and like bread and butter is the wind farm work like a lot of us. That’s how we get the money in and then I have a lot of fun projects they take on. I like doing research projects because I have this background and research. I was a data analyst for a while I don’t you know, I don’t want to lose those skills. So I do take on some of the more random stuff. So we we do have a seabird paper coming out soon on A Dog’s being used for finding seabirds. We’ve got research paper on Curlew Nast detection hopefully being submitted. And yeah, we’re now doing this very, very cool research project on a on a species of moss as well. So it’s, it’s fun.

Kayla Fratt  05:19

Yeah, that sounds super fun. So if you’ve got, well, we’ve got time. Tell us a little bit about your about your five dogs. Are they all kind of their ages and where they’re at? Do you have any do any of them have any specializations or anything within your line of work or do they all do everything?

Caroline Finlay  05:34

So it’s for dogs, the our oldest, reverse, he’s nine. He was my first dog on a tree and he specialized and they all do Battenburg but he specialized on red squirrel, and Mike Shearwater. So that’s the sea bird that we helped look for around islands around Ireland, and then we have Ziva. She’s five, she’s the German Shorthaired Pointer. So she is doing the Curlew Nast finding, it’s, um, you know what pointers if you’re doing anything with like, bird nests that are out on the ground out in the open, I advise you get a pointer. They’re absolutely brilliant at it. So she’s doing that she’s also doing the moss work as well. And then I’ve got Monty who is too. He does rodent detection for biosecurity. And then I’ve got Jasper who is one and he’s a trainee. He doesn’t do anything at the minute he is a freeloader. But eventually, he will be absolutely fantastic.

Kayla Fratt  06:37

Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s very exciting. And yeah, I’ve been really wanting to branch out. I think for my next dog, I’m probably going to step away from border collies for once and try something that is a little bit more kind of bread for this line of work. And see what it’s like to have that half of it being pre installed and then have to work so much harder on some of the responsiveness and some of the other things that you know, Border Collies come pre installed with. I’ve been really wanting to try – I know Simon Gadbois just got a Sprollie. And I feel like that would be a really nice next step for me, because then I get some of the Collie stuff, but also get some of the Springer stuff, but they’re not very common on this side of the pond. I know they’re a lot more common over in the UK. So anyway, so tell us about this moss project. That’s what we’re here to talk about a little bit how, first off, how did this come about? You know, moss is not something that I think of as being a super well funded area, I haven’t heard of a lot of work with dogs being involved with moss. So where did this come from?

Caroline Finlay  07:40

So it was actually we got contacted by an amazing and very imaginative person got a loan called Neve, she works for the museum’s here, and the center Center for Environmental data and records. So it’s like a data center here. And every couple of years, they have to report on certain species that are important, or represent different habitats, or like maybe are suffering in some way. And they’re reporting on them to make sure that we’re doing things right. Or if we’re not doing things, right, that we can recover from that. And one of those species is this very rare moss. So I’ll give you the like common name rather than go into the nice names, I’ll probably pranks are wrong, but it’s called the slender feather green moss. And it’s, it’s very particular about where it grows, but it seems to be in Northern Ireland anyway, we only really have records for it. And one or two places they’re not it’s not very common. And even in those places, it’s really really localized as well. So really, really rare, but also looks like a lot of other mosses so you can have to be a moss person like a proper bryophytologist To, to be able to recognize it. So it’s tricky. And thankfully we had a fantastic primatologist Richard working with us from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. And without 10 we would have been absolutely stuffed because that is such a tricky, tricky moss to find and recognize.

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Kayla Fratt  09:19

Yeah, I just did a quick Google of it. And partially the name is so beautiful. But yeah, it does look very Mossy. I mean, moss is kind of notoriously difficult to identify in the first place. And then when honestly I’m not even sure a lot of these Google results don’t necessarily seem to be of the same species. So I’m not sure Google knows what it’s talking about here. So yeah, well okay. So that I think that sets the stage really well for you know what we want to talk about here so that discrimination work so they came to you they decided you know, they’re going to give it a go with the dogs. What were your like, first time That’s when they came to you about using dogs for moss. What were were you excited? Were you worried about anything in particular?

Caroline Finlay  10:06

So super excited, mainly because I haven’t really done that much plant work at all. So I was kind of like, oh, this will be fun. This will be interesting. I googled moss detection dogs and nothing came up. So I was worried because I was like, Oh, why is nobody else done this? But here we’ll have to give anything ago is kind of the thing and the good thing about the fact that only occurs in one or two classes, it means that if I’m doing wind farm stuff, it’s very unlikely to be there. So I could put you know any of my dogs on a chart? Yeah, I did pick the pointer because she is very good or detailed work. If not, this might need detailed work. Her nose is incredible. So I thought yeah, we’ll take a look at this. The Super sniffer and for this one. The boys handle the wind farms for a bit while she works on this.

Kayla Fratt  11:04

Okay, yeah, that makes perfect sense.  K9Conservationists offers several on demand webinars to help you and your dog go along in your journey as a conservation dogs. Our current on demand webinars are all roughly one hour long and priced at $25. They include a puppy set where it’s all about raising and training a conservation puppy found it alerts and changes of behavior. And what you’re looking for teaching your dog, a target owner, find these three webinars along with jackets, treat pouches, mugs, bento boxes, and more over at our website, k9conservationists.org/shop. So tell us a little bit about then what that early training looks like? Did you start thinking about discrimination work from the very beginning? And if so, kind of how did you introduce that? Because I know you know, we’ve talked about this quite a bit on the show. And that’s the whole point of this series. There’s a lot of different schools of thought about how and when to introduce kind of discrimination.

Caroline Finlay  12:01

So yeah, we think about discrimination fairly early on in the training. And that’s what we’ve done for every odor that we’ve done. And that’s like, seabirds are all from bats to seabirds, and yeah, everything. So the first step for the moss project, it was pretty much me meeting up with our most expert Richard and then walking me around some fields in the area that we knew the loss occurred for him to show me like the variety of losses that were actually there. And he took me through like, literally, we were there for three hours, like looking at Moss it was it was a big day. Climbing over barbed wire fences and everything. But yeah, we were going through like all the different like, families as well, not just like ones that looked similar. It was like because we don’t know like what in moss that will be the odor of the dog isoform. So like, I was picking plants that weren’t mosses out of the environment that discriminate against, I was picking like, like water samples as well. And then like interesting, like, let as much different weird things that I could think of that possibly the dog could confuse. I took home with me, I think I ended up bringing back like 20 glass jars of different things. And then like a load of the actual target samples as well. Thankfully, we were really lucky that this moss isn’t actually you don’t have a needle license to actually hold it. It’s not protected in that way. So it was great. I could actually take like samples home with me without having like to go through all the like, bureaucratic like getting licenses and things like that there, which was good.

Kayla Fratt  13:40

Yeah, I was just gonna ask when you said you were able to bring it home. I was like, oh, yeah, that’s convenient. Because here, yeah, it’s definitely both within endangered and invasive plants in particular, it’s so hard to some can sometimes that’s, you know, the biggest hurdle that we face. So and then as you’re going about training, at what point do you start introducing those non target odors to help? Ziva is the pointer right? Yeah, to help her discriminate properly between everything.

Caroline Finlay  14:11

Yep, so we saw siebers trained on call so we implement using call as soon as we kind of get going and remove the column from the imprinting process we start adding in different things for discrimination. Usually it’s things that I’ve possibly contaminated the actual order with so gloves, the empty jars, like clean empty jars, or if I’ve used bags and bags, things like that things that are like my fault go in and then that would once like shit usually that takes no time at all. She’s so used to having those involved in the discrimination like that. She’s like yeah, oh, that those gloves again, or you know, like Yeah, yeah. Oh, At loads again. So she’s like, oh, yeah, get those out of the way. And then we start out again. So I started with things that I thought she wouldn’t struggle with. So plants that are soft from the Love Actually, I started with a moss from my garden that was from a completely different environment. So collected in exactly the same way, but not in that actual environment that that target loss came from. So we started with that she had no issues whatsoever of she was like, random that that’s in there. So it was all completely passed out over. We then went to like plants that are not mosses, but from the same environment. So like beads, different grasses, like baggy kind of bogland plants. Got them out of the way. Then we went water samples from there, you know, this is unseen, and everywhere. As Abby went to mosses that are not related, like not closely related to this moss, so things like sphagnum there is springy turf, more moss as well, because they appear everywhere. They’re all over the shop, but they’re not closely related to this moss. And then we went into losses that are actually closely related. It was a big process.

Kayla Fratt  16:16

Yeah, yeah. So and are you doing is this all in kind of like a lineup situation? Or are you using like a search room or like your back garden?

Caroline Finlay  16:25

Yeah, so it’s more of a lineup situation. And we use pots, just randomized ports. And we do everything double blind. So I have my, my other handler and trainer Patrice helping me and she is the expert at doing discrimination now because she’s done so much with me. So she organizes all my pots when me and Zeba leave the written to do usually play so

Kayla Fratt  16:53

Yeah. And yeah, so did you at what stage? Or if any? Did she start actually having problems and like hesitating more, or actually even fully alerting to something that was not the oh, gosh, I’ve already forgotten what it was called the springy green leaf moss and slender feather green moss.

Caroline Finlay  17:17

There is a springy one. So that’s fair. Yeah. So she didn’t struggle until we got to one hook MOS so that the target MOS is a hook moss, and this other one that she struggled with is also a hook MOS and I was like, oh, okay, weird, cuz we didn’t expect it. So we she wasn’t. So we’d already started doing like field trials at this time. Because if your discrimination was lasting, so long, we were going out into the field to give her a go with this point. And she was indicating on the correct moss and not any other losses in the environment. So I was like, okay, so she’s not indicating on it when she’s out. But she’s indicating on it when we’re in the discrimination kind of room. So, yeah, so what we did was, I know, it was weird. It was weird. So what we did is we got rid of all our training samples. We got rid of everything. And we pretty much started again, because we were like, right, something weirds going on. And we think what we think happened because we were we managed to get over this issue. And what we think happened is that some of that other hook Moss was in one of our training samples. And was contaminating it because they look so similar.

Kayla Fratt  18:39

Yeah no, it would be really hard. You’ve got to yeah, really, I’m imagining mosses are so much less discreet, as a sample, to try to collect and make sure that you only have that one thing. And I know like that’s a problem we’ve discussed in some carnivores that tend to use like communal latrines, if you’re wanting to pick up you know, some Fox Scott of one species, and you pick it up from a tree, and there’s a very good chance it’s been contaminated with at least the urine of other species. You don’t want. You don’t want that. That could be a big issue, especially as far as your training samples go. Oh, that makes perfect sense. Okay, so tell me more how to how do we fix it?

Caroline Finlay  19:16

So you got rid of all our training samples? We then got Richard right again. God love Richard. Honestly, we dragged him up a mountain about five six times, because that’s where the moss is. Like, all right, so we dragged him up there again. And we were like, right, we’re gonna do it. Like we went through all those samples. And we’re like, as 100% correct this time? And he was like, Yes, this is that and I was like, Okay, this is that and we just have to go back to the drawing board and help kind of like work out that it’s this one by itself. Not this mixed in with a little bit of the other one. That was the actual target. It was it and to be honest, we’re not even 100% sure that that’s what happened because like this Apple, it’s so hard to go through them to make sure that they’re all the same. That yeah, it was.

Kayla Fratt  20:08

That’s so interesting one, this is one of the other episodes that’s gonna come out probably as a last one in this series is going to be talking about the work we do to faction for cheaters in Kenya on their discrimination process. And it was really similar where the dogs had in the field historically, never actually had problems with finding anything but cheetahs got, but in the training rooms, they were alerting on Cara Cole and leopard Scott pretty consistently. And there were a couple of samples that were more problematic than others. And it had been going on kind of for a while, we weren’t quite sure exactly when it had started. And yeah, like one of the first things we did is like, alright, let’s just get rid of everything. Like, we just have to, we just have to start from scratch, because we don’t know. And, you know, I, we had all sorts of different guesses about, you know, did two samples get swapped at some point did something spill into another one? You know, who knows, as far as labeling or, you know, there was all sorts of different hypotheses and fundamentally with it, a lot of the stuff you’re just maybe never going to be able to figure out but starting from scratch seems to be the best, the best, best approach? So did you have any other problems from there on out, so it was just that one hook Moss,

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Caroline Finlay  21:17

It was that one hook, most honestly, this thing was like the back end of my life for like two weeks. So it was it was, but they’re annoying thing was that they they occur in the same habitat. So really, when you get one, you will get the other. So it was tricky. Whenever we’re trying to get the perfect sample, they kind of do occur together. Although weirdly, she never really indicated on the roll. She never had to get on the wrong moss when we were out at site. And we had Richard with us to verify. Now he’s actually going out again, we went don’t know without him. The C F the dog and more of a applied way can be used in this way. We’re me as a handler in the dog. Boy, did we find patches? And then sand Richard out afterwards and go, where are we right? So he’s going out again? No, for us to actually check. Well, if we’re right to so it should be addressed and to see. But any time that he’s been with us, she’s never she’s never indicated on the wrong loss. So it definitely seems to be if the target moss plus the other moss and the huh what was what she had her hands. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt  22:25

Yeah, well, so how big were your training samples? I’m imagining you could pick out like a couple sprigs of moss or were you getting like good clods that she was being trained on?

Caroline Finlay  22:35

Yeah, there were a couple of a couple of inches wide. Yeah, they were good, because when the most does occur, can occur and quite a big patch. And then sometimes little tiny patches. So we kind of had to, like, get a nice size samples that we’re not either missing the really big patch, but we’re not missing the little tiny patches as well. And then we also had the issue that we had major snow here. So for a while the boss was under snow. So what can we do? But um, but ya know, we we had nice sized clumps of moss to work on.

Kayla Fratt  23:13

Okay. Yeah, I was just kind of thinking that I can imagine as long as that moss is generally occurring at a larger size than in Yeah, kind of out in a field situation. Even if it does mix up a little bit, she’s still likely, you know, she’s an experienced dog she knows to go to kind of that highest concentration of voter which should still bring you to the correct thing. So yeah, that’s really cool. Well, yeah, I’m excited to hear what what Richard comes back with, after this. So do you have a good feeling of I actually have no idea what conservation for a moss might look like? Like, whatever kind of they’re just kind of trying to find these patches? And then are they going to try to protect those areas? Are they trying to propagate more from these parent populations are kind of what are some of the goals for them on a conservation side.

Caroline Finlay  23:58

So this area in particular, they’re really wanting to get some protection for it. They are looking at different species in the area, not just the moss, no, this moss is very particular about the like acidity that it likes to be in an almost like neutral kind of areas. So it wants acidic soil, but like a alkaline water source running through it to make it almost, it’s very particular.

Kayla Fratt  24:27

So particular.

Caroline Finlay  24:31

So like, so it really wants, it doesn’t want any additional things added to that environment or it starts like it, this does not survive it at all. So you don’t want like fertilizers and things being out of date and you don’t really want like anything that’s going to up up that acidity in any way of the watercourse and things like that. So yeah, it’s very particular that moss.

Kayla Fratt  24:56

Yeah, of course. I mean, honestly, that is kind of more – one of the things that just puts you at risk for being an app yet an endangered or threatened species is having having your niche and sticking to it sometimes isn’t the best strategy. I mean, and that’s, you know, we talked about the opposite for our invasive species. As soon as you hear something’s like a generalist that produces 10,000 babies every season, you’re like, Well, that could be a problem. Yeah. Well, cool. So and then kind of long term, is the plan to continue trying to get you and Zeba out for these more operational Search searches and just keep keep going out there, or is this is there more of a, like, Okay, we’ll do this for a summer, we’ll survey this area, then we’ll have our information. And maybe you guys will come back in a couple of years to do it again, or something like that.

Caroline Finlay  25:46

So they the recording season for the reports is that the end of this year, so they have to do a lot of surveys by the end of this year to see if they can find the smallest and other species are thinking about other species know that we can put the dogs on to Oh, cool. And, yeah, so they’re hoping that we’re actually going to be able to expand their coverage massively. Because the dogs, they are so much faster. Like if you can imagine you’re looking for a green thing and a green field. It’s hard. But the dogs are because they’re using odor. It’s just so much faster than pizza. So we’re hoping that we can get the dogs like two more sites, then we can actually, yeah, just just cover the entirety of Northern argue with the grant.

Kayla Fratt  26:36

Oh, how cool. So it seems like we’ve already gotten this question answered. But just just so I can ask it. So you have not seen any kind of because you expose something in discrimination early on in lineups. It’s not like she’s seeming to recognize that in the field. Even if have you had days where you don’t find any moss at all? Yeah, no targets at all.

Caroline Finlay  26:58

Yeah. So some of the spaces that we actually used in discrimination would be very common at some of the wind farms, we would work out and I was like, this will be addressing, but like, not even like not even showing interest like she never button eyelid like a whole compass Magnum that we went past and stagnant we would have used in discrimination training, because it’s so common in that area. Right. So no, like she literally didn’t even show a bit of interest in some of the discriminations. discriminators we’ve put out.

Kayla Fratt  27:30

Very cool. Yeah, I mean, and again, that’s kind of what I’ve always again, you know, that’s what I’ve always heard from how bomb drug, etc. Folks do it.

Caroline Finlay  27:39

So it was actually really pride of Ziva because we had all these people who are really, really interested in moss in the field with us at the same time as her looking for more totally. So they’re just like, Oh, what’s this? Oh, what’s that poking things all over the place? And she’s like, not indicating on the places that she’s poking. I’m like, thank goodness. How much of a nightmare would that be?

Kayla Fratt  28:03

Totally well and actually that so that’s something else that comes to mind a little bit for me with this question because I have Border Collies and particularly one of my border collies barley is so extremely suggestible, that I don’t think that would have been the case for him. I think if I took him into the field with a bunch of mouse nerds, and they were excitedly poking around at things, I would have to be handling him very, very carefully, to have him not start indicating to everything that everyone was pointing at. We even we just did a survey a couple days ago, where it was kind of a full mammal survey that the students are working on. So they’re picking up on areas that Peck rays have routed or Armadillo dens and all sorts of stuff. And he’s just trained on the carnivore scouts. And we’re just kind of along to do like a demonstration outreach event with these students. And yeah, within a two hour search by the end, he was starting to if you if you bent down and started looking too much at the peccary stuff, he was starting to come over and like, kind of lay down like, you know, like, it would definitely be a problem for him that we would have to be very careful about if you’re going out and serving that way for a long time. So I wonder how much of the breed tendencies may come into that. Or, again, something that I would just really need to kind of consciously train him that like, hey, even if other people are interested in this, it’s never ever going to be the thing that pays and we would just need to do that a lot more in practice.

Caroline Finlay  29:25

When so Ziva is she was an explosives detection dog before I got her. She did have a tendency when I first got her she did have a tendency to indicate on human disturbance. So and I think explosives though, that’s kind of a good thing. Because if someone’s put a bomb somewhere, they will have diverted around and like, put things in and put explosives in. But I had the trainer off that because in conservation were the exact opposite. There should be no human interference at all with our actual operational fines. And if she He’s only finding things that have human disturbance. That’s bad. So we like at the start, we had do a lot of work to get her off actually indicating on just things that we’ve touched or like, poked or moved, or? Yeah, it’s, this is why I do think conservation is one of the harder detection, like industries, because there is no human disturbance. And yeah, other than our operational fines. So the dog is trained on things if human disturbance because we can’t remove that. And then they’re going out and finding things that don’t have that. And I do think that’s the that’s the hardest transition for them to get. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt  30:40

Well, and there’s, and not that this isn’t the case in some other detection fields, but there’s just so much variability and what we’re looking for, I mean, it’s so wild to think about, you know, the difference in odor profiles, you know, we’re we’re getting gearing up for a black bear project here in North America. And just thinking about the variability from month to month, and what their diet looks like, and then comparing like a nursing cell versus an adult male or cubs, and like, the hormones that died, like, there’s just so much variability, and then you’re trying to understand this huge set picture within one species, or a group of species, but then exclude a couple others. And that was, you know, as when I was talking with the teams in Guatemala, and they were asking me about, well, what’s it you know, is it going to be hard for them to include Marga and jaguarundi, as well as the ocelot and the Puma and the Jaguar? And it’s like, honestly know, what would be really hard though, is if you asked me to find everything but Puma, or everything, but Jaga Rooney within those mixes, you know, I think, if it’s a if it’s a big umbrella, and we just want to find any everything under the umbrella, that’s relatively straightforward, but yeah, I can imagine it being a lot trickier. I haven’t I’ve never tried to do something like that. I’m sure it’s possible, but it would, it would involve quite a bit more work, I think, than what we did.

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Caroline Finlay  31:59

Look at the bat work, like we can get dogs on to bat carcasses. So easy. And there’s so many different species of bats. And they’re still like, we actually have one of the fellas that we do a lot of work with don’t. So it’s got a greater a greater horseshoe bat recently, we haven’t trained on one and we were like, Oh, can we have a go? And like the dogs like head on no bald or unlike perfect indications? And I was like, Cool. This is excellent. Mexico better?

Kayla Fratt  32:28

Totally. Yeah. Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, I think both of my dogs were originally trained on two or three bat species. And at our study sites, we generally get kind of five and five and five to six species. And then there are a couple of the really rare ones that are the ones that we’re most worried about, that we never actually found, which there is always that little tickle of a doubt where it’s like, yeah. Are we sure we didn’t find it? Because we never trained on it? Or because it wasn’t there? There’s always a little bit of that question. You know, kind of having seen where they did generalize really well, otherwise, like, I think we’re pretty good. Same thing, when we were doing our carnivore surveys in Guatemala, both niffler and barley alerted to a couple bird carcasses at various points. Because they’re on our wind farms, we were supposed to also be finding bird carcasses. And that’s actually one that I’ve loved as having something that they will alert to in any environment, because it means like, there’s dead birds just about everywhere, I can always confirm what it is. So I always know what they’re alerting to. Because you pretty much are always gonna be able to find feathers. And it just gives them one kind of blanket thing that just about anywhere we go. Even if we’ve got really low target density, they’ve got a good chance of finding a bird. And also, interestingly, I mean, I can’t say for sure, but it seemed like they were mostly finding birds when there was not much scat around. So I think there was a little bit of like a preference in there. As far as you know, we’ve been hammering the scouts so hard for the months leading up. It seemed like on the transects, where we had like 10 samples and a couple of kilometers, we weren’t getting any birds. And that’s interesting. Yeah, that would be one that would be kind of fun to actually do a study on to kind of confirm, you know, because again, it’s so hard to say, are you not finding something because it’s not there or because of something that the dog is actually doing?

Caroline Finlay  34:17

Yeah, cuz You’d almost think it would be the opposite way that they would have a preference for bird because they’ve done so much wind farm work. And they’ve had so much like reinforcement with birds, that you’d think that they would put bird first before scouts. That’s really interesting. Yeah. And,

Kayla Fratt  34:33

I mean, we’re also we’re in the tropics, everything is eating everything. So it is also very possible that there are very few bird carcasses out. And, you know, with the canopy being, I don’t know, like a half kilometer high. It’s like, I don’t even know how many how many birds are even making it all the way to the forest floor. Well, one other thing to put in there, just just our specific study site where we were For our wind farms was actually really, really low bird fatality compared to a lot of the other wind farm. You know, just talking to other folks who have done a lot of wind farm work, even, you know, within just a couple 100 miles of where we were working, we got very, very low bird numbers compared to others. So they had a lower reinforcement history than maybe like most wind farm dogs would. That’s good. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that that particular wind farm is great for the birds. I don’t know why. That wasn’t my job. So Okay, is there anything else about this project or about discrimination that you wanted to bring up? Or circle back to?

Caroline Finlay  35:37

I did. So I have, I’ve trained all my dogs using that kind of call methods where we kind of like imprint them on the Kong work, we train them with Kong first, and then we use that to imprint them. And I do think it helps kind of reduce the errors later on and discrimination, because they have such a clear picture in their head that this is what I’m looking for. This was the thing that I got a ton of reinforcement for the beginning that my column was with it. That’s the thing. That’s what I’m looking for. I honestly think that has helped a little bit. I know there’s like, loads of different ways to do this. But I do feel like there is something there that does, it does help having that kind of step put in.

Kayla Fratt  36:23

Yeah, no, I think that makes a lot of sense. And I think that’s something that I’m going to definitely try with my next dog. It’s not what I did with in Florida, but honestly been really considering as I’m going and I’m going to be starting a PhD program in September. I really want to go back and hammer a lot of the foundation’s really, really hard with niffler and potentially even restart him on a couple of things. And that’s one of the things that I’m considering for him.

Caroline Finlay  36:49

Yeah, it’s that I yeah, like, I’ll be honest, all I’ve used Kong as the first odor for all my dogs, but I’ve trained for every single one I’ve trained at differently. So there’s a whole lot of different ways you can put them on Kong, right? It doesn’t need to be so one so yeah.

Kayla Fratt  37:06

Yeah, yeah. Well, honestly, the biggest thing I’ve been really excited about trying with him. And again, now we’re, we’re wrapping up here, I promise everyone on the car in the car, whatever, no, it’s fine. We’re we’re still under time. But we just for book club for Patreon read a Gosh, I’m gonna not remember the full title of it. But it was an article about dogs detecting Chronic Wasting Disease positive samples that came out of Penn vet working dog center. And the thing that actually I was most excited about having read that article was how they took the dogs from a lineup to an area search using the pots kind of it was almost like the opposite of how you teach channel weaves and agility. So they start with the pot centerline, and then they start moving them, you know, maybe a meter apart. So the dog is going left, right, left, right, left, right, two different pots as they’re doing their their search, and then they just kept moving them apart and then started visually occluding them as a way to help the dogs learn to quarter you have springers so you might not need to ever do this, but niffler my, my younger dog is a very linear searcher and he tends to go very, very fast in very large circles, which works really, really well on wind farms. And then you know, and I’ve talked about this several times in this podcast, but bringing him to Guatemala was a big hit in the face for me on some of the foundations that we neglected in getting him up to speed on the wind farm so quickly. And this is one of the things that you know he’s just not a dog who naturally quarters and I’d rather I’m going to try this route instead of teaching him directionals kind of in a more of like a hunting dog style. Yeah. And very very excited about it looks like just a really cool clean way to use the placement of your targets to teach the dog the search strategy that you want to see and I love that sort of stuff.

Caroline Finlay  38:57

Yeah, the we did. We did train our dogs to search all objects before a search development before we go into like actual area of search. And it definitely, I think was Springers, it makes them concentrate better. Springers have a habit of just running about mental hoping that they run into odor and then they stop and be like, there we go. And you’re like No, could you please use strategy?. Runaway pencils, no strategy. So yeah, no, we start them all on objects. And do kind of like search development and even if it’s just like self retrieves even their ball and Yeah, makes a massive, massive difference. And then introducing the handler much later so it’s all independent to start off with their comes in. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt  39:45

Yeah, yeah. And I love Yeah, I just love finding those little things. And it just this article was so lovely. It had a nice little diagram we’ll make sure to link it in the show notes. Wow, this is such a clean way to do something that I feel like I’ve kind of muddled around or like thought about or something Just did for students before and here is just someone who’s got a diagram and a whole plan. Like, I love it when you do that. All right. Well, Caroline, this has been really, really lovely. I am super excited for people to get to hear more about Ziva and some of the cool work you’ve been doing is there as we wrap up here, do Do you have places that people can find you online? And or do you have any super exciting projects that you want to make sure people know about aside from I mean, you’ve got moss, you’ve got curl, you’ve got wind farms. Anything else that people should know about? You before we go?

Caroline Finlay  40:28 Yeah, so you can find us on Facebook at conservation detection dogs and I, I’m on Twitter, as CarMFin, I don’t know what my thinking is my act but you know, you’ll find me. Yeah, a person was a dog in the picture. Then, our website is CDDni.com. And yeah, we should hopefully how are we the paper on seabird detection coming out soon. It’s got it’s like, yeah, everybody who I could find who was doing seabird detection using dogs in the world pretty much helped write it. So it should be it should be very cool. It’s like all recommendations on stuff on how to do it and how to get dogs and how to select the people that will do it with you and how to use the dogs properly and all this here. So cool paper, so hopefully, yeah, I shall make sure that you are sent it as soon as I do.  We can get you and Kyoko back on for an encore episode. I assume she was involved. Oh, yeah. Anyone else? Who is was big involved? Maybe we’ll do a whole overview. I think that’d be a lot of fun. Yeah, yeah. Definitely involved. Yeah. Yeah. That sounds right up. Someone I know is Ali. Yes. Well, Caroline, this was really lovely. Thank you so much for coming on the show and for everyone at home. Thank you so much for listening. I hope that you learned a lot and you’re feeling inspired to go outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and skill set. You can join our Patreon our book club, our course. Buy mugs and T shirts and bento boxes and just donate to us if you’re so if you so please over at k9conservationis