Tucker and the Orcas
Specially trained scat detection dogs are helping researchers learn more about the endangered southern resident orcas.
Katherine Ayres, Center for Conservation Biology, will describe how she selects, trains, and works with dogs on the water, and how Tucker is leading us to critical clues that can help save this iconic population. Presented by The Whale Trail.
Endangered cetacean populations are highly vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts, yet they spend the majority of their time under water, making them difficult to study. Researchers must maximize information from biological samples while minimizing disturbance. Fecal sampling is a powerful non-invasive method for gathering critical population data. From a single fecal sample, marine mammal researchers can analyze host and prey DNA, hormones, pathogens and toxins.
Scat detection dogs are a valuable research method for maximizing fecal sample sizes in wildlife studies, while minimizing disturbance to the study organism. Scat detection dogs also can decrease sampling bias.
Ayres validated the detection dog method in Southern Resident Killer Whales with the help of Tucker, a black labrador retriever with a nose for delphinid scat. Come learn about this innovative research, and what it is telling us about the orcas.
The event is presented by The Whale Trail, a series of sites around the region where people can view whales and other marine mammals from shore. The presentation will also feature displays from Killer Whale Tales and other environmental organizations.
About Katherine Ayres
Katherine Ayres is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biology and the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington and is a Northwest Fisheries Science Center fellow. Katherine received a BA in Biology from Pomona College in 2004 where she researched Evolution and Development in hydra and fruit flies. She made a dramatic change in study systems to killer whales for her dissertation work! Katherine is interested in the use of non-invasive physiological monitoring tools for wildlife research. She is also interested in using applied animal behavior to train detection dogs for conservation studies. For her killer whale work she trained and handled a scat detection dog named Tucker from Dr. Sam Wasser's Conservation Canine program.
About the Whale Trail
The Whale Trail is a series of sites around the region where the public may view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Its mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment. The project is partnering with groups, agencies, individuals and communities around the region to select and develop the Whale Trail sites, and to create and deliver educational programs. With 20 sites established, the project plans to add at least 20 more in the coming year, including four in West Seattle. For more information, visit www.thewhaletrail.org or www.facebook.com/pages/The-Whale-Trail/114940735193641.
Photo taken under Center for Whale Research permit 532-1822 by Kelley Balcomb-Bartok.
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