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Conservation Canines featured on University of Washington homepage

Friday, June 4, 2021 - 10:45 to Saturday, September 4, 2021 - 10:45

The Center for Conservation Biology's program, Conservation Canines, was recently a feature article on the University of Washington homepage. Samuel Wasser, UW Biology research professor and director of the Center for Conservation Biology, founded Conservation Canines in 1997 as a way to utilize the scent-training methods that detection dogs use for research with wildlife scat. While the dogs were primarily trained to find scat samples, the training techniques are now being adapted for less-visible substances like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

On a blustery March afternoon in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, Jasper, a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever, furiously sniffs the side of a vintage boutique. Snout twitching as cars whiz by and rain drips from the rooftops, the dog noses along the row of storefronts and restaurants.

But this is no ordinary walk in the neighborhood, and Jasper is no ordinary pup. He’s a specially trained detection dog with the University of Washington’s Conservation Canines program at the Center for Conservation Biology. At the other end of Jasper’s bright-blue leash is his handler, Julianne Ubigau, who guides him along the buildings and closely watches his body language.

Detection dogs like Jasper have a long history of helping humans track what we can’t see or sense, from explosives to earthquake survivors. Jasper is part of a new approach: He’s helping Seattle Public Utilities identify possible sources of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These banned industrial chemicals have harmful health effects on humans and wildlife, including causing cancer. (To keep Jasper safe, he’s regularly tested.)

Read the full article on the UW website.

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