Click here to learn more.
Back in 2008, Tucker the
black Lab was just another canine resident at SnoLine Kennels in Arlington, Wash. — until he caught the eye of Sam Wasser, director of the
Center for Conservation Biology and the Conservation Canines at the University of Washington.
“Tucker was everything we were looking for in a dog,” says Katherine Ayres, lead author of a recent study on whales published in PLoS ONE, in which Tucker had a starring role. “He was a play-driven black Lab that loved to work with his handlers — and he hated water!”
This proved to be a favorable personality trait, since Ayres and her team needed Tucker to stay put on a boat while using his stellar nose to sniff out killer whale feces that they could then collect and test for stress hormones back in the laboratory.
Before Wasser came up with the groundbreaking idea to use a dog as a scat detector, researchers had to follow closely behind whales to collect samples — not an ideal situation when you're tracking animals that are already endangered.
But with Tucker onboard, the scientists could stay as far away as 400 meters from the marine mammals, reducing any disturbance to the orca pods.
“He also minimizes any bias in the sampling, since we are not selecting which whales to follow,” Ayres says, “making our sampling more random and more representative of the whales that are present.”
The ultimate goal of Ayres' study was to test the levels of various stressors in killer whale populations. Her findings: Not having enough salmon to eat is a bigger deal for whales than having boatloads of whale watchers in their vicinity.
It’s an important discovery because conservationists have been trying to decipher what’s most important when it comes to helping the endangered species thrive. Based on Ayres' work, researchers have concluded that while boats are a key consideration when it comes to whale welfare, the impact of vessels can be minimized as long as fish levels are kept high in the area.
Although Ayres' study is now complete, Tucker’s science career is just getting started. He’ll continue to track orcas through the University of Washington’s Conservation Canines program — and he recently traveled to St. Lucia to track iguanas.
Not a bad gig for a pound puppy.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
The U.S. Secret Service took to Twitter to
highlight its hero K9s, who stopped a man
who jumped the White House…
A 16-year-old boy who lost his right foot
immediately bonded with a Dachshund
mix who had to have his leg amputated.
In honor of this special day, we're
highlighting some of our favorite stories
about Pit Bulls from this past year.
Mikkel Becker shares five simple training
tactics for teaching your cat to tolerate (or
even like) being picked up…
Over-the-counter medications that seem
harmless to you can actually be harmful
or even deadly for your cat or dog.
Want a pet hedgehog? Dr. Laurie Hess
shares why the prickly creatures need
time, attention and care to thrive.
The Russian Blue won’t mind if you have to go to work (to earn money for cat toys), as long as you're back in time for…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.