Puppies employed as honorary university researchers
FOUR new animal detection dogs have joined the University of the Sunshine Coast employee register, to help research wildlife on the Fraser Coast and surrounding areas.
The new recruits will join a team of research scientists that have been working with border collie Maya, across the Fraser Coast, Gympie and the Sunshine Coast.
Maya specialises in finding koala scat (poo), used to research the health and habitat of koalas in the area.
The new dogs will be trained to sniff out scents including those of koalas, koala scat (poo) and water dragon eggs.
Training them will be Sarah Fyffe, who has trained dogs for the Australian Federal Police and Queensland Corrective Services.
She said she was excited to be joining a team that shared her passion for wildlife protection.
"It's enthralling work for me, and much more fun than training dogs to sniff out drugs and bombs," Ms Fyffe said.
"We really need to understand the behaviour of the animal we're searching for as well as the behaviour of the dog, and that throws up some fascinating challenges.
"Educating the handlers about canine body language and psychology is also critical to the project's success.
"Everyone on the Detection Dogs for Conservation team is really passionate about building the program up and it's fantastic to be working with so many great minds."
Research team leader Dr Romane Cristescu said all of the dogs had been found in animal welfare centres.
"We really need to understand the behaviour of the animal we're searching for as well as the behaviour of the dog, and that throws up some fascinating challenges," Dr Cristescu said.
Detection Dogs for Conservation launched a crowd funding initiative to assist in the recruitment of new detection dogs.