CONSERVATION CANINES

 

Benefiting the rescued dogs who work to save threatened wildlife and habitats.

 

What do you get when you combine toy-obsessed, high-energy dogs stuck in shelters with tenacious, patient handlers who train dogs in scent detection? Super-star rescue dogs who help biologists study and protect endangered species and habitats!

Conservation Canines, a program of University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology, adopts dogs who have little to no chance of finding a forever home with a family. The dogs have endless energy and one-track minds. These traits make them impossible as pets, but ideal for working as scat detection dogs.

A Conservation Canine and his or her handler work together to locate data to aid wildlife biologists. The dogs are trained in scent detection for over three dozen species, from orca whale scat to endangered spotted owl pellets. From caribou in Canada to dholes in Cambodia, the dogs have proven themselves to be an invaluable asset to biology projects around the world.

Conservation Canines accomplishes several admirable goals simultaneously. It rescues difficult-to-home shelter dogs, provides them with an outlet for their energy and drive to work, and helps biologists study and protect wildlife species and habitats at risk.

The program is entirely dependent on grants and donations to keep the lights on. That is why I have teamed up with this nonprofit in a creative effort to tell the stories of their working dogs through photos.

 

Conservation Canines in 2016

 

This was fun and event-filled year for my work with the Conservation Canines team. I was lucky enough to get into the field with teams working all over the country. 

I followed two teams working in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains as they scrambled over granite-covered hillsides in search of the scat of the Pacific Fisher, a charismatic mustelid being considered for endangered species status.

I tagged along with three teams working in New York's Adirondack range as they waded through waist-deep ferns in forests and over boggy muskeg collecting moose scat for a study.

From there I headed out with several more teams as they walked grids at wind farms searching for birds and bats at the base of turbines. The dogs' noses are far more effective than human eyes, and their work here will help us learn more about how renewable energy can be made more safe for wildlife.

I went into the classroom with Julianne Ubigau and CK9s Sampson and Casey as they educated second-grade students about working dogs, scat, science and conservation through engaging hands-on activities. 

And I headed out on the water in the drizzly San Juan Islands with the famous Tucker and his handler Liz Seely who amazingly manage to zero in on orca whale scat floating on the ocean's surface, precious data that is teaching us about the threats that highly endangered resident orcas face. 

The job of a Conservation Canines handler is anything but easy, yet the passion both these rescued "misfit" dogs and dedicated humans have for what they do is contagious. I was lucky to have so much time with the teams, and yet I still only photographed a tiny piece of what they accomplish across the continent and across the globe. 

All of this time in the field culminated in a 2017 calendar that highlights the life and work of Conservation Canine teams. The second annual calendar fundraiser brought in over $7,000 for the program. And I can't wait to do it again next year!

 
 

Conservation Canines in 2015

 

During 2015, I created a press-printed 2016 calendar to mail out as a thank you gift to supporters who donated to the program during our first ever end-of-year fundraiser. The fundraiser was a wonderful success, with supporters writing in throughout the year to express how much they enjoy seeing the dogs on their wall each month. Because of the success, we dove straight in to plans and photo shoots for a 2017 calendar. In addition, we have plans for adding in more gifts for supporters as a way to express our gratitude.