When it comes to researching the health and behavior of animals, the best insight into information is through their poop. In fact, you can learn a lot from poop: if an animal is under stress, what their diet is like, and even if they have ingested toxins from the environment. Locating these droppings on land can be incredibly difficult, which means locating it in the water might be just about impossible. But this is where a group of truly incredible dogs come in.
Sam Wasser, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington has a highly trained and incredibly specialized group of dogs that help his with his research. These dogs are specially trained to track scents in the waters of the Puget Sound to locate orca excrement for research purposes. Orcas are the most polluted animals in the world, making this research very important for their well being and future as a species.
There is a major crisis happening in the world, in which orcas and other animals are being exposed to toxins and therefore have major health and mortality problems. These toxins get into the animals system through the food they eat and then show themselves in the form of poop in the water. Dogs are specially trained to locate the excrement in the water so that it can be collected and studied by researchers.
These dogs are quite incredible: while out on a boat, they use their sensitive noses to sniff the wind and give off signals to show handlers where to find the poop. Dogs have a sense of smell that is 10,000 to 100,000 more powerful than that of a human being. This means dogs are perfect animal for this very important job to help in the safety and conservation of the Orca.