The USC Detection Dogs for Conservation team was co-founded in 2015 by researchers Associate Professor Celine Frere and Dr Romane Cristescu.
The academics came together with a shared vision of using detection dogs to protect and preserve Australia's unique wildlife - home to many species that are under threat.
Our team are leaders in their field – and we are the only university which rescues, trains, tests and deploys detection dogs for conservation in Australia.
As leaders in their field, Dr Celine Frere and Dr Romane Cristescu head the Australian Conservation Dog Network, which includes representatives from universities, non-profit organisations, governments, zoos, research institutions and businesses.
A dog's nose knows
Dogs have a lot more smell receptors than humans, making them ideal for locating wildlife. The right dog can be trained to track anything that emits an odour, whether it’s flora or fauna, on land or even under the sea!
Because they can smell what we can’t see, dogs are used in conservation to track and help rescue rare animals such as koalas, quolls and masked owls, to detect pest species, and locate threatened native plants.
The work of the USC Detection Dog team has an immediate and profound impact, with the team often helping to locate injured, malnourished or isolated wildlife after severe natural disasters such as the 2019/20 Australian bushfires. As fire-ravaged areas recover, our Detection Dog team will continue monitoring the safety of koalas as their sources of food and water remain scarce.
Equally importantly, USC’s Detection Dogs for Conservation team has a critical role to play in providing vital ecological research, evidence and support to help governments and private organisations make planning and development decisions that can protect and preserve – rather than threaten – Australia’s unique environment and creatures.
Our team’s vision is to provide the training and deployment of detection dogs at no cost, to ensure the protection of threatened species of wildlife in Australia.
Working with scent has given us a vision
In the future we would love to see everyday Australians become citizen scientists, using the Bluetooth devices to track and contribute to research for our most endangered wildlife populations – whether its koalas, water dragon, quolls, or other at-risk species. These are the animals who fight to survive in our urban areas.
Heat-monitoring drones and tracking devices could send messages to households who have registered with a central database, alerting them to a koala or other threatened species in their backyard and asking them to lock away their dog or other domestic animal while the koala passes through.
This kind of technology exists here, today. To make it work, we need to be able to locate, capture, tag and release our wildlife – and they don’t always make it easy for us!
Most of the animals we locate are cryptic creatures, so they are good at hiding. But with enough time and the right amount of financial support, we can help protect them all. Your donation will make all the difference!