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Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Sophie Parker (1998)- Dogs as models in the study of predator olfaction (Mentor: Phil Gipson)

Standardized odor attractant tablets are often used as tools in the study of predator ecology, particularly with scent stations to assess mammalian predator populations. Despite their frequent use, little has been done to determine how far predators can smell these tablets, or how the distance of first detection varies with changes in weather conditions. Two male Australian Shepherds and one female Samoyed, all obedience and agility trained, were used to study how far standard odor attractant tablets can be detected. The greatest downwind distance a test dog was able to detect odor from a tablet was 1029 meters. This occurred with 85% relative humidity, an air temperature of 74°F, and a slight breeze (<1 mph). The shortest downwind distance at which a test dog detected the odor was 470 meters. This occurred on a morning with 90% relative humidity, an air temperature of 66°F, and no wind. The average distance from the tablet at first detection over ten trial runs was 829 meters. Changes in the dogs' first detection distances appear to be correlated with wind and other weather conditions. This information may aid researches in estimating the distances from which wild predators could be attracted to scent stations.