Dogs have more than 200 million scent receptors compared to five million in humans. For that reason, canines have recently become important members of research teams, using their noses to make scientific discoveries and improve results.
“The idea of utilizing a dog’s nose is not that unique,” says Alice Whitelaw, programs director and cofounder of Working Dogs for Conservation, in the March-April issue of Audubon magazine. “Expanding on the amazing ability they have—a much more heightened sense of smell—to increase sample size just makes sense.”
When conditions are right, man’s best friend can turn up seven times the specimens that people can. Here are a few ways dogs have been helping with scientific research recently:
- At the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, five Boykin spaniels sniffed out and gently fetched 97 turtles for tagging in the refuge’s radio-tracking study—in just 10 days.
- A dog-handler team in China discovered scats of 41 individual Asiatic black bears.
- In Hawaii, dogs are searching for the invasive snail Euglandina rosea, what Working Dogs for Conservation describes as one of the world’s 100 worst invaders.
Some of these dogs-turned-researchers train for months, then work three days in a row for hours. It gives new meaning to putting a nose to the grindstone.