Happy New year!  Meet Barley, a hugely talented 10 year old border collie, who works as a conservation detection dog on projects in the U.S. and Latin America.  

Barley the long haired collie lies flat on a moss coverfed log, staring straight into the camera
Barley the 10 year old conservation detection dog (Photo: Kayla Fratt)

Barley has travelled all over national parks in the United States as well as Guatemala in the course of a varied and glittering career. He has trained and worked on 16 separate scents to date, from invasive zebra mussels to endangered wildcats. 

And there’s more on the horizon for Barley in 2024, who will be adventuring with his owner and handler to Alaska’s remotest islands to study wolf scat, as well as travelling to El Salvador, where his olfactory superpowers will be used to identify any evidence of puma activity (pumas were declared extinct in the 1940s but have been spotted in the last five years).

Barley the border collie looks into camera holding a sand covered ball in his mouth
Barley is obsessed with playing ball – which is used as his “pay check” for successful detection (Photo: Kayla Fratt)

Barley’s owner Kayla Fratt is an ecologist, dog behaviourist and founder of the U.S. based non-profit, K9 Conservationists. Kayla is currently studying for her PhD at Oregon State University, and canine conservation detection is a significant part of her PhD. A recipient of the prestigious U.S. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Kayla is highly knowledgeable, in love with her work, and a lively and fun interviewee in this wide ranging conversation with Dogs with Jobs host Kate Fairweather.

Kayla and border collie Barley, who wears orange protective goggles and an orange backpack. Kayla smiles at the camera and holds Barley's paws in her hands.
Along with the fun, Barley’s safety and comfort is Kayla’s top priority. Depending on the job, she may carry anti-venom in case of snakes and mini first aid kit, as well as grooming Barley regularly for ticks (Photo: Kayla Fratt)

The use of conservation dogs is highly evolved in the U.S. so this is a great episode to hear an overview of the scope of conservation work done by dogs. As part of field trials, dogs collect valuable data, enhancing our understanding of different species and their behaviour, population size and movement (migration), especially useful in endangered species.  Such data can, in turn, feed into understanding the bigger picture – how temperature changes are likely to affect biodiversity, for example. 

More information on the work of K9 conservationists, including their 18 week course on training conservation detection dogs.

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Do you work your dog or dogs?

Please get in touch with Kate Fairweather on team@shineradio.uk to suggest a topic, interviewee or with any feedback – I love to hear from you! 

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