I am a PhD student at the University of Salford studying how factors can influence the detection of great crested newts, a legally protected amphibian species located in the UK. I have been a dog handler since 2017 and have received rigorous training and assessments through Louise Wilson of Conservation K9 Consultancy, a leading wildlife detection dog trainer. As wildlife detection dogs are relatively new method within the UK, my academic findings will hopefully highlight their effectiveness as well as how environmental factors may influence their detectability which will help shape future training and search methodology.
My research has also provided insight into the terrestrial habitat preferences of great crested newts both above and below ground. The dogs provide a novel non-invasive method and the findings will hopefully guide future habitat management practices.
In addition to my research, I am also a Senior Ecologist at Wessex Water. I have deployed the dogs operationally to help locate and move the newts safely before essential pipeline installation works commence. The use of dogs has saved countless numbers of newts as well as saving the company time and money and the reduction in use of plastic waste from pitfall traps. I am a board member of the Advisors for the use of Detection Dogs for Conservation (ADDC). As director of Amphibian and Reptile Detection Dogs I offer consultation and shadowing opportunities for those wanting to become great crested newt detection dog handlers.