This summer I had the opportunity to engage in research in the burgeoning field of canine scent detection. Canines’ superior sense of smell has been employed for use in forensic, narcotics, explosives and cancer detection. At the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, I conducted research relating to training frequency impact on detection success. More specifically I studied working dogs’ (university-owned) performance versus citizen science (privately-owned) dogs’ performance in universal detectant chemical (UDC) success. Our objective was to assess how training frequency impacts UDC detection success and observe whether working dogs’ characteristically higher drive, compared to citizen science dogs, increases UDC detection success. This assessment of training frequency impact is essential to perform because it has never been done before. Both working dogs and citizen science dogs are used in cancer research, but the variable of training frequency is not directly accounted for. The field of canine medical detection of carcinomas and diseases will likely benefit from this insight.
I gained a unique perspective about animal behavior through studying each individual dog’s search techniques and the impact of training frequency. Additionally, I worked on an on-going project for canine detection of sinonasal inverted papillomas that further enhanced my learning experience by being able to collaborate in a research project in the canine scent detection field.
This project was a fascinating experience and expanded upon my previous research in cancer. During high school, I conducted research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and NYU Langone which both took a more human and pharmaceutical treatment approach. This research experience was unique in the fact that it focused on early cancer detection as opposed to treatments. Additionally, I have been interested in exploring the topic of One Health. I have performed research in both human medicine and environmental impact, so it felt natural to pursue a research opportunity about animal behavior.