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  • Writer's pictureJessica Gatzow

It’s Celebration Time! Our 2022 Year in Review

It’s time to pawty! 2022 was HUGE for Conservation Dogs Collective—we started off the year turning five years old and spent the year working on many existing projects, as well as digging our noses into new adventures. To celebrate the upcoming new year, we wanted to reflect on 2022’s conservation events and field work, and of course thank our partners, sponsors and volunteers who helped make everything pawsible!

Finder Ernie at the Keeper weekend.

Our First Keeper Weekend Get-Together

CDCI Keepers started off the year with our very first weekend get-together. During the Keeper Weekend in Milwaukee, the Finders and their Keepers got an opportunity to train together for the first time ever. It was a cold, wintery weekend, but the fun and sniffs had warmed up everyone's souls!

From Online Conferences to In-Person Field Trips

Virtual events were one effective way for CDCI to reach people across the nation and the world. The year started off with a chance to participate in the Wildlife Detection Dogs Online Conference hosted by Wildlifetek and Conservation K9 Consultancy. Our very own Laura Holder spoke about searching for bumblebee nests. She and other speakers shared knowledge and expertise on all things conservation, wildlife monitoring and ecological research in the detection dog world. A few months later, Holder shared her doggo knowledge as a guest instructor on K9 Conservationists’ online training program. She and Keeper Jo also took part in several episodes of the K9 Conservation podcast. In April, Bergin University of Canine Studies welcomed Keeper Morgan to teach their students about the world of conservation scent-work detection. Last but not least, we hosted our own Keeper Talk webinars and general Q&A’s so that anyone from professional scent-work detection gurus to everyday dog-lovers could take a look into the life of a CDCI Finder-Keeper team. Between all our virtual endeavors this year, we reached over 8,000 people!

Finder Jesse at Wolf Park.

Virtual collaboration was only the tip of the iceberg for 2022. Our Finder-Keeper teams finally had the chance to host education opportunities and attend events in-person across four different states. We welcomed springtime at the Zionsville Greenfest in Indiana: Keeper Jo, Finder Willow and Keeper Morgan gave presentations alongside local businesses to teach about sustainability and environmental stewardship in celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day. Also in Indiana, we began a collaboration with wildlife conservation and research center, Wolf Park. The 70-acre park is a home to wolves, foxes, bison and turtles and it makes for an excellent scent work training site. The fenced-in park gives our Finders the challenge of distinguishing between unfamiliar wild scents in a new environment, all while remaining safe. Wolf Park also welcomed CDCI to offer educational demos about scent detection work both onsite and virtually.

Finder Alva at the Wisconsin State Fair.

In summertime, CDCI visited the Wisconsin State Fair. Farm animals may be a common sight there, but did you know that doggos get a chance to shine, too?! The fair’s K9 Sports Arena hosted various dog-related clubs and organizations this year, featuring a different group each day. Finder Ernie and Finder Alva kicked off the start of the fair, representing CDCI as the first featured group of the day.

Starting off the school year, Finder Bronty greeted 5th graders on their field trip to Agri-Palooza in Upper Michigan. He and Keeper Heather greeted over 300 students at the education field day in September hosted by Marquette and Alger Conservation Districts. A total of 28 professional presenters participated in this day at the farm, engaging students with conservation practices, healthy food choices, agriculture activities, as well as wildlife management and watershed health. Also in the UP, CDCI started a new partnership with Lake to Lake Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, a group working to address invasive species impact in the UP’s central counties. Heather and Bronty demonstrated a conservation dog’s sniffing skills at their annual educational demo day.

Finder Bronty at Agri-Palooza.

Finally, CDCI presented alongside Working Dogs for Conservation, the U.S Geological Survey, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and other professionals in the conservation dog world at Minnesota's Natural Areas Association Conference. Keeper Laura spoke to the audience about the success of conservation detection dogs as survey techniques, and Finder Willow provided a demo with her Keeper, Jo.

Finders Ernie and Betty White

Busy With Bees

Our teams were as busy as the bees they’re searching for while working on bumblebee projects throughout Wisconsin. Two new partnerships gave our Finder-Keeper teams plenty to sniff for: Keeper Laura with Finders Ernie and Betty White surveyed for bumblebee nests at Lynden Sculpture Garden and Carroll University’s Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center. The team also held meet-and-greet demos at both places for the public and university students to meet a conservation detection dog. At one site, alone, Ernie and Betty White discovered not one, not two but five bumblebee nests belonging to five different species! All this buzzing around the Midwest has given scientists ‒ like our new research partner, Jade Kochanski from UW-Madison’s Gratton Lab ‒ data to understand bumblebee habitat preferences in need of conservation.

New Zealand Mudsnails

Thanks to huge support this year from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, our Finder-Keeper teams continued training and testing their olfactory skills on samples of invasive New Zealand mudsnails. CDCI also participated in the foundation's natural spaces field trip series. There, we focused on the importance of early detection as the snail moves throughout Wisconsin streams, and demonstrated how our Finders’ sniff-tastic skills can help. In March, Keeper Laura and Finder Ernie teamed up with Ellen Voss from River Alliance of Wisconsin to showcase our progress on snail detection at Madison’s Canoecopia Expo in Madison, and during Wisconsin Water Week in April, they presented at the Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers Convention.

Finder Willow and her Ornate box turtle.

I Spy a Turtle

Finder Willow and Keeper Jo embarked on a new ornate box turtle project in Iowa, thanks to new partners Drake University and Polk County Conservation. One of only two terrestrial turtle species native to the Great Plains, Terrapene ornata ornata can be difficult to spot by sight in its prairie or savanna habitat, and the species tends to overwinter in deep sand or disturbed soil. Willow’s success in locating the turtles will help conservationists know exactly where to protect and restore natural habitats for the species. Special thanks also goes to Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Turtle Care, Hoosier Turtle and Tortoise Rescue and Sanctuary, Science Center of Iowa, and Mequon Nature Preserve for their assistance with this project.

Finder Holly smiling for the camera.

Welcome, Finder Holly!

Finder Willow has a new training partner and friend! Little sister Holly joined CDCI earlier this year and just turned two years old. Part mountain-goat, this affectionate ball of energy was born during the onset of the pandemic and has begun training to find bumblebee nests with her Keeper, Jo.

In Honor of Willow

After an amazing year, our world lost an amazing soul in December. Finder Willow was diagnosed with an aggressive form of liver cancer just one week before her 10th birthday and gained her wings. We will always remember Willow for all that she gave to the many humans and species that crossed her path. . . from her early days as a Search and Rescue dog, to her conservation work finding box turtles, endangered plants, and bat and bird carcasses on wind farm surveys, Finder Willow was a very special dog. Our hearts feel empty without her, but we know she will be with us always and we will continue to honor her legacy each day.

In Loving Memory of Finder Willow

2022 (and our plans for 2023!) wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of our supporters. A very special thank you goes out to our amazing Pawsability Partners and our corporate sponsors; Tito’s Vodka, Integrative Veterinary Service, Companion Animal Chiropractic, The Hounds & Tap, Central Bark Brookfield and Aqua Therapups. We’re already wagging our tails with anticipation for expanding our field work programs and having more learning opportunities as a CDCI team in the new year. Thanks for celebrating our adventures and discovering with us, and cheers to the new year!

Help us celebrate our five-year anniversary and the upcoming new year! Treat-Yo-Team to an extra gift and become a part of the Conservation Dogs Collective family! We'll see you in 2023!


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