From the Editor: On the Radar
Citizen Scientist Participation Requested
On the Trail of the Far Fur Country
Dealing with a Runaway or Breakaway Team of Inuit Dogs
The Chinook Project Returns to Labrador
Website Explores Indigenous People of the Russian Arctic
Book Review: Harnessed to the Pole: Sledge Dogs in Service to American Explorers of the Arctic, 1853-1909
IMHO: What’s Enough?
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North Baffin (Canada) Inuit Dogs
Citizen Scientist Participation Requested for
the Canid Howl Coder Project
by Janice Koler-Matznick, MS, ACAAB
People without academic training have been contributing to science since that term was first used: hundreds of years at least. Charles Darwin had no formal education in science. Jane Goodall did not have a college degree when she went to Africa to meet Louis Leaky and see if there was an animal project she could work on. Observations by dedicated amateur naturalists provided the basis for the formal disciplines of biology, ecology, geology, taxonomy, paleontology, and many other fields. However, in the last few decades “science” has edified itself, often devaluating, without due consideration, potentially valuable contributions made by individuals who had not put in the 9 years or so it takes to get a PhD. Then about 10 years ago a revolution started. Computers and the internet enabled do-it-yourself (DIY) experiments and collaboration, and when these DIY projects made valuable contributions, the scientific community took note.
The DIY science required at least some self-taught education and expertise with computers or equipment. Then in 2008 David Baker, a biochemist at the University of Washington, decided to try offering a problem in protein folding his group had been unable to crack to a general audience of computer users in the game Foldit, in which players compete, collaborate, develop strategies, accumulate game points and move to different playing levels — all while folding proteins. Thousands of non-scientists took part.
Miranda, a spayed socialized Eastern Gray wolf,
lived for a time with Alaskan Malamutes and Inuit Dogs.
The vocalizations of these wild, cultured and aboriginal
canids were distinctly different!
In a 2010 paper in the top journal Nature, Baker and colleagues reported: “The integration of human visual problem-solving and strategy development capabilities with traditional computational algorithms through interactive multiplayer games is a powerful new approach to solving computationally-limited scientific problems.” Citizen science was born. Usually citizen scientists help researchers gather data by doing observations or collecting samples which can be photographs, recordings, or actual physical samples from things like pond water, air or animals (such as sampling DNA from cheek swabs or hair). Researchers do not have the time or money to get such large sample sizes, and the more samples they get the more accurate their conclusions. Now secretaries, bakers, grammar and high school students, housewives, hunters and trappers – all of us everywhere in the world with access to a computer – have the opportunity to contribute to research. Here are two web sites that list some citizen science projects:
Arik explained that mistakes made during scoring will fall away as a large number of people score the howls and consensus is reached on the correct lines. There are computer programs that do this type of scoring, but humans with their great natural ability for pattern recognition are much better at it. If howl forms are specific to a species or subspecies, this supports their uniqueness and will increase interest in their conservation. Do the gray wolf and red wolf have the same kind of howl? Are dingo and domestic dog howls the same? Can landraces of primitive aboriginal dogs like Inuit Dogs be separated from their modernized cousins Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies by their howl forms? These are the types of questions this study will answer. So please when you have a spare five minutes go to the site and participate by drawing in some howls. If you have audio or video recordings of chorus howls of any canid species, primitive/aboriginal dog or modern dog, you can donate them through the web site. Individual (single specimen) howls may be donated but will not be part of this first study phase, although they will be analyzed later when individual identity signals and other aspects of howls will be sorted out. Please share this news with others. It takes hundreds of citizen scientists to make it work.