The Fan Hitch   Volume 16, Number 3, June 2014

          Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog                                    
In This Issue....

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?

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

Defining the Inuit Dog

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

Editor's/Publisher's Statement
Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at:

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This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.

North Baffin (Canada) Inuit Dogs
                                                              Photo: Hamilton

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!
                                                  Photo: Hamilton

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:
Scientific AmericanTM
Currently, there is a fantastic new citizen science project about dogs and wild canids. Dr. Arik Kershenbaum (National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, University of Tennessee), a dog lover who has a Canaan dog, is doing the first ever comparative study of canid howls. I contacted him last year about analyzing New Guinea dingo (singing dog) howls. When I told him I "thought" howl forms were species-specific but we just did not have the data, Arik got intrigued. He wrote a program so anyone could score (score = draw in the lines of the howls) sections of howl sonograms on line  and he set up a web site for the study. He has enlisted collaboration from several scientists and plans to go to Cambridge in the fall to work on this project full time.

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.
Welcome to the Canid Howl Project
Canid Howl Project (Facebook)
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