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A blog by UC ANR Associate Vice President Wendy Powers
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by Jim Downing
on February 12, 2020 at 10:42 AM
Another example of the power of dog sniffing: UCB-based UCCE Specialist Matteo Garbelotto's work on using trained dogs to detect multiple species of Phytohphthora (plant pathogens) in nursery stock -- to help keep infected plants from being planted in ecological restoration projects -- http://calag.ucanr.edu/archive/?article=ca.2018a0026
by Andrew Sutherland
on February 12, 2020 at 12:32 PM
We use canine teams quite regularly in urban systems to detect pests, especially bed bugs and termites. As a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, I used honey bees to detect pathogens of grape vines (https://www.zdnet.com/article/smartplanet-can-bees-be-trained-to-prevent-plant-disease/). In all cases, these "biosensors" must be continuously conditioned to their targets, and olfactory signals break down in the complex 3-D "real world" outside of the lab. E-nose technologies will always be limited by capacity within analytical chemistry, specifically in the "signature science" field, which is really still in its infancy. As humans, we want easy and effective 'silver bullets' and think that technology will solve all our problems. When it comes to complex ecological systems, we don't even know the questions, let alone the answers. Sounds like job security for all of us working in good old-fashioned applied field science, messy and archaic as it may seem sometimes.
Reply by Wendy Powers
on February 12, 2020 at 12:38 PM
Great comments, Andrew. What was in its infancy in the late 90's remains in infancy yet today. Olfaction is a complicated process, indeed.
 
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