(BIVN) – A COVID-19 scent-detection dog has been making stops at three public charter schools on Hawaiʻi Island.
“Cobra” was recently screening students’ masks for the coronavirus at the Volcano School of Arts & Sciences, Innovations, and Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Public Charter Schools.
Cobra is the same Belgian Malinois that was training to detect Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death in Hawaiʻi, and was featured in this video news story back in November 2018.
From a news release shared by the Volcano School of Arts & Sciences PCS:
Students at three public charter schools on Hawaiʻi Island are participating in a COVID-19 Detector Dog project as part of a Hawaiʻi PK-12 Research & Development Consortium curriculum development and citizen science project.
Over an 8-week period, students at The Volcano School of Arts & Sciences (VSAS) (Volcano/Kīlauea), Innovations (Kailua-Kona), and Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo (Keaukaha) Public Charter Schools are having their masks screened for the virus by a COVID-19 scent-detection dog; additionally, some are learning about canine scent detection science, detector dog handling and training, emotional intelligence and empathy, and animal career opportunities.
Cobra, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois from Innovation Detection Concepts (Redland Ahead, Inc.), is conducting weekly on-campus screenings and demonstrations in May.
Cobra started her career detecting the Laurel Wilt disease that was killing avocado trees in Southern Florida. She is also trained to detect Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD) in Hawaii. When the pandemic hit, Cobra was trained to detect COVID-19 on an exhaled breath method developed to 98 percent accuracy by Florida International University’s International Forensic Research Institute.
VSAS fifth-grade teacher Kris Wolfgang, a Hawaiʻi PK-12 Research & Development Consortium Curriculum Team member, said VSAS students are engaged in interactive citizen science using canine scent-detection for COVID-19; some are even serving as animal handler assistants.
Kalima Kinney, VSAS principal, said that in addition to screening for COVID-19, the intent of this project is to improve student engagement and learning outcomes via education about working dog capabilities and the science behind working dogs. “We also hope the project will stimulate expanded use of canine detection for human, animal, and plant disease in Hawaiʻi for both prevention and management, and even lead to future job development opportunities for local youth, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” she said.
Demonstrations and presentations may be available to other schools and venues; call VSAS at (808) 985-9800.
Funding sources and key partners are: Governor Ige GEER Innovation Award, The Volcano School of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School (PCS) in Volcano (Kīlauea), Innovative Detection Concepts, Redland Ahead, Inc., Florida International University, Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests, Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo PCS in Keaukaha, Innovations PCS in Kailua-Kona, and Mt. View Elementary School.