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TAMUCC embarks on study to train K9's to detect oil spills on Gulf Coast beaches

See spot run. See spot sit. See spot detect crude oil.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With the right training, canines are able to detect many things that can keep us out of harms way.

Everything from drugs to weapons and even missing people, but two canines with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are able to detect crude oil on our beaches.

Bin is a German shorthair pointer, and while he is a good boy, he is also the only dog in the world with the training to sniff out "new" crude oil on Gulf Coast beaches. 

"The Texas General Land Office asked us, 'can you train a dog to ignore natural oil and only respond to freshly spilled oil?' That's what we did with Bin, and he's proven we can actually actually do that," said canine handler Paul Bunker.

Bunker is responsible for handling Bin and Poppy, the English springer spaniel, who are part of the Canine Oil Detection study at TAMU-CC. 

Poppy is the control canine and is taught to detect any occurrence of oil, but together they are part of the research to help conduct oil surveys on beaches. The study could potentially cut down on manpower, costs and quickly reopening beaches in the future.

"Oil spills are definitely a real threat in the gulf, so to have a new tool that's faster and efficient than say myself doing the survey is going to come in handy in the future," said Aaron Baxter with TAMU-CC's Center of Coastal Studies.

Baxter said their goal through the study is to grow the number of canine teams that are trained in oil detection. Bunker added that a canine can process a one acre are in three minutes, while a team of humans must dig pits every 10 meters to determine if there's any oil.

"I think if the state of Texas had 10 or 12 of these teams trained it would really increase their ability to detect and respond to oil," Bunker said.

Baxter says the Center for Coastal Studies team is also willing to train scientist volunteers to become handlers and give the dogs forever homes. 

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