Wildlife Conservation Canines and Ethology Lab

HomeResearchTeachingTeamVolunteeringOutreachGuest talks and seminars

Information for volunteers of the Wildlife Conservation Canines and Ethology Lab

You want to volunteer?

Look at our research page and see what may interest you, then, contact Dr Simon Gadbois. If you are planning to work with the dogs, you must be comfortable with dogs and dog handling. If you are planning to do field work (with or without the sniffer dogs), you must be comfortable with reptiles (turtles and/or snakes). We are often looking for:

All volunteers will have to get animal care certification from the UCLA in accordance with the CCAC.

The majority of our volunteers are in Biology/Marine Biology or Psychology/Neuroscience at Dalhousie. But we also have students from other disciplines, and local universities (e.g., SMU), as well as non-students volunteering in the lab.

We should discuss your interests soon.

Please, if you have not done so yet:

  1. Ask to join the Microsoft Teams team “Dal Canines” as we are in the process of fading-out the Facebook page («Dal Canines - Staff only»).
    • We use this for scheduling, any field work announcements, meetings, and some socialising.
  2. Ask to be added to the schedule.
    • We are currently re-visiting the scheduling system and registration to the schedule. It will eventually be operated within the Dal system (i.e., Teams and Calendar).
    • We ask that you stick to one to two hours a week to begin with, and after a few weeks if you have time and would prefer more hours, feel free to add more.
    • We ask this because we prefer that you sign up for an amount of time that you can commit to weekly. It is very important that our volunteers show up to their scheduled shift. Dogs cannot be left alone in the lab.
  3. Complete your animal care certification.
    • Just get it done, unless you already did it for a course (e.g., “Measuring Behaviour” or other lab or field classes that require handling animals). You may want to add the “wildlife module” in case you would accompany us in the field for some of the field work.
    • The certification exam is available online through Brightspace for anyone with a Dal Banner ID. Those without will need to write a hard copy of the exam in the vet’s office.
    • You do receive a grade for the exam although as long as it is over 65%, you pass. The certificate is good at any lab on the Dalhousie campuses and is likely transferrable to other universities in Canada, although it is at their discretion.
    • You can study the material on your own and when you are prepared to write the exam, you send Dr. Jennifer Devitt (Jennifer.Devitt@Dal.Ca) your Banner ID# so she can set you up on Brightspace. She will send you an email once you are registered with instructions on how to access the exam.
    • People working with mammals and birds
      • The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) requires that all animal users participate in mandatory training programs. All principal investigators, post-docs, grad/undergrad students, and technical staff at Dalhousie must successfully complete a written certification exam before beginning their animal work.
      • For the certification exam, please review both the (1) Core Stream AND (2) Animals Housed in Vivaria Stream modules on-line at https://ccac.ca/en/training/modules/. For anybody planning to do field work (this would be the majority of students as of 2022), you must complete the wildlife module.
      • You don’t have to memorize the material but instead need to understand the general message of the guidelines in the modules. The exam is simple and comprises of 30 multiple choice questions for the main module.
    • The CCAC requires mandatory animal care training for everyone using animals in research, teaching, and testing. The following training requirements are directed towards personnel working with wildlife species in the field.
        • Prepare for the ethics certification exam by reading the CCAC’s Core Stream modules AND the CCAC Guidelines on the Care and Use of Wildlife.
        • The Core Stream modules may be accessed at:
          • https://www.ccac.ca/en/training/modules/
        • The CCAC Guidelines on the Care and Use of Wildlife are available at:
          • https://www.ccac.ca/Documents/Standards/Guidelines/Wildlife.pdf
    • If you do not have access to Brightspace, you can email Jennifer Devitt (jennifer.devitt@dal.ca) to set up an appointment to write the test. You will go to her office in the University Veterinarian’s office in the basement of the LSC, Psychology-Neuroscience wing. It takes roughly 15 minutes to write.
  4. Fill out a volunteer waiver form. Ask the graduate PI, lab manager, research assistant or Dr. Gadbois directly for this form.
    • This is a departmental requirement. It protects the university in the unlikely event that you are harmed during your time volunteering in a lab at Dalhousie.
Other information: Volunteer functions.

We have an unofficial “hierarchy” of functions in the lab, but they do not necessarily follow seniority.

  1. Dog sitter: You are present in the lab, but will not interact (e.g., walk, play) with the dogs. This is typically pre-certification but with the volunteer waiver form signed.
  2. Dog walker: You can interact with the dogs and take them on short walks around campus.
  3. Dog handler: You help in handling the dogs before, during and after experiments when asked by a student-researcher, research assistant, lab manager or Dr. Gadbois
  4. Dog trainer: Typically reserved to Honours students, graduate students and research assistants that are project leaders.
What are my responsibilities as a volunteer?

Volunteers are asked to:

When dogs are not participating in data collection:
In order to be involved in the actual handling of dogs (data collection), in the lab or the field, volunteers must:

Please note: If there were ever any veterinary (canine medical) emergencies in the lab, contact the vet’s office asap. If Dr. Chris Harvey-Clark is not available, the Dalhousie locum veterinarian (Dr. Jessica Rock), would answer the call. It may be better to contact Dr. Gadbois, or the vet’s office before contacting the owners. If there are any delays in contacting the local veterinarians or myself, then go ahead in getting in touch with the owners.

The vet’s office phone numbers can be found here: https://www.dal.ca/dept/animal-ethics/contact-us.html
Remember that they are in the basement of the LSC, Psychology/Neuroscience wing, next to the Histology Suite (basement).