For us, becoming a highly skilled handler is just the beginning. 

We are passionate about promoting the high-level of meticulous detail necessary to practice this method with integrity. The success of our teams in the field requires a handler fluent in a diverse range of canine behaviors. Our handlers know dogs inside and out and are fluent in a diverse range of canine behaviors.

Getting it right - for our dogs and for nature - is our highest priority.



Heath Smith
Lead Instructor and Director of Field Operations

After an illustrious career trapping and tagging some of North America’s most charismatic megafauna, Heath began working as a dog handler and orienteer with the Center for Conservation Biology in 2001. Falling in love with the non-invasive aspect of the detection dog method as well as and one of the program’s dogs, he never looked back. He is now dedicated to focusing on understanding the relationship between dog and handler and is passion about helping handlers build a more positive relationship with their four-legged teammates. Since 2001, he has been instrumental in teaching and deploying over 40 detection dog teams on an average of 15 field studies a year.


Julianne Ubigau
Outreach and Education Coordinator

Julie not only works as a handler for CK9 but also developed our Education program through her experience as a Science on Wheels and secondary science teacher. She has a genuine happiness about her that is contagious and brightens a room. She says it stems from having a job that she loves and is accompanied by wanting to work truly hard at that job. "I share the cargo area of my beater SUV with my dog each night, I wake up and work with sticks in my hair that probably got stuck there two days ago." Just as she has a knack for getting dogs to open up to her and trust her, she is able to use that knack to walk into a new classroom everyday and have the students enthralled by her every word. She's been an integral part of CK9 since she started in 2006 having taken on some of CK9's more exploratory projects and making them a success. You will be hard pressed to find Julie without her two sidekicks, Sampson and Casey. 


Jennifer Hartman
Communications Coordinator

We look for people with a unique talent to communicate with dogs, or what we really want to say is "folks that speak dog". What's funny is that most folks don't realize they even have that ability. Max noticed it with Jennifer immediately and from that point on they were inseparable. Since 2009 Jennifer, Max and her other compadre, Scooby, have been all over the world helping show how useful dog teams can be in saving wildlife. Jennifer has become the relative "bad ass" of our team, taking on the studies that really push us to the limit. With a degree in english literature she's become a major part of the CK9 voice and no matter where she's at in the world or how long her day was you'll still find her answering each of the inquiries we get in a daily basis.  


Justin Broderick

After finally finishing a Wildlife Biology degree from the University of Montana in 2010 Justin started doing field work with nesting songbirds. He then had a few other field positions working with lynx and ferruginous hawks before finding Conservation Canines. Justin started with a large crop of new handlers in late 2012 on the Alberta Tar Sands project where he worked with CK9 newcomer Winnie hiking through waist deep snow to find caribou scat. He then took a few odd field jobs in between working at the kennel before joining CK9 full time in the summer of 2015. He worked on various projects including three seasons of a carnivore study in northeast Washington, wind farms in western New York, moose in the Adirondacks, and multiple cougar projects throughout the western states. Along the way Justin had the pleasure of working alongside many CK9 companions including Chester, Jack, Ranger, Hiccup, Scooby, Captain and is again back with Winnie.


Will Chrisman

Will was found wondering around a wind farm in central Illinois in 2015. CK9 teams were helping perform post construction mortality surveys at that windfarm and decided to rescue this stray field biologist and train him to be a dog handler. Since then Will has worked with our canine teammates collecting research data for animals small and large.


Mairi Poisson

Mairi started her journey with Conservation Canines in the fall of 2016, where she jumped in to a wind farm study in Illinois working with Chester and Hooper. She spent the next year expanding her territory to northeast Washington and the Adirondacks of New York, working with Captain, Scooby, Hiccup, and Athena. Mairi loves field work, but also has a passion for education outreach. She joined the education outreach team to bring dogs and exciting science research into the classroom.


Collette Yee

With a degree in Conservation from the University of California, Berekely and a background working with dogs, Collette fell right in with the rest of the pack. Joining the team in the beginning of 2017, she packed up from her city life in Oakland and headed into northeast Washington for her first study. Working alongside CK9s Jack and Captain, her first year of projects included wolves and other carnivores, Southern Resident killer whales, and bird and bat fatalities on wind farms.


Jake Lammi

Considering himself an ungulate in human form, Jake could easily be the dog athletic trainer of CK9. In his first year, Jake worked with CK9s Ranger and Skye on a carnivore study in northeast Washington, looking for moose in the Adirondacks, and scrambling up rocky hillsides looking for fisher and marten in California.


Rita Santos

While in Portugal looking for an energetic ball crazy dog we stumbled across two gems in a Lisbon shelter.  We aren't sure if Zeus led us to Rita or Rita to Zeus but we were thankful to get both in the process. She completed her training in the winter of 2014 and has been with the pack since helping broaden the use of the method in Europe. She spearheaded our European Division along side Ck9 Zeus and Ck9 Hera surveying for numerous species including wolf scat in Italy and Portugal, bear scats in the Pyrenees, Spain and live grasshoppers in the south of France. 


Interested in joining the team?

Snapshots From The Field


A program of the University of Washington's Center For Conservation Biology

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