Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Invited Tutorial #213
CE Offered: BACB
The Nuts and Bolts of Scent Detection
Sunday, May 24, 2015
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
203AB (CC)
Area: AAB/CSE; Domain: Service Delivery
BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: Christy A. Alligood, Ph.D.
Chair: Christy A. Alligood (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
Presenting Authors: : TIMOTHY EDWARDS (APOPO)

In this tutorial, the basic requirements and ideal conditions for successfully training, evaluating, and deploying animals for scent-detection tasks will be outlined. Fundamental chemical and environmental factors that influence scent detection will be described, as will some factors to consider when selecting species and strains for this work. Because operational scent detection often involves detection of a variety of odor combinations, training requirements are similar to those for concept formation, which has important implications for selection of training samples. These and other considerations related to sample presentation will be discussed. Common training methods for both "discrete-trial" and "free-operant" scent-discrimination tasks will be presented and critical components of training highlighted. Evaluation of the scent-detection accuracy of animal detectors is a critical step prior to and during operational deployment. Some key features of precise estimation of performance will be discussed followed by a description of some operational deployment scenarios and features that are more and less conducive to success. Finally, common challenges associated with scent-detection work and some methods of overcoming the challenges will be presented for discussion.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the event, the participant will be able to:
  1. Describe three factors that influence scent availability.
  2. Design a basic scent-detection training protocol.
  3. Conduct an evaluation of a scent-detection animal.
  4. Describe three challenges associated with scent detection.
Dr. Timothy Edwards has a Ph.D. in psychology from Western Michigan University. He has conducted basic and applied research on stimulus discrimination, conditioned reinforcement, and motivating operations, all of which are relevant to his current work at APOPO, a Belgian nonprofit organization headquartered in Tanzania that deploys giant African pouched rats to locate land mines, identify tuberculosis-positive sputum samples, and perform other humanitarian tasks. Dr. Edwards serves as APOPO's head of training and behavioral research. He investigates the influence of environmental factors, modifications to training protocol, and the suitability of the rats for new scent-detection applications. Dr. Edwards translates laboratory findings into meaningful improvements in applied scent-detection operations and takes operational puzzles to the laboratory to look for solutions. Much of his research in applied scent detection has been published, and his experience operating in a challenging field in developing countries has afforded him unique insight into the elements of training that are crucial for successful scent-detection operations.
Keyword(s): Animal behavior, Animal training, Concept learning, Scent detection



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