Suicide bomber-detecting dogs are topic of Hazard Lecture

September 1, 2018 10:01:39 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


An innovative science for training dogs to detect body-worn explosives in moving crowds is the topic of the first Hazard Lecture Series of 2018.  


Jim Floyd, current advisor and former longtime interim director for Auburn University's Canine Performance Sciences, will talk about "Training Auburn's Vapor-Sensing Dogs for Crowd Safety" at 7 p.m. Monday Sept. 10 at Heritage Elementary School, 623 Willowbrook Road, Columbus. The free presentation is open to the public. A second series lecture will take place Oct. 22, featuring World War I historian Andrew Pouncey. 


The series, now in its 27th year, celebrates three broad rotating themes: Voyage of the Mind, Voyage from the Past and Voyage of the Artist. Actors, physicists, painters, costume designers, doctors, musicians and ambassadors have been among guests of the series since it was established by the family of the late George Hazard Sr. to honor his memory.  


"In some years our programs share a theme. To the extent we have a theme this year, that theme is 'the effects of human ingenuity,'" said George Hazard Jr. "The presentation on the Auburn vapor dogs by Dr. Floyd will show that ingenuity at work for a lot of people. Everyone at today's big arenas, stadiums and airports can benefit from the protection of these vapor-trained dogs." 




Innovative science 


Vapor Wake┬« detector dog technology created by researchers and canine training experts at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine is a scientifically-based method for selecting, training and employing dogs for the detection of hand-carried and body-worn hazardous materials. 


The dogs, usually Labrador Retrievers, are trained to sample the air for human heat plumes that may contain explosive particles. The dogs can detect the thermal plumes in large moving crowds in environments such as airports, concert venues and theme parks. 


Physics of fluid dynamics developed by Gary Settles and colleagues at the Penn State Gas Dynamics Laboratory guided development and training for the Vapor Wake┬« dogs, which have been used at major events including Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and at NFL and MLB venues. 


"Settles' studies showed that people in motion leave a thermal plume in their trail, much like the wake a boat leaves as it speeds along the water," wrote Amy Gary in the Spring 2018 Auburn Magazine. "Bombs release particulates that are denser than air, and traces of it are caught in a culprit's heat signature plume ... When a Vapor Wake dog catches that targeted scent, it will track the odor until the source is identified." 


Hazard said, "The ingenuity of the Auburn scientists and their partners at Penn State ought to inspire our audience, especially area students looking toward their own futures. They can see that schoolwork matters." 




About the speaker 


Floyd, with degrees from the United States Military Academy, Louisiana State University and the University of Illinois, served in the United States Army and is a former chair of the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at Auburn University. He also served as head of the North Carolina State University Department of Farm Animal Health and Resource Management before returning in 2011 to Auburn. 


Among his honors, Floyd was named Alabama Veterinarian of the Year by the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association in 1993 and earned the Carl J. Norden Distinguished Teacher Award at North Carolina State in 2008. He is also a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal. 


Beth Lucas is director of admissions and public relations for Heritage Academy, the lectures' host site. 


"These lectures are an opportunity to extend learning outside the classroom for students," she said. "In addition, it gives us another opportunity to open our doors to people in the community. We enjoy hosting the lectures and appreciate the Hazard family for providing such interesting and varied programs each year." 


For more information, contact Lucas at 662-327-1556, extension 211.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.