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Melbourne Water’s Waterways and Catchment Operations has welcomed a new furry member to the team, who has a special talent for sniffing out a troublesome weed. 

Raasay is a young border collie with a unique skill set – trained to smell out Spartina anglica – an invasive grass that grows in tidal estuaries and is notoriously hard to spot. 

The weed collects sediment, choking creeks and destroying natural mudflat habitat, making Raasay an integral part of the team. 

Melbourne Water’s Project Manager, Adrian Vinnell, said Raasay has successfully completed her on-the-job training at the Cardinia inlets and the Bass Estuary near Philip Island, already proving herself as a great asset.

“On day one, Raasay gave a strong signal and led her handler to a hidden and previously undetected patch of Spartina. Ground crew could then immediately target the weeds which are often hard to detect even on foot or by helicopter, as they grow in marshes and amongst other flora,” Mr Vinnell said.

“Having Raasay as part of our team has safety benefits as well. Her nose knows where to go, so our crews don’t have to be as close to waterways while they look for the weeds and they are able to cover more ground in the same time.” 

Raasay completed her 12 weeks scent coaching at the Skylos Ecology base near Ballarat. Handler, Tracy Lyten, said Melbourne Water shipped frozen samples of Spartina to their site to help with the training.

Handler, Tracey Lyten, with Raasay.

“It was really beneficial having the samples. We were able to teach Raasay the odour prior to her initial field training. This gave her the best possible start to her career as a Spartina detection dog,” Ms Lyten said. 

Raasay’s work with Melbourne Water will continue to focus on the Cardinia Inlets near Koo Wee Rup and the Bass Estuary, with plans to use her Spartina detection abilities across a wider area of Westernport.

Mr Vinnell has said whilst Melbourne Water is still in the early stages of the canine training and deployment project, Raasay has fit right in.

“This is a terrific partnership and hopefully Raasay will continue with us long term – proving a significant help to our work in eradicating Spartina throughout the catchment.”

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