Kyoko has been training dogs and their people in Hawai‘i since 2008. Her love of dogs came from volunteering for various dog rescue organizations and shelters on the island. Since beginning her dog training career, she has earned various professional training and instructor certifications, including through Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, and National Association of Canine Scent Work.

Her passion for scent detection began with a pet dog named Luka (pictured left) that didn’t like normal dog activities such as fetch, swimming and playing with other dogs, but absolutely loved and gained confidence through “nose work.” Since then, Kyoko has trained numerous pet dogs and handlers in scent detection, including for competition prep.

Kyoko began her career as an ecological scent detection dog trainer and handler in 2012 through an O‘ahu wind farm’s habitat conservation program, which utilized canines to locate endangered seabird and bat fatalities to measure environmental impact. She went on to train and handle dogs for various conservation projects including: a study at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge which measured the efficacy of utilizing detection dogs to lower avian botulism-related mortality in Koloa Maoli, an endangered Hawaiian duck; and a project that utilized detector dogs to monitor the eradication effort of invasive yellow crazy ants, a species that caused great harm to seabirds at Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Kyoko continues to operate her private business Country Canine LLC in addition to serving as president and lead K9 trainer of Conservation Dogs of Hawai‘i.



Michelle began her career as a field biologist with US Fish & Wildlife Service, focusing on endangered species research. She completed her PhD on the ecology of Laysan teal, the rarest duck in the Northern Hemisphere. This research entailed being dropped off by ship in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for 3-6 months at a time, living in a tent, and wearing night vision goggles to follow ducks and see what they eat at night!

Michelle’s expertise includes study design, wildlife reintroduction, and monitoring of rare species, among other skills. While working for US Geological Survey she studied avian disease, the ecology of Hawaiian waterbirds and endangered forest birds, invertebrate ecology, and using detector dogs to help detect Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (pathogenic fungus) and reduce endangered Koloa Maoli (Hawaiian duck) mortality from avian botulism.

In addition to her extensive biology background, Michelle is an experienced detection dog handler who has worked on projects including the 2020 Yellow Crazy Ant eradication and monitoring effort at Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and the 2017 avian botulism study at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. She has taken trainer courses at Tarheel K9, which specializes in detection and tracking with high drive working dogs.


Current board members include Sandra Sue, Sooz Mirikitani, Lisa Kamae and Kyoko Johnson.


Our dog-handler teams currently include those from our Devil Weed program and Rodent/Mongoose program.






Thumbnail photos 2 and 4 by Chipperton Photography