The Answer’s in the Wood: FPL Researcher Helps Teach Forensic Botany Course

Anything you can imagine can be used as evidence when investigating a crime, including wood, but it takes special skill to find the answers hidden within.

FPL botanist Alex Wiedenhoeft examines samples in the Lab's wood collection.

FPL botanist Alex Wiedenhoeft examines samples in the Lab’s wood collection.

Enter Alex Wiedenhoeft, a Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) botanist. Wiedenhoeft works in FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research which has long been the hub of activity when investigators find clues that involve wood in some way but need help deciphering what they’ve found.

“I’ve gotten evidence from murders or plane crashes, … from university museums investigating African tribal masks, from Blackbeard’s ship, even wood from inside a saber tooth tiger’s skull,” says Wiedenhoeft.

Deriving information from wood is a niche skill, to be sure, and Wiedenhoeft is now sharing his expertise as a volunteer course instructor for the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Forensic Botany course. Read more about this collaborative effort in this UW – Madison press release, and watch for a more in-depth Lab Notes post coming soon.