The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, featured a partnership with the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in their 2018 Annual Report.
Since 2016, FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute, and Simeone Consulting, LLC, has been working to establish data on product misrepresentation in the American consumer market for forest products. In addition to asking questions about the presence and prevalence of product misrepresentation, the partnership also sought to document the availability, willingness, and capability of forensic wood expertise in the United States. The full results of the study are under review by a peer-reviewed journal, and it is hoped that this pioneering work will be published soon. In addition, WWF and FPL are looking to the future for further collaborative projects.
A link to the full WWF Annual Report can be found here. The project with FPL is featured second on the web page.
Recent action by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) to suspend a major charcoal producer in Europe is one outcome of the FSC and Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) partnership. This collaboration aims at using forensic wood science to investigate supply chains. Alex C. Wiedenhoeft, Research Botanist and Team Leader in FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research (CWAR), has led the CWAR side of a multi-year, award-winning research cooperation between FSC and FPL. Wiedenhoeft and his team conducted the forensic analysis of the contested charcoal.
Specimens of lump charcoal displayed on a specimen submission form.
At issue was whether charcoal appearing on the retail market with the FSC label was in fact sourced from FSC-certified forests. “Working with investigators within the FSC supply chain integrity team, our forensic results about the botanical origin of the charcoal showed that the species composition of the charcoal was or was not consistent with the species claim,” said Wiedenhoeft. “As with most forensic applications of botany, the bulk of the work is done by the real-world investigators, whether law enforcement or industrial auditors. Forensic wood science steps in at the evidence analysis phase to give the investigators solid data to inform their investigation.”
Of all the stories we tell about happenings at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), the story of the famed 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping and our scientist’s involvement in solving the case just never gets old.
The so-called “Lindy Baby Ladder,” which Forest Products Laboratory Botanist Arthur Koehler studied and was used to help convict Bruno Hauptmann in the infamous kidnapping.
Adam Schrager, a journalist at WISC-TV in Madison and the author of The Sixteenth Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist, and the Lindbergh Kidnapping, recently penned another fascinating article on the case for the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s alumni magazine, On Wisconsin.
Forensic work is still alive and well at FPL in our Center for Wood Anatomy research, and you can learn more about our modern-day wood sleuths in these recent LabNotes offerings.
A hickory specimen showing the heartwood–sapwood transition and inner and outer bark. DNA content is highest in the inner bark and lowest in the outer bark and heartwood. Inset: a fluorescence micrograph of freezer-milled Alaska yellow-cedar showing intact nuclei (blue-white dots). With organellar microcapture, we will be able to selectively extract the nuclei for analysis.
Scientists hope exploring and developing improved DNA extraction practices will open the door to valuable, cost effective, and revolutionary research, especially in the field of forensic botany and timber forensics.
FPL researchers plan to examine various tree species in order to develop preprocessing methods for wood DNA extraction. Furthermore, botanists plan to explore the use of DNA databases and predict extraction protocols for new woods based on wood structure.